“Justice of the sword is just murder by another name.”
Rob Hayes has crafted a fantastic Samurai and Eastern-inspired fantasy book that subtly pulls the reader into a world that has more depth and originality each page you turn. It has samurai, duels that are reminiscent of the manga Vagabond and mythical creatures. It’s immensely enjoyable and heaps of fun all whilst being a very accessible story.
A small boy called Ein is on a mission to kill the Emperor of Ten Kings. No mean feat and one he simply cannot do - one he needs heroes for. Conveniently Ein also has the immense power of bringing warriors back from the dead. Ein must bind four legendary heroes to himself to assist him on this quest, but here’s the catch - they must first be dead in order to be bound.
“Some swords strike with a growl, some with a roar. Some shake the battle like a rock slide, some bring ruin like a wild flame. But there is one sword that passes with but a whisper, and you shall know it for it says: Death has been here.”
Here we meet heroes that contain their own sub-plots, the majority of the book being told from the viewpoints of Itami Cho (Whispering Blade) and Zhihao (The Emerald Wind). These two are quickly persuaded to assist Ein and set our together to bring other heroes to death, just to be brought back to being ‘mostly alive’. I loved the plot. It engaged me and was to start with simple, but brilliantly turned into something with a lot more substance.
I also loved the characters of the heroes, firstly seeing how different they were, getting to know them as characters, then seeing how they merged together to form Ein’s band. Each was unique and Rob Hayes was able to tackle themes such as honour and friendship, justice and revenge.
“Wonderful, a fat man and a leper with a gun.”
There is excellent pacing that also had moments of reflection where we discovered the world and more about the characters. The last third of Never Die really was on full-throttle and the action was glorious. Awesome fight sequences that were fantastical and bloody, intimidating and fascinating creatures, such as the spirit-world yokai.
I also thoroughly enjoyed a few of the Easter eggs to readers who like asian-inspired tales, such as the character Art of War, and the sword maker Mifune (Toshiro Mifune?).
"It takes a lifetime of evil to be a villain, and only one moment of good to be a hero."
5/5 - a sword-slashing and heroic tale set in a fantastical world of the East. Mythological creatures, an impossible quest and a brilliant band of heroes are forged in Never Die. I will be sure to read a lot more of Rob Hayes’ books in the future as I enjoyed this massively.