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Benedict Jacka. Ace, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-937007-72-0

Jacka’s excellent third urban fantasy thriller starring British freelance diviner Alex Verus (after Cursed) features magical dueling with prestige and lives at stake. The White Stone tournament promises to offer harmless combat for eager apprentices of Light and Dark mages as representatives of both groups ask Alex to investigate the recent disappearance of several trainees. As Alex grapples with the mystery, he finds himself protecting one young woman from human thugs and supernatural assassins, uneasily inspecting the remote mansion where the contest will be held, and dodging his own implacable enemies. In short, Alex does what he usually does: look after vulnerable people, skeptically evaluate the Light mages’ smug self-righteousness, and keep half a step ahead of violent death. The action is fast and smart, playing with thriller conventions so that while readers get excitement they also are encouraged to think about what magic might mean in human terms. A superb book in an outstanding, provocative series. (Sept.)