Alex Verus is the British equivalent of Harry Dresden. He’s a mage who doesn’t get on with either the good guys or the bad guys, wandering around in the middle creating enemies out of most people whilst making an eclectic assortment of friends, and perpetually ending up over his head in trouble. He also has Harry’s tendencies towards smart remarks and advertising who he is in a world that prefers silence. He does lack some of Harry’s pop culture awareness and charm however. The author also shares Jim Butcher’s standardised naming tendencies (sticking with one word titles, to Dresden’s three)
These are not the books to start from if you haven’t read the series before, you’ll need to start with Fated for that.
It’s hard to review books this far into a series so a brief summary first: Alex is a magician who got pulled into the “dark” as a teenager, after bad stuff happened he jumped ship and set up a magic shop, but now neither the dark nor the light mages trust him. There’s a magic council that handles the masquerade and monitors anyone with abilities. Different people have different types of magic such as controlling elements, minds, or the more obscure things such as life, death, fate, and chance. Alex is a chance mage and this means he can scan probable futures and act upon them (basically resulting in perfect precognition of events around him). Events start out relatively small in the first book but build up over time so that Alex is allied with a group of early twenty mages (Alex himself is only late twenties) who are caught between the light and dark and are seeking protection. And as a result he ends up in the political intrigues between groups resulting in him being trapped into either facing a death sentence or serving his former dark mage master Richard Drakh.
Bound and Marked absolutely do not stand on their own as novels, you must read the others in the series to understand the events within them. And also, reading them back-to-back highlighted to me that Marked in particular felt like a filler novel. There are a fair few things that happen in Bound to move the overall story on – we meet Richard for the first time after his influence is felt in other novels, and see what powers he probably has, it feels like Alex powers up too. But Marked did not progress those events much further, instead primarily focusing on the relationship between Alex and the life-mage Anne (highlighting why someone who seems nice and caring absolutely terrifies most other mages). Other threads of the story just seem to be left in limbo so that by the end it really didn’t feel like much had progressed from the end of Bound – Alex was still stuck in service to Richard, and still at risk of the death sentence kicking in from the light mages, and he still had no idea what to do next. But hey, he’d finally admitted he like Anne so that’s a win I guess!
This might sound negative but they’re still well written books that capture London and have good characters. It’s just that it’s clear there’s a direction to this story and I hope Benedict can move it along a bit now. Maybe Marked can be the turning point that Chances was for The Dresden Files which, if so, can be a very good thing.