Editorial Review: Dirge of the Dead by Reed Logan Westgate
Xlina Dar'Karrow's nightmare magic came in useful when she became an unwilling pawn in The Infernal Games, but it could not safeguard the life of her friend Amber. So now, as Amber's soul burns, Xlina and the necromancer Oxivius set out on an audacious quest to steal it back from the fires of hell itself.
With The Infernal Games, the first book in The Baku Series, Reed Logan Westgate did a marvelous job establishing a brand new urban fantasy setting filled with compelling characters. The way he blends familiar settings and legends with charismatic characters and beguiling villains made for a captivating story from beginning to end.
Whereas The Infernal Games dealt with Xlina being tricked by a demon and attempting to rid herself of the mark, Dirge of the Dead hits the ground running with an explosive opening. It continues straight after the end of the first novel and sees Xlina heartbroken over the loss of her friend, Amber. However, the necromancer Oxivius believes that there is a way to snatch Amber's soul back from the fires of hell, and Xlina is determined to do so even with the significant risk involved. Stealing a soul from hell is just the start of the adventure, though, as her actions put Xlina in the cross-hairs of not just Hell, but Heaven as well. The loss of some allies, as well as the deceit and betrayal of others, leaves Xlina feeling isolated, but not even her deepest fears will keep her from her goal.
The Infernal Games was always going to be a tough book to follow, but with Dirge of the Dead, Westgate has managed to raise the stakes even higher. After an opening that puts the climaxes of many other books to shame, the pace barely lets up. Xlina experienced a lot of character growth in the original novel, but this time she faces dangers she couldn't even have imagined back then. Whereas The Infernal Games saw her slowly opening up to new friends and gaining allies, Dirge of The Dead sees her facing almost insurmountable odds while struggling with deceit, heartbreak, and isolation. Kudos to Westgate for writing a character as powerful as Xlina while still giving her real struggles to deal with and challenges that don't feel contrived.
Dirge of the Dead reveals more of the different realms in The Baku Trilogy while also focusing on Xlina's inner struggles. The author is not scared to put any of the characters in mortal danger, making for harrowing reading. Fans of some characters might be a little disappointed that they don't get featured as much in this novel, but there are plenty of new characters to make up for this as well as some great twists. As with the first novel, the author has also done a great job of keeping the tension up while injecting plenty of dark humor into the mix.
Anyone who enjoyed The Infernal Games can rest easy that Dirge of the Dead not only maintains the high standards of the first novel but also builds on it in every way. Westgate certainly proves that he knows how to keep the story flowing seamlessly while ramping up the tension, and just like its predecessor, Dirge of the Dead effortlessly stands out from the flood of urban fantasy novels on the market.