4 1/2 Stars
Daniel Strong is on top of Grandfather Mountain, watching his world crumble. He has an engagement ring in his pocket and is anxious to propose to Kristine, the love of his life, but she’s on the brink of breaking up with him. His own sins have brought him to this, and he has no one to blame but himself. Caught up in his own personal hell, he stumbles onto a blood-red keystone inside a huge dead tree, unaware that the real Hell awaits.
The keystone pulls him into Hell, where he falls and miraculously survives as one of the undead- a living person in Hell, though maybe not for long. Heartless Charles, a condemned soul who fancies himself a demon, tries to persuade him that this is not Hell, and that if he just goes a little deeper in he’ll find Kristine. Beau, a wandering spirit who has assumed physical form, tries to save Daniel, but he doesn’t want to believe. For many years, Daniel has convinced himself that Hell doesn’t exist, and he isn’t planning to start now. But he’s running out of time. Soon, belief that Hell exists won’t be enough to save him. And with the Angel of Death on his way, Daniel’s lease on life looks like it’s about to be broken.
This retelling of the classic Dante’s Inferno has taken the fiction community by storm. It won the Realm Award for Horror/Supernatural/Paranormal, even though this is the author’s first novel! The world is so well developed. One of the most well developed characters was Charles, the condemned soul turned ruthless soul harvester. Easy to hate, but underneath there is a glimmer of something relatable. Decent, even. Just a shred, you understand, but he makes the most of it, pulling it out as a shield to cover his grotesque nature.
Beau, the wandering spirit, has been stuck in Limbo for a long time, He can’t remember who he was, but his association with Daniel brings snippets of memory to the surface, If he could just recapture some of them…
One of the things that really hit me while reading this is how difficult it is for a fiction writer to write spiritual fiction that makes everyone theologically happy. There is doubtless some small, or even large something in this book that someone of any Christian denomination might take issue with, including me. But do we not read the original classic for that reason? Mitchell takes the high road and decides to tell a good story, one of sin and redemption, rather than trying to make any one group happy. I encourage you to value it for the story, and leave the theological parsing for non-fiction books. If you hand it to your teens, that is actually a great opportunity to talk about theology and fiction.
There were a few other things that I wasn’t a fan of. Mitchell occasionally will revisit the same scene from different points of view, a literary device that I’m not fond of. Sometimes he has a character tell about things that I would rather see dramatized, but there often turns out to be a valid reason for this choice.
Disclaimer: At Realm Makers I handed Descendant Publishing a free copy of Gemini’s Key, and they invited me to choose a free book in return. I had just watched Infernal Fall win the Realm Award, so of course I had to have it. No review was requested, and I did not offer one, but I assume they aren’t objecting now.
Heat: Nothing dramatized, but there is reference to a woman seducing a married man, adultery, and prostitution. A beautiful demoness attempts to bewitch Daniel, but even here there is nothing sexual about it and her clothing is not described. Masterfully done, in my opinion.
Profanity: None. The author gets across the profane nature of the demons without ever having to resort to profane words.
Violence: Mild. There is definitely some gross stuff there, but very little actual violence dramatized. There is reference to fights, but the vast majority of it occurs off screen. That isn’t to say there is no tension. Every scene crackles with tension. I often had to put it down because it was so intense (I’m not normally a horror reader), but I always went back to pick it up again. There is reference to murders, suicides and murder-suicides.
Age Recommendation: 14+ or whenever you are comfortable with the above topics being discussed.
Infernal Fall is available on Amazon.