Infernal by Mark de Jager book review

Find out what we thought of Mark de Jager’s demonic fantasy, Infernal

Infernal Mark de Jager

After waking up in a forest – minus any knowledge of who he is, or how he got there – a giant, formidable being butchers his way through the army that attempts to take him prisoner. Adopting the name Stratus, he finds himself caught up in one kingdom’s war, trying to understand both his demonic nature and why he’s in the situation he’s in.

The stage is set for a progressively more entertaining (and bloody) romp as Stratus rampages through the narrative, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Even though his actions are horrific, his almost childlike detachment and literal response to every question and conundrum make him an entertaining figure – a murderous Drax the Destroyer-esque individual. You’ll still be rooting for him even as he butchers his umpteenth anonymous henchman.

This is pure pulp horror, but in no way is this a bad thing, especially when the story is this fun. Antiheroes (if you can even ascribe Stratus this level of moral ambiguity) are by their very nature hard to write well – especially if they’re not only the lead character, they’re the actual narrator – but the author achieves that feat here. There’s an end goal in sight, and an ultimate aim for Stratus, although this all becomes of secondary interest compared to the sheer perverse hilarity of the journey.

Even so, there are nitpicks. Such is the story’s focus on Stratus that few other characters really get fleshed out – aside from warrior with a history Tatyana, and dandy prince Lucien. The narrator is such an enrapturing character that ultimately this doesn’t matter too much, but it might well do later on, especially with the open-ended finale pretty unambiguously hinting at the possibility of sequels.

Epic fantasy without any pretensions of changing literature or establishing itself in the canon, Infernal is only concerned with being entertaining. And it definitely succeeds.