- Infernal (The Chronicles of Stratus #1).
- Mark de Jager.
- 384 pages.
- Dark Fantasy / Grimdark.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
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.
Waking in a field, in an unfamiliar body and unable to move, Stratus is paralysed, vultures cawing, pecking at him, carrion for the crows. He has no recollection of where he is, who he is, what he’s doing there, where he’s from or even his own name, it is all a mystery to him, his mind is wiped clean, a blank slate. He is found by a group of people and slowly, feeling returns to his body and he remembers his name, but apart from his name and brief glimpses, flashes of memory that make no sense to him his memories as a whole remain lost to him, clouded and cloaked, hidden behind a veil and shrouded in mist. After being involved in an incident he runs from the group, gets captured, subsequently escapes and sets off, journeying in search of answers, hoping to uncover the truth, or, at least part of the truth as to who he really is.
There is a devastating war raging between the kingdom of Krandin and the Penullin empire. Led by The Worm Lord, the Penullin empire are gaining ground in Krandin, they have the numbers, they are razing Krandin cities to the ground, they have infiltrated the kingdom hoping to destroy it from within and they have a contingent of sorcerers and wizards aiding them in wreaking death and destruction across the land.
We follow along with Stratus as he walks a deadly path, journeying through the dangerous, war-torn and ravaged world with his destination the Krandin city of Falkenburg. He doesn’t know the name of the city, only the knowledge that a city with its large population and scholars seems like the likeliest place to find answers to the questions that are haunting him. Inside the city walls, he hopes that he will find the help that will allow him to piece together his fragmented memories, to unearth the secrets of his past that will allow him to remember who he is and why he awoke naked, immobile and suffering from amnesia in the middle of a field.
Stratus, a sorcerer is inhuman, he is something more, he is bigger and taller than others, darker-skinned, midnight black with shadow black nails, he is stronger than a normal human and far more resilient. He has a presence inside his mind, often rage-filled and craving visceral violence and vengeance that can turn him, from someone already adept at fighting due to his enhanced strength into a brutal killing machine. This presence, the beast within finds him waging an internal war with himself as he struggles to stay in control. He doesn’t justify his actions or his responses to others, he doesn’t see either the need or the point and he does some highly questionable and immoral things in the name of discovering who he is. He isn’t accustomed to a human body or human ways and he misunderstands human concepts, emotions and goes against social norms. He knows no better, he isn’t skilled at reading the situation and he doesn’t know the right or the wrong responses, how to act or the correct etiquette. Often, he is like a bull in a china shop, blundering in and opening his mouth. If you think along the lines of Drax from Guardians of the Galaxy then you would be on the right track. He can be quite flippant, blunt and brusque and, at times he is unintentionally hilarious. Some of his retorts can be very literal and it is highly amusing to see how he reacts and responds to certain things.
Infernal is the story of Stratus, a journey of self-discovery, a journey to solve the mystery of his past and to discover who he really is and what he really is. There is also more at play, a bigger picture that Stratus’s own story is entwined with including the war between the kingdom of Krandin and the Penullin empire, religion, magic, necromancy and politics that all have a role to play in the wider story that unfolds across the pages. Written in the first-person, we see the world through Stratus’s eyes. We learn at the same time as him, through each of his returning snippets of memory, through each location and through each of his conversations with other characters. As he travels, Stratus learns more about the world, its inhabitants and as the world opens up for Stratus so to does it open up for the reader. Likewise, as his memories come back to him, as he discovers more about himself, his past and his true identity the reader does too.
The magic in Infernal is carried by, connected through the Songlines, part of the energy of life, the same energy that gives life to all, they are part of nature, they help nourish, they help nurture. Magic isn’t bad or evil it is only turned, twisted to dark uses by those who wield it, those who themselves are evil, corrupted and the intent of the user shapes the intent of the magic, it is clay and the user the potter who moulds it.
De Jager has created a world that is drenched in darkness, gritty, well-depicted and Falkenburg, the location where most of the story takes place comes to grim-encrusted life. As a character Stratus is fantastic, a bit good, a bit bad, morally grey and an anti-hero to root for. I really liked Tatyana Henkman too, Tatyana is the kingdom of Krandin’s champion and the bodyguard to Prince Lucien. She is determined, fierce and strong. She is the perfect foil for Stratus and when she enters the fray and accompanies him on his search for answers she is a welcome addition to the story.
Infernal is fast-paced, speckled with intense action, magic, mayhem, a whole lot of bloody fun and entertaining as hell. Simply, if you like your fantasy, brutal, grim and dark with a vein of mystery running through the pages then you will love this book.
Pre-order Infernal (The Chronicles of Stratus #1) by Mark de Jager released on November 24th, 2020.
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