Another fun, fantasy martial arts story reminiscent of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or The Forbidden Kingdom.
Pawn’s Gambit is the second novel by Rob J. Hayes set in the world of “Mortal Techniques.“ While it is not truly a sequel to Never Die!, this stand alone installment does reference characters and events from the first book in the setting. The novel was another fast paced and episodic adventure which fans of Asian-inspired fantasy, and martial arts Wuxia action with love.
Never Die was brilliant. It had it all. Fearsome katana action? Tick. Hilarious interactions between bandits and heroes alike? Tick. Instantly likeable characters? Tick. A spooky young boy who can bring heroes back from the dead? Ti- okay maybe not the criteria you seek in every book but Never Die was a completely unique and fun read. If you're looking for a fantasy read after playing Ghost of Tsushima be sure to check this out.
I read Never Die as a judge for the SPFBO finalists. And I LOVED IT. Wonderful characterisation, intriguing plot, masterfully written action sequences and natural dialogue.
“The difference between the rich and the powerful was always made so much clearer by walls. The rich hide behind them, the powerful tore them down.”
Never Die is one of my favourite reads over the last year. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started, but by the end of the first chapter, I was enraptured.
Starting with the prose, Hayes wrote amazing pieces such as…
"Some fight for honour, and some for reward.
Some for glory, and others for a cause.
Some fight for freedom, from tyranny and hate.
And some fight for love, not for a person but a name.
With death as their guide, their companion and goal.
They cross all Hosa, spirit, flesh, and soul.
Hounded by demons, from the pages of lore.
What starts with a whisper, must end with a roar."
And the rest of the time the prose was just as enchanting. Natural, smooth and fluid. It was so easy to just glide from page to page, as is evident due to the fact I finished this in about 36 hours, with a large chunk of that being when I was asleep.
At the core of this story is the awesome idea to bring heroes back from the dead and fight on your side! It just appeals to my interests and passions so much. How cool would it be to have some of the best warriors and heroes in one band? Well, Never Die surpassed my expectations in how EPIC it was to have a group of such people.
The plot was so cool with the growing party of characters who each had a great variety of personalities. There were certainly some huge twists I did not expect that were subtly hinted at. But those of the kind you only piece together when its already happened.
Now onto the action sequences. Simply, they’re brilliant. Instantly immersive and vivid, with no confusion at all about what is actually happening. In most books I get slightly lost in large-scale conflicts, but once again, Never Die is one of those rare novels that succeeds in this element. From small scale duels to epic battles, each was brilliant and masterfully depicted.
"Sometimes peace is no more than oppression in disguise.”
Overall, I think it’s safe to say that I loved this book. Wonderful array of characters, brilliant plot, fantastic core idea and wonderful action sequences. I’m definitely going to read some more Hayes!