Inferno of Life by Duane Watson

Inferno of Life is not a standout fantasy novel. The characters are not highly memorable, nor are the plots particularly well-constructed. The writing fluctuates between good and mediocre. Clearly one is able to tell that this effort is the author’s first crack at book writing.

The story here is a simple one: a sudden invasion by an unknown enemy force shatters the lives of a group of friends. Barely escaping their tiny village, leaving behind the corpses of their family, they flee into the wild hoping to live long enough to strike back at the foe that destroyed their everything. Journeying through the woods and launching surprise attacks against the invaders they eventually reach the city of Ashangel. Yet soon that petty fortress falls and once more the trio of friends (Dargon, Matt, and Silof) are forced into the woods where in a surprise twist a member of their party is kidnapped by a dragon and taken to a faraway keep to be trained as a wizard destined to destroy the evil threatening the land.

So the story develops awkwardly. Such is what came first and foremost to my mind. There are moments which seem to dwell too much on relatively minor plot points while other moments which hurtle forward at breakneck speed. In addition there are several too convenient twists which ultimately bring down the whole thread by sheer weight of their blandness (really, kill the bandit leader and become the new bandit king?… Never saw that before!).

This is seen most acutely at the end. The story is wrapped up in such a quick manner that it is painfully obvious that the author simply ran out of time on constructing a proper ending. This is not to say that the ending is terrible in the sense of loose ends but it is poorly constructed for lack of a concise ending involving the entire cast. It relies heavily on the protagonist simply “knowing” what his cohorts will do and on magically ability never fully explained.

Of course this is not to say that the book here does not have some pluses. The strengths of the novel can be found as such: it is a down to earth book and the author is able to skillfully execute battle scenes.

By down to earth I mean character interaction. Regarding the three main characters they joke around and buddy up to one another in the same manner modern young men do: dirty humor, wise cracks and more are all present. Clearly the author either is a keen observer of such bonding or has taken it directly from his own life. The action speaks for itself and is clearly where this novel’s publishing points were located. If the author knew anything at all it is writing vivid combat scenes which flow smoothly and pace themselves (no over-the-top “kill ‘em all” fests here, this is not anime!).

In all I can say that I enjoyed reading Inferno of Life. Despite my qualms with certain aspects of the finished product I can say I would read a sequel (though hopefully any sequel would be a bit more thought out in terms of development). Every author’s first few attempts at writing are a tricky business, so the fact that this book isn’t perfect does not annoy me. All things considered it was decent enough to warrant another go if the author so wills.

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