Shadow of the Exile by Mitchell Hogan (The Infernal Guardian #1)

I received a bound proof manuscript copy of Shadow of the Exile in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Mitchell Hogan and 47North for the opportunity. 

Tarrik Nal-Valim is a demon of the 37th order. Extremely powerful and currently resides in Shimrax where demons of unsavoury character, criminals and exiles live. Tarrik is one of the later. He was extradited by the demon lords for marrying a human. We start the narrative when the veil between worlds is ripped about and hooks carry Tarrik through to the human world. He is being summoned by a very powerful sorcerer where he is bound to do her bidding. Her motives and desires are mysterious however she is being sought after by some influential and high ranking individuals and other demons too. So begins our tale following a very unlikely duo.

This is the first of Hogan's works that have only followed one point of view perspective so it was exciting to see how it read and to see how it compares to his previous works. Tarrick and the sorcerer Serenity (Ren) are the two main characters. Tarrick is a breath of fresh air. I love books from the view of a demon or a troll or an orc - the characters that are normally billed as villains and having empathy and sharing their emotions in a human manner was great. A recent tale that did this well was Jonathan French's The Grey Bastards. Tarrick's character also has aspects I've seen recently in LitRPG books such as having a secret and incredibly powerful sword, having special moves like 'shadow-stepping' which is straight out of a Dishonoured game and demons such as him can level up if they kill a higher level demon. Ren is a very powerful sorceress who is part of an elite of nine who are trying to bring a (slightly cliche) dark lord Samal Rak-Shazza to the human world to reign endless chaos and destruction. Rumour has it that the 9 shaman's that he controls have all gone mad due to his influence and messages to them during the hours of sleep. And yes, Ren is one of them.

By far the best part of this book is the two characters interactions. We only hear the demon's thoughts so Ren remains a mystery throughout a lot of the story. His internal monologues of how he will kill her as soon as she missteps and loosens his binds but also that he has to abide her every whim. It creates an ultimately impressive drama. Will they end up liking each other? Is her cause a worthy one? Will it even benefit Tarrick to help her of his own accord as opposed to seeing her as an enemy puppet master? 

There are a lot of amazing action sequences and showdowns of an epic proportion. One that stood out to me was when our demon hero had a dual against one of the empire's greatest swordsmen but there are many excellent moments peppered throughout. Tarrick is in disguise so nobody sees him as a demon, they just believe he is a dark-skinned banished warrior from the ways far to the south. After the beginning, the story is generally split into about 4 or 5 parts. Simply, go to this town, complete an objective, get on a magic flying platform and go to the next town and repeat. This didn't bother me as what happened in each city they went to was exciting and interesting enough to warrant the almost cheating method of transport but, at the same time it cuts out the boring unnecessary travel conversations that fill up many similar books. Hogan has streamlined this to approximately 450 pages and I raced through it because there was no stuttering, slumbering middle sections. That isn't to say that the history and backstories are not deep because they are. As a demon, Tarrick has lived a long time so we find out about his past with the demon's, where he is on the hierarchy, his knowledge of the truly dangerous demons, his past relationships with humans whether his previous sorcerer or once lover. Due to Tarrick's age, he is very wise and his analysis of body language, humans, and demons give readers an excellent picture of the created world and it all seems very intuitive but also fluid, like it is his second nature. 

This is the 1st book in a trilogy entitled The Infernal Guardian but whether it will be Ren he is guarding next book I can't say and I wouldn't want to spoil what is an excellent finale. Hogan has been a favourite of my blogging friend Petros at Booknest for years so I'd like to thank him for introducing me to Mitchell and to say that I can understand why he is such a big fan!

A stunning, thought-provoking new fantasy series following a likeable demon, a mysterious sorceress which is full of impressive intricate details, complex motives, unique and brilliant set pieces, a nice RPG inspired magic scheme and many many more qualities you'll have to discover for yourselves. Recommend!

9/10 A stunning, thought-provoking new fantasy series following a likeable demon and a mysterious sorceress.

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