PrintE-mail Written by Callum Shephard

Trying to develop a fantastical world through an outsider’s eyes is always a challenge. It’s even more so once you make them both an amnesiac and offer them abilities no human should rightfully have. However, there is no denying that Mark De Jager succeeded in making a fun and fresh take on this old trope and what we get is a strong start to what will be a great series.

The story follows a charcoal skinned man known only as Stratus. Discovered in a field with no memory of his past, he is at first viewed as a victim; at least until it becomes clear he has abilities no mortal should ever wield…

The book’s greatest strength is easily its protagonist and presentation of the world. While many elements have shades of stock fantasy aspects to them, Stratus’ inexperience presents them in a warped, almost alien light. Without becoming bogged down in basic amazement at the world or even a lack of social niceties, it presents a very interesting take on a typical amnesiac hero until it defies cliché. Much of the drama then comes from Stratus traversing a country at war and understanding none of it. While this could have easily become extremely tedious and gimmicky, the book thankfully avoids that by throwing in something new each time. New abilities might arise thanks to Stratus’ subconscious or cause half-forgotten emotions to abruptly resurface, especially abrupt hatred. Even when this is not enough, the book retains enough innate dark humour to keep things interesting, both parodying and knowingly embracing many fantasy tropes.

Unfortunately, as ever, this is not a perfect book. The weaknesses which really drag down the tale hit the book hard from the very start. The first is that little time is spent building scenery or imagery of any environment, and as such many initial locations seem extremely nebulous. Atop of this, the first act keeps repeating itself time and time again, until you can practically make a drinking game from the sheer number of times Stratus is clubbed unconscious or a misunderstanding ends in murder. This makes for a very slow start indeed, and it only starts to truly pick up speed once the book introduces its core supporting cast and delves deeper into the world’s lore.

Overall, however, despite a difficult opening, Infernal proves to be an incredibly strong start for this series. With drama, mystery, bloodshed, and grim humour abound, fans who favour the likes of The Elric Saga or The Silerian Trilogy will definitely have some fun with this one.



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