Editorial Review: The Infernal Games by Reed Logan Westgate
Xlina wants nothing more than to live a normal life, but as a dream-eater, that proves to be rather difficult. However, her priorities change when she is marked and bound by a demon. This event causes her to become an unwilling pawn in the infernal game.
The Infernal Games is the first title in The Baku Series and pulls back the veil of our reality to reveal the supernatural Otherworld lurking just beyond. The protagonist, Xlina Dar'Karrow, grew up in a family of druids but, as a girl, was unable to join the male-dominated Order. However, as an awakened, she was well aware that magic is real and the dangers that lurk beyond the mist in the Otherworld. Xlina is also a baku, with strength, power, and resiliency beyond that of ordinary humans. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for her supernatural powers as baku are dream eaters that consume nightmares. Due to her druid heritage, Xlina is able to store and harness the nightmare powers, which she uses to hunt the creatures that stalk the night.
Being a vigilante who spends her nights witnessing the nightmares of others and then trying to prevent them from becoming a reality takes its toll on Xlina. Despite trying to live an everyday life, she finds herself lonely and isolated, making her an easy target for a demon called Valerie.
Under the guise of a social worker, Valerie manipulates Xlina into doing her bidding before finally tricking her and laying claim to her soul. This leaves Xlina in a desperate situation as she attempts to free herself from the demon's mark but finding herself drawn deeper and deeper into the supernatural world.
Urban Fantasy novels are a dime a dozen these days, but with The Infernal Game, Reed Logan Westgate has managed to tell a story that feels original and unique. The characters are also surprisingly relatable, even with all the magic and supernatural elements. For example, Xlina's powers could easily have made her overpowered and hard to connect with for readers, but thankfully this is not the case. While she can hold her own in a fight, she is not invulnerable, and her abilities come with a terrible price that makes it easy to sympathize with her plight. It also means that secondary characters are not marginalized and help drive the story forward instead of being around and not affecting anything.
The Infernal Games is the first novel in the series, so it spends some time on worldbuilding but doesn't skimp on characters either. Xlina is a great protagonist, but characters such as Amber, the seemingly clueless college co-ed, and Oxivius, the necromancer, have great story arcs too. Oxivius, in particular, is a character with a fascinating backstory that could probably fill a book on its own. In addition, it speaks volumes that the author is able to elicit some sympathy for Valerie, the demon who drags Xlina into the mess that she's in.
Most of the story deals with how Xlina ends up marked and bound, as well as her attempts to free herself of this curse. The writing is clear and easy to follow, while the story provides equal doses of action and intrigue. The author also threw in a few twists that will have readers on the edge of their seats and anxiously reaching for the next book in the series when they finish with this one. Although the whole concept of a secret world just beyond our own is not new, especially with Portland as the backdrop, The Infernal Games manages to remain engrossing without succumbing to tropes. It is a great read for fans of the urban fantasy genre but features enough action as well as great characters to keep anyone hooked.