Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog-Off #4: Another Five Fall

Another Five Fall


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David Dalglish

Interview – Soulkeeper

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The Midderlands

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Infernal by Mark de Jager

Infernal by Mark de Jager
Book Name: Infernal
Author: Mark de Jager
Publisher(s): Del Rey
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): Dark Fantasy
Release Date: August 11, 2016

Infernal is truly a book that raises hell across its pages. After beginning in a quiet meadow one scarcely expects the kind of chaos that occurs throughout the story. The plot focuses on the amnesiac Stratus who awakens in said meadow with nothing but his name and a headache, yet he quickly discovers that while he may lack his memoires, he has a host of unnatural powers. The book follows his journey of discovery, trying to track down his memories, falling into a conflict between two kingdoms, uncovering hidden conspiracies, and causing havoc and bloodshed along the way.

Stratus is an intriguing protagonist, though initially the lack of memories made him seem a bit characterless to begin with. That quickly vanished as the narrative progressed. Along with his powers, Stratus also discovers he harbors an unwelcome passenger in his mind, a possibly demonic presence full of fire and rage. Jager evokes a steadily deeper mystery about the character as the story progresses, feeding the reader with drips of information that keep us trailing along with a dozen new questions. Clearly something more than human, Stratus has an interesting perspective on the world around him, often providing a note of sardonic humor throughout the narrative.

The narrative voice is well crafted to express his nature, portraying him as a thoughtful predator struggling against the beast inside. Stratus is quite believable in his actions and motivations, and though his morals and disdain for humans usually leads to bloodshed, the reader doesn’t quite judge him on the same scale because of his otherworldly nature. Though many of his actions and sheer body count mean the reader will never see him as hero, Stratus nonetheless makes for an interesting mystery, so much that we side with him, if only to find out the truth.

Infernal takes place in a fairly standard secondary world of around the medieval era; the locations and city are described with nice touches of language but are very traditional in terms of content. What makes the scenes interesting is Stratus’ descriptions and opinion of them as he interacts with the human world, sometimes triggering tantalizing memory fragments. Magic is quite prominent with charms, runes and spell constructs dotting the story. Jager gives us enough information to get by on the principles and limitations, but it’s not a heavily developed system. This doesn’t diminish its entertainment though, from mental duels with wizards, destructive spells and dark necromantic experiments, Infernal has more than enough magic to satisfy fans of the arcane.

The supporting cast is well written and believable in their roles, whether it’s the fashionable prince, dedicated wizard or humble tinker, the characters help build the atmosphere of the story and draw the reader in. In particular the tough as nails bodyguard Tatyana serves as a great foil for Stratus. With some hidden link to his forgotten past drawing him to her, the two are thrown together as they fight against the odds and hidden foes in order to survive. The banter between the two provides some great moments of levity through their adventures, but the relationship also has a surprising amount of depth that gradually builds through the novel. Stratus’ foes receive a lighter touch, perhaps because they don’t tend to last very long, but aside from a few particularly vicious characters I felt they were a little lacking in depth, even at the climax of the novel.

I think the plot is one of the best features of the book, beginning with the allure of missing memories the narrative follows on with a series of twists and revelations as Stratus probes ever deeper. At times the book takes on elements of a detective story when Stratus and Tatyana team up to find out the truth and recover his memory. The mystery of the Worm Lord and what his necromancers are doing is teased out at a perfect pace, and I was genuinely fascinated to see what they would find out next. The action builds along with the excitement as the novel reaches a close, a number of surprising reveals raise the stakes on an already desperate situation and Stratus just keeps on swinging.

Even though it has some flaws I think the book is worth a read, the story concept is different and imaginative with a solid plot to host it. The development of Stratus is fun to follow as he tries to figure out who he is, often to the cost of anyone in his way. The book is heavy on the violence and gore, including one or two particularly cringe-worthy scenes, but they all work together to create a picture of a very bleak and harsh world. Infernal was a gripping and fast paced read and while it did end a bit abruptly, I’ll be looking out for the next installment to see what new mayhem Stratus gets up to.


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