Infernal by Mark de Jager

9/10 de Jager has a flair for this type of story

Stratus wakes in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but the knowledge that he is not human, with no memories of his past but possessing great strength, a powerful sorcery and the burning instinct to survive at any cost.

When we first meet Stratus he is disorientated, suffering amnesia, immobile and in danger – and right from that first opening paragraph the reader is thrown into an unknown new world that we explore and discover alongside the main character. It allows the author to explain the finer nuances of the world and society without just reeling off the information – it is instead an integral part of Stratus learning both about himself and forging relationships with those he encounters.

I was concerned that this would be another run-of-the-mill fantasy novel but as the story unravels it becomes obvious that this is definitely a new approach to dark fantasy. Occasionally it wanders into a trope of fantasy novels everywhere, but quickly pulls itself back on track.  For most of the book you aren’t entirely sure whether Stratus is actually the ‘good guy’, or if there is a good guy in the story at all. Some of the actions he takes, and the actions of those around him, weave a complicated dark web that I personally found enthralling to read. Discussing anything specific about the plot would unfortunately be a spoiler, so I’ll leave it to you to discover this plot for yourselves.

I’m struggling really to highlight anything particularly negative with Infernal. It’s fast-paced, easy to read, enthralling and in places amusing. I would like to learn more about the wider world, but as we only get new information at the same pace that Stratus learns it, this would be difficult to include naturally within the story. The narrative grows and matures as the book progresses, either reflecting Stratus growing as a character or (more likely) is just de Jager getting into his writing ‘groove’ a bit more.

The end of Infernal definitely hints at this being a series and I for one am eager to read more, not just in this series but also from the author – newcomer Mark de Jager. As a writer he has a flair for this type of story, and I can see him taking the character of Stratus far. If you enjoy the likes of Joe Abercrombie, this is definitely a book to check out and an author to keep an eye on.

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Our interview with Mark de Jager

Mark de Jager was born and grew up in South Africa, now lives in London and works in the banking sector. He is a much loved and highly respected member of the science fiction and fantasy community, a regular at conventions an [...]

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