Cover Image: Firesky

Firesky

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Continuing from where book 1 left off, with both Stratus and Tatyana now knowing he is a dragon, vengeance is on the horizon. Stratus will go after the Worm King who did this to him and assist the humans like he promised in the process. A battle where there is much more at stake than we know.

The 1st person POV is as insightful as ever into Stratus's being and otherness. He still has purpose even if it is a different one. Stratus is still himself, his straightforward, deadpan way of speaking leading to sarcastic remarks that make you smile. His trying to do more human things has me chuckling often. He always seems to throw gasoline on the flames of a situation. Tatyana is still badass, loyal and a great ally even now that she knows what he is. Their bond due to his healing is much greater than they expected.

We experience the world in his 'dragony' way. The magic and the protagonist's understanding of humans have expanded. The descriptions are precise and encompassing, the narrative feeling like a natural continuation of the previous book. It was so easy to immerse into the story again. You can always feel an energy crackling beneath, even in the quieter moments. The foreboding of the battle tinges the atmosphere, though to us Stratus's revenge is more important and the anticipation of his awaited confrontation.

There is a bit of a Captain Obvious vibe in some thoughts and accounts of events, a slight repetitiveness to what has already been conveyed. Is there such a thing as too much description? There were instances when I felt like that.

What I can say is that the action is always exciting, especially when magic is involved. I love him taking care of his opponents in so many imaginative ways. Also learning about how Stratus became what he is now, his past is so engaging.

Full of baddassery, twists and turns that still lead to the right direction, this is a compelling story that has you rooting for the more often than not violent, and certainly not always nice protagonist. How I adore the adventures of Stratus.
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What a ride! I loved the first book in this series but this one is even better: gripping, fast paced and action packed.
Excellent world building, storytelling and character development.
An excellent dark fantasy that kept me hooked and turning pages.
Can't wait to read the next book by this author.
Highly recommended.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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“I was Stratus Firesky, the Dead Wind. The Destroyer”

Firesky begins right where Infernal, Book 1 in The Chronicles of Stratus series left off. Now Stratus knows exactly who and what he is and he’s angry. His memories of his awful maltreatment at the hands of his old enemy, Navar Louw, now known as The Worm Lord, have also returned. Now that the dragon has been let out of the bag he is dead set on vengeance:

For years he had sat in the centre of a vast web, ostensibly teaching the wizards who would take to the fields to fight the very army he was leading, all the while corrupting and subverting their will to his own. And even then he had pursued a greater prize: me.

In Firesky Stratus roams the land fighting his way through the hoards of wizards (“recognizable by the burnt spice odour of their magic”), undead and other monstrous creatures that are fighting on necromancer Navar Louw’s side in the war. He rescues his friend Crow the tinker, who he met in Infernal and the two travel together for a while. Their friendship is endearing and also works as a kind of light relief from the killing and necromancy. Stratus is nothing if not practical:

‘If you don’t eat, you will die, and I will have carried you for nothing.’ He shook his head, then laughed wetly. ‘You’re a strange one, son. Strangest by a country mile for sure.’

Due to Stratus using his blood to save Tatyana’s life they now have a shared sorcerous bond and he is able to use it to locate and attempt to rescue her from the hoard of necromancers and evil creatures surrounding The Worm Lord’s fortress.

Through flashbacks we learn of Stratus’s tragic captivity and torture at the hands of Navar Louw, and something of his relationship with his mate. These and the main part of the story are told from Stratus’s perspective, but we also occasionally get snippets from the ‘Private Annals of Tiberius Talgoth, Archmage’ which also help to fill in Stratus’s back story from the perspective of one of his enemies.

The sorcery and magic system within these two books were based on energy vibration, which I thought was an interesting approach, referred to by Stratus as being drawn from the Songlines:

“All magic, whether the formulaic approach that humans took or the sorcery that flowed through me had harmony at its heart. Vibration. Music. And like music, it has many forms. Some musicians sing, while others play instruments. Some of those use lutes, others harps, and each has its own range of pitches and resonances that it can achieve.”

The worldbuilding was good without being too noticeable. We are seeing the world through Stratus’s eyes and experiences and he has no time to stop and admire the scenery. He does suffer his way through stinking, sucking bogs, attacked endlessly by biting insects, however, and finds climbing through a pit of slimy, putrid dead bodies a disgusting yet necessary task.

Firesky is easily as compelling as Infernal. It is dark fantasy at its best and you need a strong stomach to enjoy it! If you enjoy dark fantasy with plenty of magic and battling wizards, paladins and necromancers, monsters and a dragon you will love this story!
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<b>4.5 / 5 ✪</b>

https://arefugefromlife.wordpress.com/2021/12/12/firesky-chronicles-of-stratus-by-mark-de-jager-review/

This was a troublesome review to write. The formatting alone was a nightmare. See, I loved the book, but there were some issues that made it different from my normal reviews, so I had to change up the style I usually employ. Let me explain.

The English release of Firesky, the second and (most likely) final installment of the Chronicles of Stratus, works to complete the journey that began in a desert surrounded by vultures, so many moons before. In Infernal we follow Stratus, who does not know who or what he is. Following the revelation of his true nature at the end of Infernal, Firesky begins with a reckoning.

The problem is that other than this revelation, there’s no reason to break at the end of Infernal. The overarching plot is not resolved. No storylines are resolved. The only thing that changes is that now Stratus knows who and what he really is—and while the former might be a surprise, the latter is something that he’d been suspecting for some time. Therefore, I’d suggest treating the Chronicles as two parts to one whole. Two books in a single installment, like how the Lord of the Rings is spilt into three, or how the Stormlight Archive books are usually split in two (in Europe, at least). If you read it like this, with just a break in the middle, it removes 90% of my complaints about the books. Still, if you decide to read them as two distinct works, Firesky has a helpful recap to remind you of what happened before, so you can just jump right in.

So, honestly, I can pretty much just end right now with a 5 ✪ recommendation that you go out and get the Chronicles—since they’re both out and can be read as one.

So, just go get it.

Go on.

…

Still here? Might as well do a recap of Firesky, including some very minor spoilers. If you want to avoid these, just skip to the TL;DR.

We begin with Stratus. The Dead Wind. The Destroyer.

The from waking moments of Infernal, we knew that Stratus wasn’t human. While we weren’t absolutely sure of what he was until the end of Book #1, the signs were all there for us to follow and likely by the end wasn’t a very startling revelation to anyone.

Regardless, in the interest of spoilers—since I’m treating the Chronicles as one volume separated into two parts—I’ll just skip the revelations and set the scene.

One enemy has fallen. But they were just a pawn of the bigger threat, one that Stratus has already faced before. It was this foe that led to him waking in a strange form with no memory, a battle he could only run and hide from rather than fight. But there is no running this time. And nowhere to hide.

Stratus wants revenge. And he will get it, one way or another.

Okay, so after that incredibly vague recap, we’re set to start Book #2. Firesky wraps up Stratus’ journey quite nicely, and rounds out the adventures of his allies as well. While there may be room on the end for one of these allies to take over the narrative, I think we’ve wrapped up Stratus’ journey.

<b>TL;DR</b>

Honestly, even if you follow the obvious signs and blurbs between Books 1-2 and discern Stratus’ secret, it’s still a great read. Think I had him pegged a quarter of the way through Infernal and the adventure was still amazing! In fact, my biggest issue with the first entry is how it ended—how it just left off following our somewhat startling revelation—and if you consider the Chronicles as a single volume it removes all of this. Actually… that’s the ONLY thing I have to complain about. Otherwise, Firesky was a 5 star read. Taken as a SINGLE entity with a break in-between, the Chronicles of Stratus is a 5 star book, one that I recommend to any lovers of fantasy around! Again, go get it!

Audio Note: I LOVED Obioma Ugoala’s performance as Stratus! Sometimes an narrator just reads a book—using their same tone of voice with the same inflection throughout. But sometimes a narrator seems to connect with the characters on a more personal level (the 1st person POV really seems to help with this one) which helps bring them to life all the more. Ugoala was able to manage both Stratus’ subtlety and obtuseness not to mention his inhuman humor in a way I found just so perfect! I would absolutely recommend this as an audiobook, one that I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did!
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I hadn’t appreciated that this was the second book in the series until I went looking for the details, as de Jager does a really good job of giving snippets of Stratus’s eventful backstory when it’s necessary. However, I assume that in order to get the best from this draconic adventure – the ideal would be to go and pick up Infernal before tucking into this offering.

While I did enjoy this book, I will mention that it is on the darker side of the fantasy genre. It is liberally splashed with gore throughout – Stratus has a suitably ferocious appetite and his diet isn’t remotely vegetarian. The magic featured is also particularly nasty, as the villainous wizards are necromancers which means they are up to their necks in death spells. While there are flashes of rather dark humour, I did break off in the middle to read something a bit lighter as I found the relentless violence and constant death a bit difficult to cope with. But do bear in mind that I’m dealing with Long Covid, so I’m not really looking for dark and doomy. That said – at no time was I tempted to stop reading this one.

Stratus is a wonderful character. He is in human form, but de Jager nails the aura of difference that surrounds him. At no stage in this longish book (544 pages) did I ever forget that Stratus is a dragon. It’s well done. Indeed, while de Jager isn’t an elegant writer – there were times when I was yanked out of the story because of the odd sentence construction, particularly in the beginning – he writes with passionate conviction. His descriptions of his apocalyptic settings are gripping and viscerally evoked, given that we see them through the filter of Stratus and his perceptions. The other impressive aspect of Stratus’s characterisation is that although his actions are often brutal and unpleasant, I was always firmly on his side. That’s a tricky balance to achieve – and one that de Jager triumphantly pulls off.

I loved the story arc and the fact that the pace and tension never let up throughout. And I also particularly enjoyed the ending. All in all, this is an entertaining, enjoyable read – and if you are a fan of epic fantasy on the darker side, then give this one a go. Stratus is a character that I shan’t forget in a hurry. While I obtained an arc of Firesky from the publisher via Netgalley, the opinions I have expressed are unbiased and my own.
8/10
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Stratus returns in the second of The Chronicles of Stratus, Firesky. And in this book, Stratus not only has to deal with The Worm Lord’s attacking forces, but he also has to gain vengeance for the imprisonment and humiliation that he suffered at his hands.

In the first book, Stratus happily killed and ate his way across the country after waking with no memory of who he was, why he was there and what he should do, and eventually found himself in the employ of Prince Lucien of Falkenburg, promising him to help the City fight against the dread terror of The Worm Lord and his army of wizards and the undead. 
At the conclusion of Infernal, Stratus had remembered the secret of who he was and his true identity, and Firesky picks up with the repercussions of the first book with Stratus’s newfound friend Tatayana, and what she exactly makes of the news that her friend is not who she thought he was. 

Following on from the events of the first book with Stratus fulfilling his promise to give his aid to the city, Firesky continues in much the same vein as Infernal, yet we now know the true nature of Stratus and what he can do. However, in this second instalment we also learn more of The Worm Lord and what exactly he is capable of. Not only that,  Stratus battles armies of the undead, strange beasts and terrible mages whose only plan is the destruction of all mankind.

When we met Stratus originally, he was primarily a one-man killing machine, who also has a hunger to eat everything that he can and this continues in the second book, although we learn much more about him,.
The story bounds along at a dragon’s pace and we marvel at just how many people Stratus can kill. It’s a bit like watching a fantasy version of John Wick as he kills with impunity and in lots of various differently gruesome ways as he heads off with Tatayana to destroy The Worm Lord. However, we get a sizeable backstory which was missing in the first book about Stratus himself, and the reason why he hates The Worm Lord. 

Mark de Jager writes fantastic action scenes, and it is a good job really, as the book is mainly driven by the action. However, it was good to see Stratus’s relationship with Tatayana grow as he learns more about the world that he is travelling in, and the people that inhabit it, which at times gives us a comedic element to the story, particularly when Tatayana is describing why he shouldn’t particularly kill everyone that he meets.

In addition to this, there are plot twists galore and a new element that was not explored in the first book which gives much more depth to Stratus’s character as a whole.
If you like your fantasy filled with Dragons, evil wizards and plenty of gore fuelled action let me point you in the direction of The Chronicles of Stratus.
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I have to admit that I needed to skim through the previous novel, Infernal, to bring myself back up to speed on Stratus and his current predicament. That done, it did not take long to get caught up in this classic fantasy adventure.
I would suggest that Infernal be read before Firesky because there is so much back story that the reader needs to be aware of. The author continues to fire the imagination with this stimulating, and stirring sequel. 
There are some great supporting characters working alongside our main protagonist Stratus. The descriptions of fight scenes are vivid, and the content is colourful, to say the least. So be aware.
Firesky is an excellent sequel that has been a long time coming, but it was worth the wait.
Thank you, NetGalley and Rebellion, Solaris, for the Arc.
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This book is really great, while I didn't read the first one, the content was pretty excellent but it was definitely missing something to make it extraordinary.
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I really enjoyed reading "Infernal" (book one of "The Chronicles of Stratus") so when the chance came to grab a copy of "Firesky" I knew I couldn't pass it up. I'm glad I didn't. This second book in the series has all the positives of the first, but somehow feels much more solid. It's a really great story that's fun to read. I can't wait for more from Mark de Jager.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley. This review was written voluntarily and is entirely my own, unbiased, opinion.
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I usually don't read the second installment of a series before I read the first the book in the series. I didn't really feel the full story like I thought I would if I had read the first book Infernal.  I think I will to read that one and then re-read Firesky to the get the full impact of this rather intriguing story. I did enjoy reading this though and found myself turning easily and eagerly to see what happens next.  The violence is real and effective.  The romance that keeps him going for his love is also sort nice as well.  The dark nature of some the characters was ok in some places but not throughout the whole book.  I think the same goes for Stratus's dragon nature but that is something I would be hard to do for any writer. The story overall is entertaining and imaginetive to a degree.most people will enjoy.  Thanks to netgally and the publishers for the opportunity to read a good book.
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Firesky is a satisfying sequel. Not as tight as Infernal but entertaining and offering a closure. I have a few minor quibbles with pacing (it was dragging in places) but the epic ending rewards patience and dedication to finish the book.
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In September 2016 I left a review on Amazon praising Infernal and finishing my review by stating I look forward to the next book…. I didn’t realise Mark de Jäger was an alias for GRR Martin and that I would have to wait 5 years to read the next book 🤔 joking aside this book was worth the wait, but please Mark not another 5 years for the next book 🙏
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this was a great sequel, it had what I enjoyed from the first book and improved on it. I love the simplicity of the cover and the story adds to the cover. I look forward to reading more from Mr. de Jager.
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