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.
Embarking on a journey of self-discovery, he sets out across a landscape torn apart by the ten year war between the Kingdoms of Krandin and Penullin, now reaching new levels of savagery as a dark magic drives the world to the brink of destruction.
As his personality grows with each step he slowly uncovers the truth of what he has become and the unquenchable thirst for vengeance that has led him there.
Confession time… I requested this book through Netgalley because I thought Mark de Jager might be Dutch. But then the Husband told me it is also an African name (yes, he knows both Dutch and African de Jagers). And guess what, he won.
That didn’t make me enjoy this book any less though. It is an epic fantasy… but different. We follow Stratus, a man with unusually dark skin who is possessed by some ‘demon’, on his journey to find out who and what he is. He isn’t a good guy. He isn’t a bad guy either though. He is his own man, and doesn’t hesitate to kill whoever gets in his way, no matter whose side they are on. And his incredible strenght does lead him to kill them quite brutally at times.
I also loved Stratus’ voice. He is very matter of fact. He doesn’t know/care about etiquette, social norms and emotions. When someone in front of him complains about how much it hurts to die, he tells them that this is obvious and just answer his question. He is blunt, and opens his mouth without thinking… and in a way this makes him hilarious (even though he doesn’t mean to be). It is what made this book a great reading experience. Stratus starts the book of not knowing anything, and the reader learns together with him. Though this can turn out a bit tropy, I feel this was handled very well in this case. Stratus didn’t conveniently not remember the parts that were important to the story. He also didn’t know what oats are and how to make a fire.
I didn’t care all that much about the other characters. Though I hugely appreciate Stratus didn’t get romantically invovled with the female major character, and the fact that she kicked ass, I didn’t really care for her as a person. Nor did I give a shit about any of the other characters and their war. I just wanted to know what happened to Stratus, and everything else was background noise.
I did however really enjoy the sourcery and especially the necromancy elements in this book. The zombies and the disgusting scenes that came with them were something I haven’t come across ofthen in (epic) fantasy, and I really enjoyed this fresh take on the genre.
It is weird to complain about the fact that the main character was too good that I didn’t care for the rest of the book. But that really is an issue I had with the book, my only issue. I LOVE the reveal in the end, and the cover of the second book already has me fascinated. I would highly recommend this book if you are looking for an epic fantasy that is bloody and brutal, but also hugely entertaining and a tad different.