Review: Infernal by Mark de Jager

Infernal (The Chronicles of Stratus Book 1) by [Mark de Jager]

PART MAN. PART MONSTER. ALL VENGEANCE…In the war-torn lands of Krandin, a kingdom fighting against the Worm King of the Penullin Empire and his dark magic, a stranger wakes, knowing only that his name is Stratus.He possesses great strength and magic, but only fractured memories of his past, and a growing certainty that he is not, in fact, human.As he explores this new world, disoriented, making few friends and many enemies, the battle for his mind will determine the fate of the world.

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My Review

Infernal is an intriguing mystery of a novel. It is written in first person from the perspective of Stratus, a character who wakes up in a field with birds pecking at him, remembering nothing of who or what he is or why he is there apart from the name Stratus. So begins his voyage of discovery. He gradually pieces together snippets of information about himself from experiences and other people’s reactions to him. As the reader we experience his confusion and discoveries first hand and it is an engaging and, at times, hilarious experience. As time goes on dreams and memories start to come to him until finally right at the end of the book he remembers everything.

Stratus blunders around killing many people and occasionally eating them – but only if he is hungry – which means that the tone of this novel is dark, but also quite charming due to his innocence and naivety. He doesn’t know it is wrong to eat a human until this is pointed out to him.

He himself is clearly not a human and considers for a while that he might be a demon. He is enormous with thick black skin, more than one heart, an extremely keen sense of smell, no hair whatsoever, powers of sorcery and oh yes an extra set of bestial teeth and black talons which occassionally extend themselves from within his humanlike body, when threatened. He does have a moral compass of sorts and feels a desire to protect and empathy for the few people he befriends. He also has a surprising appreciation for art.

He is driven by the urge to find some wise people who might enlighten him on what he is and so makes his way to the city, looking for wise men, or wizards:

“It seemed that for every clue I uncovered I also found a dozen new questions.”

Tatyana is the other main character within this story. She is the bodyguard of Prince Lucien and a fearsome, badass warrior. She is a very likeable character and her friendship with Stratus is endearing as she reacts to his weirdness. She is really not OK with him killing so many innocent people just because they were in the way and certainly not happy to think of him eating them or indeed tasting the brains of those he has killed in order to experience their memories. Stratus heals her at one point, by using his blood, which means she now has some sorcerous power to heal herself. 

“She was fierce. I liked it.”

War is being waged in the background of Stratus’s story and there are a group of necromancers who have been placing mind-controlling worms inside people’s brains which kill them and turn them into zombies. At this point the story becomes a detective novel, with Stratus and Tatyana the detectives seeking out and finding clues to the identity of the people behind such horror – and encountering many zombies and Paladins in the process.

I really enjoyed this book despite its dark tone, which is not my favourite fantasy subgenre, due to the humorous aspects of Stratus experiencing everyday items for what feels to him like the first time, and his descriptions of them. There is also the intrigue of gradually discovering more clues to his nature as you read on. Altogether an enjoyable read and I am looking forward to reading the sequel, Firesky!

About the Author

Mark isn’t sure if his love of writing led to his love of gaming or vice versa, but his earliest memories involve both. He now spends his time trying to find a balance between these and working a full time job, a process made slightly easier by his coffee addiction.

An ex-MP in the South African army, Mark now lives in south London with his wife Liz (herself a published author) in a flat that is equal parts library and home.

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