How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying by Django Wexler fantasy book reviewsHow to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying by Django Wexler

How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying by Django Wexler fantasy book reviews

I’ll admit I got Wexler’s 2024 fantasy novel, first in the DARK LORD DAVI series, mostly because of the title, How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying. I couldn’t help noticing that blurbs and reviews both take delight in describing this book as funny and raunchy. I don’t see “raunchy” as a description that much anymore—in this case it is accurate. Davi, our first-person narrator, uses swears and other foul language and often speculates in nearly clinical terms about various sexual activities and positions with nonhuman partners. Yes, the book is very, very funny—and it goes about a million miles an hour.

Davi is—trapped, I guess?—in a different universe or world, one that looks a lot like a tabletop role-playing game. Davi keeps joining the humancentric Kingdom to try to overcome the wilding hordes (orcs, minotaurs, and a variety of cross-species folks) and defeat the Dark Lord. Eventually, every time, Davi gets killed, only to wake up face down in a pool in the same spot, over and over. This may be tedious, but along the way Davi has picked up a lot of information. Right around the 237th time she dies, Davi decides she’s just had it. Why keep dying to defeat the Dark Lord? Why not become the Dark Lord? Sustained by an audacious plan and armed with… well, hardly anything, Davi sets off to win over a group of wildings, build herself a horde, and arrive at the Convocation, where candidates compete to become the Dark Lord. The Convocation is on the other side of the country, through territory held by a powerful, hostile wilding leader, and over a set of impassible mountains. The wildings hate humans, so Davi will have to pass for wilding. Still, Davi sets off. Worst case scenario, she dies, resets, and starts over. What could possibly go wrong?

The rest of the book is about what goes wrong, but a lot of things go right, at least at first. To her surprise, Davi starts to succeed—and then she learns that somehow the rules have changed, and her time-loop die-and-reincarnate may not be the failsafe it used to be. This is a problem, because for the first time, Davi has made friends and sees the wildings as people. If she “really” dies, and they die with her, don’t they also die for real?

Django Wexler

Django Wexler

I don’t love time-loop stories but Wexler did a convincing job here. Story-savvy, metafictional Davi knows when to keep to the action and when to pause and deliver an info-dump, usually telling us she’s going to do just that. Davi, a thoroughly modern narrator, uses footnotes to fill out her story. For a character whose curiosity about interspecies sex is robust, Davi is quick to draw the discreet veil of three asterisks across her own sexual shenanigans.

The overall tone is comedic, and it’s maintained, even when things get intense emotionally. The story is welded to Davi’s narrative voice. If you like her, you will really like this book.

The twists and turns and behind the scenes looks at wilding politics were my favorite parts of the book. I did think one betrayal was telegraphed too early and could have been done more subtly. I also had my usual problem with math, because Davi thinks she’s been in this world a thousand years, but I can’t make 238 lifetimes add up to that. We are given no information about how or why Davi got here, or what she did before (she seems to know a lot about HR) and I suspect we’ll learn more in the upcoming books. During the Dark Lord Trials, we do get a big hint about the origin of this world.

I enjoyed the Convocation and the rules. Mostly, I loved Davi’s nonhuman friends.

How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying is a first-rate summer read, a big, silly, funny, raunchy summer read.

Published in May 2024. Groundhog Day meets Deadpool in Django Wexler’s raunchy, hilarious, blood-splattered fantasy tale about a young woman who, tired of defending humanity from the Dark Lord, decides to become the Dark Lord herself. Davi has done this all before. She’s tried to be the hero and take down the all-powerful Dark Lord. A hundred times she’s rallied humanity and made the final charge. But the time loop always gets her in the end. Sometimes she’s killed quickly. Sometimes it takes a while. But she’s been defeated every time. This time? She’s done being the hero and done being stuck in this endless time loop. If the Dark Lord always wins, then maybe that’s who she needs to be. It’s Davi’s turn to play on the winning side. A humorous western isekai featuring the reincarnation of an antihero female lead.


  • Marion Deeds

    Marion Deeds, with us since March, 2011, is the author of the fantasy novella ALUMINUM LEAVES. Her short fiction has appeared in the anthologies BEYOND THE STARS, THE WAND THAT ROCKS THE CRADLE, STRANGE CALIFORNIA, and in Podcastle, The Noyo River Review, Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online. She’s retired from 35 years in county government, and spends some of her free time volunteering at a second-hand bookstore in her home town.

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