Xlina just wants to live a normal life—as far as that’s possible for a dream-eater with ties to the Otherworld. But she isn’t content to just consume the dreams of others. She struggles to prevent horrible nightmares from becoming reality, battling monsters and drawing the attention of malevolent forces.
Due to an impossible choice, she becomes marked and bound by a demon and struggles to keep from forfeiting her soul. The demon is collecting people with special talents for her master to be used in a cold war-like game of living chess against a rival demon. In an instant, Xlina is swept into a brutal conflict between the warring demonic entities.
Her journey leads her to meet Oxivius Soulforge, a necromancer exiled to the Otherworld. Oxivius is a kindred spirit who seeks to help her embrace the magical nature of her life and free her from the demon’s mark. With her life torn asunder and under constant threat, Oxivius guides her into embracing her magical heritage and forces her to rethink her preconceived notions of good and evil. To protect her newfound allies and survive the infernal game, Xlina must comply with her demon’s demands. But each step she takes adds yet another black stain to her soul…
The Infernal Games is the initial book in the Baku trilogy, an urban fantasy proposal that I found really interesting, especially because it is different from the most classical approaches to the genre, using different mythology as a base, and showing an interesting conflict between what was told and what was the reality.
We are going to be following Xlina, a Baku that feeds on nightmares, a rare appearance with her Celtic lineage, and that has been surviving by herself in the Boston Grooves as her father refuses to take care of her; leading this into the net of Valeria, a succubus disguised as a social worker, who has a plan for her, creating a pact between both, which soon gets broken by Xlina (mostly by a mistake), provoking her to get marked and get under the control of Valeria.
But Xlina is a strong person who will try to get rid of this mark and avoid the control of Valeria; and soon we get to know that carrying this mark suppose a danger not only for her, but also for Amber, her flatmate.
And with this premise, we get a fast-paced urban fantasy story, probably one of the best aspects of this novel, as it is unbelievable the amount of things that happen in only 400 pages. You can feel the stakes at play, how each danger can almost get the life of our protagonists, and how they always get out just by small details or by sheer luck.
Characters are also one of the main selling points of this book. Xlina is an independent person, whose main purpose is to continue being free while doing some jobs related to the Otherworld; Amber, her flatmate, gets also a fair amount of exposition after almost getting killed due to Xlina; and Oxivius is probably one of the most charismatics I've ever read, all of that being a flesh-eater necromancer.
It is interesting how the conflict between good and evil is not shown in a linear way in this book, but instead going for the classic black-white contrast that is usual in the genre, it uses shades of grey, also making a distinction between what it is the myth, and what it is real; also using it as a way to portray that evilness is not necessarily on the nature of a creature.
In summary, The Infernal Games is a really solid first novel, perfect for somebody who wants a more adult-oriented urban fantasy story, with a plot that will keep you hooked until the end. Can't wait to continue this saga with the second book!
Reed Logan Westgate
Reed Logan Westgate was born in Sanford, Maine and attended college in Dover, New Hampshire where he studied Accounting and Finance. He currently works for a non-profit social service agency in the finance department. He married his dream girl whom he met in grade school. They have a loving family with two beautiful daughters. In his spare time, he enjoys tabletop gaming, roleplaying games, and fishing.