Never Die
Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death.Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war.

Never Die Details

TitleNever Die
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 29th, 2019
PublisherRob J. Hayes
Rating
GenreFantasy

Never Die Review

  • Petrik
    January 1, 1970
    ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.This review is quite long but the short version is this: Never Die is currently one of the three best self-published books I’ve ever read. If you still need more convincing, read further.Joining The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher and We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, Never Die is the third self-published book that currently holds a full 5-star rating from me. If you’re familiar with Hayes’s Where Loyalties Lie, which I assume is ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.This review is quite long but the short version is this: Never Die is currently one of the three best self-published books I’ve ever read. If you still need more convincing, read further.Joining The Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher and We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, Never Die is the third self-published book that currently holds a full 5-star rating from me. If you’re familiar with Hayes’s Where Loyalties Lie, which I assume is where most of you know about Rob Hayes, the first thing you should know about Never Die is that it’s completely a different kind of book from his Best Laid Plans duology. There was far less swearing, there was no romance, no rape, no sex scenes, no pirates, and no naval battles; other than the action sequences being bloody, there’s little similarity between the two works. Never Die is more like Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold infused with Samurai, Shinigami, Japanese lore and mythology, Wuxia, and anime-inspired battles in an ancient Japanese setting. It’s a book heavily influenced by anime like Sword of the Stranger, Japanese manga that involved yokai, and Eastern martial arts movies. Honestly speaking, Hayes has been talking about this book to me for almost a year now. My expectations were high because this sounded like a book that would definitely work for me and even then, Never Die was still able to fulfill that high level of expectation; the last 20% of the book even exceeded my hopes, but I’ll talk more about that later in the review. Suffice it to say that it was almost as if Never Die was written specifically for me so that I could embrace my love for SFF novels and Japanese manga/anime at once. Just like The Fifth Empire of Man, this book ended up becoming another book written by Hayes that I finished in a day, specifically in two sittings; it was that thoroughly captivating. “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.” Ein is on a quest given by a shinigami. He’s tasked with killing the Emperor of Ten Kings, the ruler of Hosa. In order to do that, he has to find and bind four legendary heroes; the problem with this is that the four legendary heroes have to be dead first so that Ein can revive them and bind them to his will. From the blurb alone, I think you should be able to guess that Never Die is a quest-oriented story. I honestly thought the plot was going to be predictable, a simple recruitment and assassination kind of story. Although this was mostly true, I was still blindsided by how well-crafted the last 20% of the book was which, again, I’ll get into later. However, even though most of the plot progression was simple, there was so much more meaning and depth to the narrative. Never Die wonderfully tells a story that encompasses justice, friendship, retribution, honor, and oaths; there were plenty of meaningful and hopeful moments in a story about life and death that’s supposed to be dark, and I personally couldn’t be more pleased with it. “The difference between the rich and the powerful was always made so much clearer by walls. The rich hid behind them, the powerful tore them down.” The strong execution of the plot was only possible because the main characters were so distinctive from each other and each POV was compelling to read. Itami Cho, Ein, Zhihao, Chen Lu, Bingwei Ma, and Roi Astara were a group of misfits and unlikely heroes that shouldn’t even be able to work together but somehow, in these characters, I found heartwarming friendship and inspiring heroism. It didn’t take long for me to warm up to them. Each character's personality really came to life and every new character’s introduction immediately made me care about them and curious to learn more about them. Seeing the gradual bonding of the main characters was unexpected and quite wholesome to read. I also loved how the relationship between Cho and Ein reminded me of Nanashi and Kotaro from Sword of the Stranger. Plus, same as Nanashi, Cho has also vowed to never unsheathe her other katana—War—and in my opinion, her conviction greatly enhanced the compelling narrative of her character. My personal favorite characters from the book were definitely Itami Cho and Zhihao. Cho’s determination to uphold her Oath was so honorable; she really tried her best to do what’s right even though she has regrets regarding her unfulfilled oath in her past. As for Zhihao, out of all the characters, he fits the unlikely and reluctant hero bill the best. Out of every character he created, Hayes developed these two characters the most and he did a spectacular job with it. “It takes a lifetime of evil to be a villain, and only one moment of good to be a hero.” As far as I know, Hayes is not an Asian but I, as an Asian reader and a self-proclaimed anime/manga enthusiast, genuinely think that Hayes captured the essence of Japanese anime and Eastern martial arts with swift justice. The Japanese and anime inspirations in this book are abundant and they filled me with so much joy. I loved the portrayal of scenery in the book: the deep orange color of sunset evoked to paint the characters’ surroundings; the bamboo forest that reminded me of Arashiyama in Kyoto; a world full of spirits and yokai like Hone-onna, mokumokuren, Jikininki, or even Oni; the usage of weaponry and techniques, such as Kanata and Eastern martial arts like Wushu that Hayes chose to implement. Gratification is the only word I can use to describe my feelings towards the world-building of this novel. Never Die is a standalone book that really concluded brilliantly, but should Hayes ever decide to revisit this setting there is a lot of room for another story in the same world, as readers will see hinted at in the world-building. Also, there were a few nice nods to Chinese history, such as The Romance of the Three Ages (obviously inspired by The Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and a genius tactician that goes by the name Art of War (Inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War.) to name a few.Hayes’s prose has always flowed smoothly; it’s simple, engaging, vivid, and immensely accessible. Never Die was no exception, but it was even better, clearly showing that Hayes’s prose has improved even further. Surprisingly, the book was also philosophical and sometimes even poetic, something I didn’t get at all from reading his Best Laid Plans duology. I barely highlighted any passages in Best Laid Plans, but here? There were a lot of well-written sentences that spoke volumes with few words so that even the mere act of unsheathing a katana held incredible weight. Although Hayes’s prose may not be beautiful like that of Brian Staveley or Patrick Rothfuss, it was still written effectively with brutal efficiency, and the words in Never Die disintegrated into imagery with ease. The settings and situations both frantic and calm were vividly described so that every scene was completely immersive. To me, that is a sign of a great storytelling. “One can either let their losses define them, or define those losses by what is left to them.” Even after all these praises, I still must say that the one way in which Hayes has clearly improved is in his writing of action scenes. Never Die displayed a different sort of combat than Hayes’s previous works; most of the battles in this book feature close-quarter combat, and there was also plenty of incredible magic/yokai on savage display. Personally, I think these scenes were superbly written and even better than the battles in The Fifth Empire of Man, which were already great. Up until the 80% mark of the book, his story was a 4-star read for me; however, the last 20% instantaneously catapulted it to a 5-star rating with ease. Hayes unsheathed his blade to unleash fatal Battōjutsu in all the action sequences in this book; the results were swift, precise, and deadly. But the climax sequences in this book was the section that really put Rob Hayes’s skill as an author into the spotlight. By invoking elation in the thrill of the final battles, Hayes orchestrated an Ougi that delivered a crimson requiem to conclude the Reaper’s war with finesse. The buildup of the cinematic set pieces was felt, the roar of battles was seen, and the clashing of steel was heard. In less than 300 pages, Hayes was able to include plenty of engaging duel scenes, exhilarating big battles against yokai, and pulse-pounding large-scale war with a myriad of blood-spattered scenes; and he did it all without neglecting crucial characterizations. To sum it up quickly, the effectiveness of the devastation and destruction unleashed in the final 20% of the novel were like watching the type of breathtaking final battle scene found in my favorite kind of anime; truly a relentless barrage of palpable tension and emotions. “For some, a sword is an extension of themselves, and thus any sword will do. For others the sword and wielder are one, two halves of one soul, and neither will ever be complete without the other.” I don’t know what else I need to say to convince you to read this incredible book. Just pre-order this and be pleasantly surprised when it arrives at your doorstep or on your e-reader; I honestly can’t wait to hold and reread this book in its resplendent physical form. For a relatively short book, it’s unbelievable how much gravitas is packed within it; almost everything about this novel just worked for me. Glorious, heroic, inspiring, brutal, at times hilarious, but most of all incredibly unforgettable; Never Die currently holds the crown for being one of the three best self-published novels I’ve ever read and I am grateful to have read it.Sidenote:If you love wonderful artworks, please check out the talented and underrated Felix Ortiz’s portfolio (www.artstation.com/felixortiz). Not only he’s responsible for this gorgeous cover art, (as well as the current header image for my blog, Novel Notions) he’s also overall a really great dude. Lastly, I’d like to point out the awesome typography and cover design by Shawn T. King (www.stkkreations.com). Shinigami bless you for your great works and for not sticking to the all too common and overly used Cinzel font.Official release date: January 29th, 2019You can pre-order this book by clicking this link!You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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  • Bookdragon Sean
    January 1, 1970
    To people that don’t read much self-published fiction, Rob J. Hayes is here to prove exactly why you should! This is a great price of fantasy writing. It reminds me of mortal combat, as the characters duel to prove who is the best warrior. And they are quite a memorable cast, pulled together to serve the whims of an undead boy. Cho, the Whispering Blade, is as quiet as she is deadly. Zhihao Cheng, the Emerald Wind, can project images of himself and sneak up behind his opponent to deadly effect. To people that don’t read much self-published fiction, Rob J. Hayes is here to prove exactly why you should! This is a great price of fantasy writing. It reminds me of mortal combat, as the characters duel to prove who is the best warrior. And they are quite a memorable cast, pulled together to serve the whims of an undead boy. Cho, the Whispering Blade, is as quiet as she is deadly. Zhihao Cheng, the Emerald Wind, can project images of himself and sneak up behind his opponent to deadly effect. Iron Gut Chem has impenetrable skin, Ghost Echo is a fiercely accurate leprosy riddled sniper and Bingwei Ma is a master of unarmed combat. They are a motley band, but they are all great heroes forced to fight for a cause not their own. As such, the characters really drove this story forward. It’s Asian inspired and captures a warrior culture based on honour and reputation against a backdrop of feuding warlords. And because of how much reputation these five have, they have been bound together to fight for the little boy’s desires. He wants to see the Emperor dead, and they must oblige. He has brought them all back from the dead with necromantic magic, and if they stray away from him, they will perish. The price of freedom, a new life, must be bought with the blood he desires. It’s quite an interestingly awkward dynamic, legendary heroes being ordered around by an eight-year-old undead boy. There are many funny moments as characters that clearly don’t belong together in the same band, clash and bang heads together. At one point, I thought a big fight would irrupt and they’d all just kill each other (again.) But somehow, yes somehow, they manage to crush their differences and work together. And it’s quite compelling. They all have completely different motives, values and outlooks on life, but they were able to come together to get the job done. And considering how volatile a few of them are, that’s a real achievement. It was hilarious at times, but it was also very tense with a plot that explodes into a dramatic conclusion that delivers everything it promises. I would even go as far as to say that the book had a certain cinematic quality to it. I would genuinely love to watch an anime movie about these characters and this plot; it would be fantastic because it’s such a slick piece of writing, with katanas flying everywhere and monsters making things difficult. It would work so well on the screen. The cover really captures the feel of it all. It’s a real strong piece of awesomeness that will appeal directly to your inner geek. There’s some brilliantly described combat scenes and the action is constant. There’s never a dull moment. The story was immediate and engaging, I read it in one sitting. Real good stuff, I can’t fault it whatsoever. So, I really do recommend this one; it’s quite a quick read but it’s lots of fun! Many thanks to the author for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Celeste
    January 1, 1970
    You can find this review and more at Novel Notions. Never Die is hands down the best book Rob Hayes has written to date, and this is coming from someone who has really enjoyed everything I’ve read from him. It’s been a while since a book was so addictive that it kept me up late into the night because I needed to read just one more chapter, and it was an experience I relished with this book. It’s undoubtedly one of the best Asian-inspired fantasies I’ve read, as well as one of the best self-publi You can find this review and more at Novel Notions. Never Die is hands down the best book Rob Hayes has written to date, and this is coming from someone who has really enjoyed everything I’ve read from him. It’s been a while since a book was so addictive that it kept me up late into the night because I needed to read just one more chapter, and it was an experience I relished with this book. It’s undoubtedly one of the best Asian-inspired fantasies I’ve read, as well as one of the best self-published works I’ve come across. His title as winner of SPFBO (Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off) 2017 is well deserved.“Sometimes peace is no more than oppression in disguise.”Admittedly, I haven’t read loads of Asian-inspired fantasy, but some of those I have read felt a bit gangly, as though the author wanted a different setting from your run-of-the-mill medieval European fantasy, but failed to put in the research to make the story feel natural. That was so not the case with Never Die. I could tell as I was reading that Rob had spent so much time and put so much research into making this story a believable one within its setting. The dress, the mannerisms, the names, and the mythology were all lovingly rendered and (in my humble opinion) very credible. One of the stand-out elements for me was the mythological aspect. I’ve always been fascinated by mythology, but have had little exposure to any ancient mythology outside of the commonly presented Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, and Celtic mythologies. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Japanese mythology as I read this book. (Side note: How cool are electronic books? The ability to highlight a term and dig into its meaning without actually putting said book down to do so is so insanely convenient.) Not only did I get to experience a very enjoyable story, I actually came away from it knowing more about a particular topic. That’s an amazing bonus. One additional thing I’d like to recognize Hayes for is his utilization of short chapters. Again, this is something more noticeable when reading the book in electronic format, but there’s something about finishing a chapter and then seeing that the next is only a few minutes long that makes it almost impossible to stop reading. He takes the theory of “just one more chapter” and really runs with it.While I really love Hayes’ Best Laid Plans pirate duology, and enjoyed his most recent standalone, City of Kings, set in the same world, all three of these books went to very dark places that made me a bit uncomfortable. Again, I very much enjoyed them, but I had to distance myself from them a bit in my mind because of their content. Not so with Never Die. While still very much in keeping with Hayes’ signature violent action scenes that I came to love in Where Loyalties Lie, this book was remarkably clean in other respects. There was no real romance, which resulted in no sex scenes. There was very little vulgarity as compared to the other work I’ve read from Hayes. And best of all, there was no rape! Yay! You saved yourself, woman. All I did was pass you a sword.Also, while I loved the pirate-riddled world I first visited in the Best Laid Plans duology, I found this new Japanese-inspired world of Never Die a refreshing change. As I stated above, it was impeccably researched. This mixed with Hayes’ laid back prose to create a world that I could see and hear and smell as if the book was a portal to an enticing foreign land. It’s a world I would love to revisit. Also, there was an important addition made to this world not present in Best Laid Plans: honor. There was this respectable vein of honor running through this motley group of characters, even those who don’t view themselves as heroes. It was a refreshing change.“Immortality is subjective. Your stories will always be told. Your legend will never die. But your body can.”Speaking of characters, Hayes did a phenomenal job crafting this ragtag crew. We introduced to these heroes one by one, as they are unwillingly drafted into a seemingly impossible quest. As they don’t really know each other, we learn about them as they reveal things to the group. Very rarely is a team assembled like this where there are no core relationships already developed that are brought to the table, so I thought it was an interesting decision. I enjoyed how varied these characters were, in personality and physicality and fighting style. And the names! I love the titles awarded to each character based on some tactical strength they had developed and were famous for harnessing. We have characters with names like The Whispering Blade and The Emerald Breeze and Iron Gut and Death’s Echo. They’re such rich, evocative titles, and say such deep things about those who carry them. While I found all of the characters enjoyable, my absolute favorite was Itami Cho, the Whispering Blade. She was stoic but caring, badass but kind, and you could tell that she knew or suspected far more than she let on about their mission, their physical state, and the boy who had drafted them for this endeavor. She’s an incredibly strong female character and in my opinion was the shining star of the story.What starts with a whisper, must end with a roar.In case you haven’t noticed by now, I have nothing negative to say about this book. Never Die is the most compelling, addictive blaze-of-glory story I have ever had the pleasure of reading. If you’re a fan of anime and/or manga, you’re going to love this story. If you want more Asian fantasy in your life, you definitely won’t be disappointed if you pick this one up. If you love motley crews and epic action scenes, you’ll find fantastic examples of both here. And if you’re just looking for something absorbing and hard to put down, you’ll enjoy Never Die until the very last page.
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  • Hamad
    January 1, 1970
    This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription “Honour can be lost a dozen times, and regained. Life can only be lost once, and never regained.”🌟 After 3 years of reviewing books, I developed a hunch for the books I will like. It is like the clinical sense in medicine, something that is gained with experience and trial. I sometimes try to give books chances even if I feel I won’t like them. They mostly end up being disappointing so I learned to follow my gut even This review and other non-spoilery reviews can be found @The Book Prescription “Honour can be lost a dozen times, and regained. Life can only be lost once, and never regained.”🌟 After 3 years of reviewing books, I developed a hunch for the books I will like. It is like the clinical sense in medicine, something that is gained with experience and trial. I sometimes try to give books chances even if I feel I won’t like them. They mostly end up being disappointing so I learned to follow my gut even more.🌟 A couple of weeks ago, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw the cover of this book and I had a strange feeling. I felt that I NEEDED to read this book ASAP! The post was a chance to get an ARC and review this book. It looks like the stars aligned that moment and everything went perfect, the second day I had my E-ARC waiting in my inbox.🌟 Another fact about me; I take a glimpse on the first few pages and read the prologue whenever I get a new book. I was intrigued super quickly! I fell in love with the writing style by reading a few lines.🌟 When I finally started the book, I didn’t know what to expect. If it was going to be as good as the first page then I was on a wild ride and I was so ready for it. But I haven’t read anything by the author previously and so I lowered my expectations.🌟 The writing style did not disappoint and it was everything I wanted and more! It was funny, emotional, deep, relatable and easy to follow. “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.”🌟 The characters were so fleshed out and I was thinking about my favorite and the answer was Itami Cho, Iron Gut Chen Lu, Zhihao, Bingwei Ma, and Roi Astara. In another language, this was one of the very few books were I like all the characters without exceptions! The characters are introduced gradually and there is time for development for all of them, I did not like all of them immediately but they certainly grow on you as you progress through the book. The characters are so diverse too and they have different personalities and characteristics that make them unique. I felt that this was a more mature version of Six of Crows –Character wise-!!!!🌟 The world building is awesome, I mean the Asian setting, with its mythologies and the fantastic fantasy world all come together to make it an atmospheric read that is hard to forget!🌟 Plot wise it was perfect, the thing that I did after I saw the cover was checking the synopsis and it was so cool and new. I have never read anything like this before and thus it has bonus points for creativity!The heroes are working for a second chance to live under a SHINIGAMI!! HOW COOL IS THAT!!!The pacing was just excellent for the story, the last few chapters in the book were literally the end of me. I felt that it was illogical to name a book “Never Die” when it made me die. There was no romance (Which is a change from the clichéd romance in 90% of books), there was just action and drama and important themes, all packed in less than 300 pages! And it is a standalone which is way too perfect for me!🌟 Summary: It is always hard to review good books because there is not much to say about them. But this book had perfect characters, perfect pacing and world building and perfect plot twists! This all made it deserve a place as my 8th 5 stars rating this year among 145 other books that I read this year. Once again, my hunch was true!Another fact: apparently this is self published which blows my mind and I certainly will check the author’s other works!🌟 Prescription: Do yourself a favor and read this book if you like fantasy! I can guarantee that it won’t disappoint.ARC provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.
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  • Swiffer
    January 1, 1970
    This story is pure adrenaline. From the very first line through its twisty conclusion, Never Die showcases Rob Hayes’ talent in creating interesting and memorable characters while placing them in ever-escalating life-or-death situations. This is a story of vengeance and honor, delivered with the style and speed of an expert katana slash. It incorporates elements of Japanese mythology, including various species of yokai (spirit monsters), death gods, masters of qi, and resurrection, to name but a This story is pure adrenaline. From the very first line through its twisty conclusion, Never Die showcases Rob Hayes’ talent in creating interesting and memorable characters while placing them in ever-escalating life-or-death situations. This is a story of vengeance and honor, delivered with the style and speed of an expert katana slash. It incorporates elements of Japanese mythology, including various species of yokai (spirit monsters), death gods, masters of qi, and resurrection, to name but a few. It explores what it means to be a warrior, and its tolls on the human psyche. It’s not a long book, yet it packs in an incredible amount of content told at a blistering pace. Simply put, this is one of the most fun and action-packed stand-alone books I’ve read.One of the more impressive feats that Hayes pulls off is how he was able to flesh out his characters so quickly, using so few pages. I felt like I knew these characters well enough to guess what they would say or how they would react in upcoming situations. The friendships and relationships felt real and earned, and the dialogue was both insightful and humorous. Each character was flawed but had a strong and unique voice in the story: there was the oath-breaking but skilled warrior, a cowardly bandit with confidence issues, an iron-skinned master who drowns his anonymity with wine, an undefeated martial artist who has never left home, an altruistic leper who is knocking on death’s door, and a demonic child on a singular quest of vengeance. The child gathers these great warriors from around the crumbling Empire with a mission to assassinate a man who may be impossible to access, all while being plagued by nightmarish spirits every step of the way. The story is simple in its nature – the first half of the story is dedicated to gathering the party, and the back half concentrates on the mission of vengeance – yet the book never wavers in its pace or level of excitement. The battles are numerous and increasingly dangerous, and there are plenty of curious mysteries that help drive the story forward. I have little knowledge of Japanese lore, so reading this book on the Kindle app was a great help. The app allowed me to highlight and research many of the Japanese words scattered throughout the story (such as jikininki, inugami, and kiyohime), so I recommend this method to learn more about where these fables originated. Even some of the most bizarre and eccentric occurrences were all rooted in Japanese history, and Hayes did a fine job researching and integrating some truly horrifying adversaries to throw at our cadre of heroes. There were a couple of quibbles I had after one of the big final twists was revealed, as I questioned some contradictions in the narrative that didn’t sit entirely well with me. If the audience were privy to this knowledge at the beginning of the story, I would wonder why certain events played out as they did. Still, the impact of this reveal resulted in a powerful and surprising ending that outweighed any of its detriments, and I appreciated what the author was aiming for. Never Die is like an anime video game come to life, in book form. Therefore, it might not be for everyone. But if that description intrigues you in the least, you owe it to yourself to dive in, head-first. I hope to see more stories from Hayes that is set in this fantasy Far East setting, as it feels abundant with fresh storytelling opportunities. As a fan of this story as well as Hayes’ pirate-themed duology “Best Laid Plains,” I can’t wait to see what Hayes has in store for us next. 8.8 / 10
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  • Chris
    January 1, 1970
    I received an eARC of this book from the author.Now, that’s what I’m talking about when I say I love the Grimdark subgenre. This is it exactly.Many describe Grimdark fantasy as that which is bleak and full of misery, lacking in hope. But to me, that’s not what it is at all. It might have some of these things on the surface, but it’s much more than that. I see it more as the story of grey characters striding the line between being a hero and a villain. It’s a struggle within and the study of the I received an eARC of this book from the author.Now, that’s what I’m talking about when I say I love the Grimdark subgenre. This is it exactly.Many describe Grimdark fantasy as that which is bleak and full of misery, lacking in hope. But to me, that’s not what it is at all. It might have some of these things on the surface, but it’s much more than that. I see it more as the story of grey characters striding the line between being a hero and a villain. It’s a struggle within and the study of the internal conflict that the characters must deal with as they contemplate and live with their choices.Never Die is full of blood and mayhem and poor odds of survival and success for our characters. But at the heart of that is hope, as each of them looks within and considers the balance between right and wrong.Ein is a child “gifted” with the ability to bring fallen heroes back from the dead. In exchange, they are bound to him and his quest, with the promise of being returned to full life from their current status as “mostly alive”. We start with the heroic Itami Cho, also known as the Whispering Blade, as she is first killed and then brought back at the end of the battle she’d fallen in. She joins Ein in his quest, swearing an oath as Shintei, bound by her code of honor as much as by his power. Cho helps him find and “recruit” the rest of his team of heroes as they join him with varied amounts of reluctance with the goal of defeating the evil Emperor of Ten Kings.What seems like a hero’s quest might not be, as the team is assembled. They really have a variety of motivations and intentions, only joined by the fact of being bound to their savior, Ein. This turns into a great character study though as we learn what makes each of them tick through Hayes’s brilliant writing and shifting of point of view from one to another. The reader can’t help but get on board as they learn to work together and interact.Hayes has two things that really bring color to his dark fantasy: humor and an Asian influence. Much like Joe Abercrombie and Michael R. Fletcher, the grittiness of the violence in this story is offset by humorous interactions between the characters. I found myself laughing as the banter between The Emerald Wind and Iron Gut Chen, in particular. Also, the Asian flavor to the worldbuilding made this one stand out from the rest of the genre. This book was a pleasure to read from cover to cover, and I offer a high recommendation to any that like the qualities in a story that I’ve pointed out here. It is all of that, and so much more. I strongly urge fans of dark fantasy to join Ein on his quest alongside the likes of Whispering Blade, The Emerald Wind, Iron Gut Chen, Death’s Echo, the Steel Prince, and the Master of Sun Valley.
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  • Rob Hayes
    January 1, 1970
    Never Die has finally been released upon this unwitting world!mybook.to/NeverDie
  • Nick T. Borrelli
    January 1, 1970
    The book surrounds the exploits of an enigmatic boy named Ein who was murdered years ago and is now on a mission from the god of death to kill the Emperor of Ten Kings. We don't know any of the backstory of Ein or why the emperor is his target, but what we do know is that in order to achieve this murderous task, he must recruit four heroes or champions to assist him in defeating this seemingly unconquerable figure. Recruiting these heroes does come with a big catch, you see they have to die firs The book surrounds the exploits of an enigmatic boy named Ein who was murdered years ago and is now on a mission from the god of death to kill the Emperor of Ten Kings. We don't know any of the backstory of Ein or why the emperor is his target, but what we do know is that in order to achieve this murderous task, he must recruit four heroes or champions to assist him in defeating this seemingly unconquerable figure. Recruiting these heroes does come with a big catch, you see they have to die first so that they can be bound to him. One by one Ein must create a scenario where each of the heroes he thinks can help him will die and then subsequently be brought back to life by him using the power he has been granted by the god of death. Pretty original plot line for a fantasy story huh? I thought so too. Needless to say some of these heroes don't exactly cooperate when Ein attempts to bring them into the fold of his band of warriors. That whole dying thing kind of puts a huge damper on things it seems. First there is Itami Cho, The Whispering Blade, who is among the quickest sword fighters of the realm and attacks with blinding speed and proficiency. Next is Zhihao Cheng, The Emerald Wind, who can literally transmit images of himself in different locations so as to confuse his enemy and then close in with the fatal blow while his foe is still trying to decipher who the real one is. Then we have Iron Gut Chen, who as his name suggests has impenetrable skin that can withstand virtually any sword thrust or physical attack without being hurt. Bingwei Ma rounds out Ein's dream team and is a master of hand to hand combat, so much so that he has often defeated heavily-armed men with stunning ease just with his bare hands.These are the warriors that Ein has selected and recruited to attempt the unenviable task of breaching the Emperor's military defenses and hopefully killing him. Ein has a huge problem though because as with any group where there are various egos vying for supremacy, these legendary warriors do not like each other and don't mind saying so at every opportunity. Throughout the journey to try to hunt down the emperor, there are constant skirmishes and quarrels as each believes that their role in the group is more important than the others, leading to some interesting confrontations. Both Cheng and Chen are essentially legends in their own minds at times. That's not to say that they aren't powerful and skilled fighters, but there is definitely a sense that their reputations may be a bit overblown to say the least. Cho and Bingwei Ma on the other hand are obviously not only the deadliest of the crew (at least in my opinion) but are also the level-headed half of the four who are often needed when things get a bit out of control. The question remains however, can this carefully selected band of egotistical warriors meld themselves into the cohesive fighting force needed to take down a powerful emperor? And will we ever know who Ein really is and why exactly he wants the emperor dead in the first place? So many intriguing questions arise that do get answered for the most part, but not first without the heavy price of blood, battle, and death.I would like to applaud Rob J. Hayes for delivering another brilliant book that is also very different in style from the usual fantasy offerings we see. Here we have a truly unique fantasy world heavily influenced by the "warrior code" of Asian history and culture. Yet even with a refreshingly unique style of voice and setting, I still felt that at its heart this was very much a fantasy book. The fantastical elements were always present even though they were delivered in a non-conventional way. The originality of needing someone to die to recruit them into your team of warriors was so expertly handled and is something that I hadn't seen used before. The whole time I was reading NEVER DIE I kept thinking, what is he going to throw at me next? At no time while I was reading this book could I predict what might occur. I also liked the fact that there were two major dilemmas within the plot. The first was the actual mission to attempt to murder the emperor, but the brilliance comes when you put together four people who absolutely need to work together and who REALLY can't stand one another. So I was constantly guessing whether Ein could even keep the four of them from tearing each other apart long enough to even try to carry out their ultimate goal. Another aspect that I found enjoyable was the incredibly strong female character Cho. She's obviously the brains of the crew and is also a wicked deadly fighter. I was continually blown away by how resilient and brave she was in the face of insurmountable odds. For me this book was so fun to read and a wonderful blend of quest fantasy, ancient Asian folklore, adventure fiction, and a touch of grimdark for good measure. Hayes has just solidified that he as an author who is constantly reinventing himself and writing fantasy that is wholly original while also damned entertaining. NEVER DIE is a book that will take you on a full-throttle ride and then leave you wanting about 200 more pages to read when all is done. It's simply that great and I loved every page. The book is due to be released on January 29, 2019, so put in your preorders now because you are going to want to read it as soon as it becomes available, trust me. This is a can't miss story filled with characters who leap off the page and grab you by the throat.
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  • Dyrk Ashton
    January 1, 1970
    I was fortunate enough to get an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Never Die is The Seven Samurai meets Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in an action-packed story, inspired by both Chinese Wuxia and Japanese Manga. Drawing from Japanese folklore and a variety of East Asian martial arts traditions, this is an exciting tale of honor and redemption you don't want to miss. One of my favorite reads of the year.
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  • Lukasz
    January 1, 1970
    Wuxia is violent and anti-Confucian. But also fun. Hayes delivers a thrilling take on classic principles and conventions of wuxia while casting them in a new light (and in a secondary world based on east-Asian influences). Wandering warriors are mostly, but not fully, alive. Some follow a code of honour, others don’t care about such nonsense. A mysterious murdered eight-year-old boy - Ein sets on a mission to kill Emperor of Ten Kings. He can’t do it alone. He needs the help of heroes, preferabl Wuxia is violent and anti-Confucian. But also fun. Hayes delivers a thrilling take on classic principles and conventions of wuxia while casting them in a new light (and in a secondary world based on east-Asian influences). Wandering warriors are mostly, but not fully, alive. Some follow a code of honour, others don’t care about such nonsense. A mysterious murdered eight-year-old boy - Ein sets on a mission to kill Emperor of Ten Kings. He can’t do it alone. He needs the help of heroes, preferably legendary ones. To serve him, they must first die.A plot summary barely conveys the extraordinary energy of this book. At first glance, it sounds like a simple story. Ein recruits the team and they confront the bad guy in an explosive final battle. Such a description, while sound, doesn’t do the justice to the characters and their dynamics. Never Die blends reversals, unexpected meetings, betrayals, cliffhangers and lovingly described combat. Each character has a special skill (in some cases reflected by his/her name - Whispering Blade, Iron Gut) crucial to the success of the team. Each feels distinct and memorable. I especially liked Bingwei-Ma and Itami-Cho, probably two most honourable team members. That said, others were intriguing and likable as well. Iron Gut and Emerald Wind's banter brought life and humor to the pages, while Death's Echo behaviour rose many questions.I will stop here because Never Die is so full of nail-biting twists and turns that I don’t want to spoil the experience. For me, it’s a fantastically entertaining piece of suspenseful action storytelling with a killer ending. 
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  • Mihir
    January 1, 1970
    Overall rating = 4.5 starsOVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Mihir): Never Die is Rob J. Hayes' newest standalone fantasy and the first of his two releases in 2019. Rob was inspired to write this fantasy story due to an action sequence in a video game trailer as well as the innumerable anime movies that he gorged upon in his impressionable years. The world of Never Die was first introduced in Rob's short story in "The Two Faces of War" in the Art Of War: Anthology for Charity. For disclosure purposes, I was an Overall rating = 4.5 starsOVERVIEW/ANALYSIS (Mihir): Never Die is Rob J. Hayes' newest standalone fantasy and the first of his two releases in 2019. Rob was inspired to write this fantasy story due to an action sequence in a video game trailer as well as the innumerable anime movies that he gorged upon in his impressionable years. The world of Never Die was first introduced in Rob's short story in "The Two Faces of War" in the Art Of War: Anthology for Charity. For disclosure purposes, I was an alpha reader for an earlier draft of this book.Never Die introduces us to a world which is based on several nations/regions in East Asia. The story is primarily set in the region of Hosa (China analogue) and there are quite a few other regions mentioned such as Ipia, Unga, Cochtan & Nash. I believe they might correspond to Japan, Mongolia, & India or Tibet. The story focuses on a young boy named Ein who's tasked by a Shinigami (a death god) to kill the Emperor of ten kings of Hosa. But such a task is nigh impossible considering the Emperor's superhuman powers and stature. However Ein has an edge, he's out to recruit his favorite warriors from his book of heroes to help him in his task. The only catch, they must first die so he can bind them to his cause.Focusing on four characters, Itami Cho the Whispering Blade from Ipia, Zhihao Cheng the Emerald Wind, Iron Gut Chen Lu, & Bingwei Ma the undefeated wushu master of Sun Valley. Joining them in this mission in an enigmatic assassin called Roi Astara a.k.a. Death's Echo, his loyalties are unknown as are his motivations. But the only constant is that he's dying of a particular disease that forces him to wrap himself in bandages and hope that his body is able to survive till the end. Rounding out the cast is young Ein whose intention is singular and powered with death magic, he will do everything in his power to kill the emperor for reasons only shared between him and the Shinigami. The prologue of the story is short, dark and reads "Itami Cho woke to the screams of her own death. She remembered it all!"The story beginning on such a somber note proceeds to quickly introduce the plot and characters involved. Primarily we get the story from Itami's and Zhihao's viewpoints and secondarily from Chen Lu, Bingwei Ma and Roi Astara. Rob J. Hayes has created a story that primarily focuses on a revenge plot and seems pretty dark. But (and this is big) the world isn't a grimdark one, in fact an argument could be made for it being epic or heroic fantasy. Still not noblebright though as that would be a bridge too far for the author 😄The world is very reminiscent of a parallel earth and steeped in Japanese mythology. The author liberally uses terms and creatures like Yokai, Oni, Jikininki, etc. which mean the same as they do on our Earth. But he also uses terms like Shintei and Thopters which correspond to specific things on our Earth (which the readers can RAFO). This world is a very deep one as snippets of its geography, history and peculiarities are sprinkled throughout the story. Nothing is particularly spelled out but you will have to pay attention as there are a lot of clues, nods and hints interspersed throughout.Besides the intriguing world setting, the characters are the strongest component of the story. Beginning with Itami Cho, the troubled Shintei warrior, then Zhihao Cheng a bandit whose moral qualms are shakier than most. Iron gut Chen Lu is a boastful glutton whose powers and most striking physical characteristic start and end with his gargantuan stomach. Then there's also Bingwei Ma, the most heroic character of them all but also the one that might be the hardest to bend to Ein's strategy. All these characters along with Ein and Roi Astara, give the readers plenty to ponder about. These POV characters are multi-faceted and come in all shades. We have outright heroic characters, we have those who strive to achieve good but are more opportunistic. Plus there are those who are cruel and evil so to speak but they have their reasons and while they might not be palatable to most common folks, those reasons are their own.The POV characters as well as the secondary ones are fully realized characters with motivations as pure and putrid as any found in our lives. They have their frustrations, they don't get along and aren't quite sure of Ein's true motives. How would they? He's an eight year old that brings back people to life and binds them his cause:"Cho now realized the boy would make monsters of them before his quest was done!"There's also a very solid mystery to this revenge storyline:- What did happen to Ein?- Why does he want to kill the Emperor?- Why does he wear a red scarf and no shoes? (see the magnificent cover for Ein's red scarf). These are pertinent questions and all of them are answered with some mental deduction by the readers as well as some huge plot twists by the author. Including the biggest twist of them all which left me stunned and was one which I don't think has been explored much in the fantasy genre. This was a particularly wicked one and I truly can't talk more. But believe me, you will know when you stumble across it as do the characters...The story is filled with action sequences and personal battles that bring to mind Wuxia literature and anime movies. The author is a huge fan of anime and manga and there are plenty of homages and nods snuck in throughout the book. One particular reference is about China's most celebrated historical epic and it was a nice wink. I appreciated how Rob Hayes has managed to utilize East Asian lore and martial arts aspects and add his own particular brand of twisted plotlines to give us a revenge story that's uniquely his own. This world that's introduced within is too interesting for the author to just give us a standalone entry. I hope that the author write more stories set in this world as I would like to know more about:- Of the Century Blade's past as well as the outcome of his fifth trial,- The troubles and possible conflict with the Cochtan,- The true backstory & the future of Daiyu Lingsen also referred to as The Art Of War by friends and foes alike.There's just so much of this world that's mentioned in a throwaway line or character remembrance that as a reader, I was completely entranced and left wanting to explore more of it.Lastly I must say that the cover of this book is truly fantastic. Artist Felix Ortiz & designer Shawn King have come up with something unique and wondrous. The cover matches the brilliance of the story and dare I say perhaps outshines it. As self-published books go, this cover is one of the best that I've ever seen and rivals the best that traditionally published books have to offer. Don't believe me, the Barnes & Noble SF&F blog folks say so as they hosted the cover reveal for the book. Making this a special first for any self-published title or author ever in the history of the fantasy genre. Now that's just a particular inkling for the kind of book this is.With such a superlative story, there’s not many faults that I find in this story. But to be objective, the only thing I can say is that the final twist is perhaps not telegraphed as smoothly as it could have been. Again I can’t talk more without spoiling the story and so I’ll just leave it at that. Lastly as an Asian, I’m glad to say this book is very much a homage to the anime and manga medium. It utilizes several aspects of Japanese mythology and their usage is done with proper context.CONCLUSION: Never Die is an incredibly action-packed, twisted story that showcases another side to Rob J. Hayes’ writing. With shades of epic fantasy, heroic fantasy as well as East Asian mythology, Never Die is a fantastic amalgamation that solidly underscores why Mark Lawrence emphatically calls Rob J. Hayes “One of self-publishing rising stars”.
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  • Kaitlin
    January 1, 1970
    * I was sent this for free from the author in exchange for an honest review * I have to admit that this one is a weird story and although I have really enjoyed all of Hayes' books so far, this one is probably the most unique of them all. This is the story of a young boy called Ein who is gathering Heroes from the land far and wide to work with him to take down the Emperor. The Heroes are all different and they come from all over, and Ein has to bring each one back from the dead to bind them to h * I was sent this for free from the author in exchange for an honest review * I have to admit that this one is a weird story and although I have really enjoyed all of Hayes' books so far, this one is probably the most unique of them all. This is the story of a young boy called Ein who is gathering Heroes from the land far and wide to work with him to take down the Emperor. The Heroes are all different and they come from all over, and Ein has to bring each one back from the dead to bind them to him and make them follow his cause. It's not really clear at first where the whole story is going besides hopefully killing the Emperor, but as the tale continues you learn more about each of the characters and their histories. It's a fairly quick read, however, so you don't learn as much as I think I initially hoped I would. The book is a peculiar one because alongside Ein's quest to find heroes the chapters begin with The Whispering Blade vs Master of Sun Valley (or something similar) and they are kind of like mini battles within each chapter. The majority of the book can be broken down into these smaller scenes, and it almost felt a bit pokemon/robot wars because Ein summons one Hero to kill another so that new Hero can join his team. I think maybe this is the aim of the author, but it felt a little unusual to me at first and I think I took a little longer to get into this than I have with some of Hayes' other stories. This is a standalone and I think the ending has a slight predictability to it, but it's still a fun read. I think it's a story that will, if nothing else, entertain you and make you ponder a bit. It's got some kind moments between characters and is heavily influenced by Asian culture, but it's also just a little bizarre. 3*s from me.
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  • James
    January 1, 1970
    Some fantasy books are praised for their worldbuilding. The strange, but sometimes still familiar, settings that evoke wonder. Others for the quest. The heroic(or not-so-much) purpose of the hero and their allies to face and conquer unsurmountable odds.And, while Never Die definitely has both of these, I would argue that where it really shines is with its cast of characters.The premise of the story is brilliant. It's one of those, "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" ideas, and I love it. A young Some fantasy books are praised for their worldbuilding. The strange, but sometimes still familiar, settings that evoke wonder. Others for the quest. The heroic(or not-so-much) purpose of the hero and their allies to face and conquer unsurmountable odds.And, while Never Die definitely has both of these, I would argue that where it really shines is with its cast of characters.The premise of the story is brilliant. It's one of those, "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" ideas, and I love it. A young boy given a mission by a shinigami, a god of death, has to kill the emperor. To do that he has to gather a group of heroes to help. The catch is, he has to kill them and bring them back to life first.And it's these heroes that really made the book work for me. Each of them is beautifully realized and flawed in their own ways. The highlight of this book for me was watching these incredibly different characters interact with each other. One of my favorites was the relationship that develops between the two heroes known as the Emerald Wind and Iron Gut.Every character gets a chance to shine, and a definitive end to their personal arcs.I would like to say just a little about the story and the setting.Both are great. The story isn't that complicated, and is very straightforward. It's a point A to point B type of narrative, but it works very well. There are a few twists, you'll have to read to find those, but mostly it's: Find new hero. Kill hero. Bring them back and continue on toward the end goal. Every step along the way is harried by bandits, angry spirits, and the heroes themselves. The obstacles usually arise in the form of violence. The book has no shortage of action. Whether it's the heroes battling angry yokai, or the next hero on their list. Many chapters start with a heading declaring the fight. Like "Iron Gut Chen vs. The Master of Sun Valley." Expectation set right there, and delivered in the story. It all works very well.I'm also a fan of the setting. It feels real, but Hayes manages to keep it mysterious enough that I was constantly hoping for more. Every so often a character would drop just a little bit of lore about the world or another character. It really made the world feel lived in. Like a place with countless stories that still need to be told.If Rob decides he has more stories to tell in this world, I will definitely come along for the ride.
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  • Lynn K : Grimmedian
    January 1, 1970
    Rob J. Hayes has a real page turner in Never Die. A Tale of Redemption, Honor, and Death.From the first page it's obvious the reader is in for a Grimdark treat with Never Die. It has a unique premise,  a vivid setting, and characters you can't forget. Even the prologue is brilliant, both sentences."Itami Cho woke to the screams of her own death. She remembered it all."Beginning with Ein, a small boy of perhaps 8 years of age on a mission from a God of Death, and Itami Cho, known as Whispering Bl Rob J. Hayes has a real page turner in Never Die. A Tale of Redemption, Honor, and Death.From the first page it's obvious the reader is in for a Grimdark treat with Never Die. It has a unique premise,  a vivid setting, and characters you can't forget. Even the prologue is brilliant, both sentences."Itami Cho woke to the screams of her own death. She remembered it all."Beginning with Ein, a small boy of perhaps 8 years of age on a mission from a God of Death, and Itami Cho, known as Whispering Blade, a warrior of renowned skill who wakes to find Ein apologetically explaining how it is she is alive (mostly) while she quite vividly recalls her own painful death seemingly just moments before. Ein must kill a man, The Emperor of Ten Kings, but to do so, he will need heroes. Many heroes. Ein claims a shinigami, a God of Death, has given him this power and quest.Unfortunately for those he deems to be worthy and capable of doing so, they must die first. Once Cho accepts that the fate of the village she was protecting is a lost cause, she gives her Shintei oath to the boy and he quickly sets about raising Zhihao Cheng, known as the Emerald Wind. Zhihao, a captain with the bandits who attacked Cho, was killed in the same fight and both have a bit of retribution to hand out as a result to a bandit called Flaming Fist who burned of the village of Kaishi and slaughtered its inhabitants. Including Cho's old friend and mentor The Century Blade.Once raised from the dead by Ein, his mostly alive hero is bound to him. Of course this fact is quickly tested by Zhihao, as he immediately begins to put distance between himself and the boy, he quickly finds he is facing his death again. The same painful death Ein raised him from, and the only thing he can do is find the child, stay close, and resign himself to the fate of his role in Ein's quest. Ein is relentless in his journey eastward, and he knows those he has brought back from death have little choice but to follow him or die, again.There is a delightful story to accompany each of Ein's acquisitions and each of the heroes he has acquired are bound to help him kill the next hero on the list. No matter who they are, or what their reputation in life may be. Some assistance in acquiring Chen Lu, known as Iron Gut, places another member into their group. A leper with a long rifle called Roi Astara, known as Death's Echo. He joins them on their quest but denies the need for his own death as he is already dying a bit every day. This terrific ensemble cast is one of my favorites this year. The dialogue is very humorous at times and they must learn respect for one another or they are doomed.Together they must travel a great distance to reach the city of Wu and the Emperor. They are beset along their journey by horrific beasts called yokai, a class of supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons in Japanese folklore, they are evil spirit creatures sent by a vengeful shinigami to thwart their mission. Each attack becomes more deadly as they draw closer toward the east on this seemingly impossible quest, testing the heroes mettle at every turn. I greatly enjoyed reading about the incredible beasts they encounter and the battles they fight.The Emperor of Ten Kings has taken all the kings in the land as hostages in the city of Wu, to ensure their lands and people cooperate and provide the men, the goods, and taxes he demands. He has bled the people and the land dry and as the journey brings them closer to him the amount of devastation that his rule has brought upon the common people, becomes more and more apparent to the heroes with Ein. There is a rebellion already brewing under the Emperor's crushing reign of power and the band of undead heroes may find a way to reach their target within the unrest of the lands and people.This Asian fantasy setting is full to the brim with folklore,  and mythos. A great amount of detailed knowledge of the ancient weaponry, armor, and combat inspired by Chinese Wuxia. Rob J. Hayes builds his worlds through detailed characterizations and paces it with almost non-stop action throughout the book. There are equal parts horror and humor in places all through this story and the ending is an extremely satisfying twist.A highly recommended, fast-paced fantasy stand alone, that I enjoyed from the first word to the very last. An advance ARC was provided for review by the author.
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  • Rusty
    January 1, 1970
    For me, this has been a year of trying new authors. Since January I have read books by 38 authors that I had never previously read, and the latest is Rob J. Hayes. For those unfamiliar with this author, his Where Loyalties Lie was the winner of last year’s SPFBO, an annual contest for self-published fantasy books. I was given a chance to read the ARC for his latest book, Never Die, which releases in January 2019, and I jumped at the chance. This book did not disappoint.This story follows a myste For me, this has been a year of trying new authors. Since January I have read books by 38 authors that I had never previously read, and the latest is Rob J. Hayes. For those unfamiliar with this author, his Where Loyalties Lie was the winner of last year’s SPFBO, an annual contest for self-published fantasy books. I was given a chance to read the ARC for his latest book, Never Die, which releases in January 2019, and I jumped at the chance. This book did not disappoint.This story follows a mysterious and creepy eight-year-old boy named Ein who is on a mission to kill the Emperor and needs help. The problem is, those who join him (willingly or otherwise) have a vital prerequisite: they have to die first and then he brings them back to life in a state of being “mostly alive”. (Side note: every time this phrase was used in the book it pleasantly reminded me of The Princess Bride - possibly the best movie ever - where Wesley was described as “mostly dead” after being tortured on The Machine.) As a condition of Ein’s “magic” that re-animates them, they must always remain in close proximity to him.Those who Ein recruits all have their own special talents and their names reflect their skills and abilities. For example, Whispering Blade has an enchanted sword and Emerald Wind can instantly disappear and then reappear nearby. These recruits are each formidable and superior fighting specimens, but they also do not play well together. On the path that Ein takes as he seeks out more members for his squad they encounter several creatures that must be defeated. They often barely succeed and require increasing levels of teamwork. The fighting is certainly featured throughout the book and it is done brilliantly.If this book ONLY featured great fight scenes, it would never stand out for me, but the real treat in this book is the cast. The characters are extremely diverse in their temperament (ranging from carefree and irreverent to honorable and focused), motivation (from glory to a reward to doing what is right) and much more. Some characters are joking with nearly every comment while others say very little at all. It is the clever ways that these characters are revealed and interact with each other that makes this book so much fun to read.As a final comment, the final reveal in the book was not what I was expecting. There were some hints dropped along the way, and they gave a portion of the ending, but the full scope of what was going on came out of nowhere and was completely satisfying.A beautiful and diverse cast of wonderful characters. Intense fighting with expert warriors and awesome monsters. Beautifully captured in an Asian world. The whole gamut from humor to deep emotions. This has something for everyone. Well done Rob. I will definitely read more of your books and think others should too! 4.4 / 5 stars.(I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is my unbiased opinion.)
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  • Elizabeth
    January 1, 1970
    Mark Lawrence, the author of the grimdark series "Broken Empire," said of Rob Hayes's writing ability, "(he) is one of self-publishing rising stars." Mark Lawrence is unquestionably right. This story is the epitome of fantasy; it pits dark against light, has epic fighting scenes, heroes that are not quite perfect, and a subtle undercurrent of rye humor. "Never Die" is centered around Ein. A boy who is not quite right and has been sent on a quest from God, a death God. For Ein's mission to succee Mark Lawrence, the author of the grimdark series "Broken Empire," said of Rob Hayes's writing ability, "(he) is one of self-publishing rising stars." Mark Lawrence is unquestionably right. This story is the epitome of fantasy; it pits dark against light, has epic fighting scenes, heroes that are not quite perfect, and a subtle undercurrent of rye humor. "Never Die" is centered around Ein. A boy who is not quite right and has been sent on a quest from God, a death God. For Ein's mission to succeed the mysterious and powerful Emperor of Ten Kings must fall. Also, to succeed in his quest Ein must walk barefoot across the cities, mountains, and rivers of the countryside and never don footwear. Ein must select champions to fight the Emporer for him, and these champions must die first so that their souls are tethered to Ein. The champions are where Hayes really excelled in his story writing. Often when reading fantasy characters, an author tends to muddle together different character tropes to be some kind of quasi trope hybrid. But usually, they are similar from story to story. That isn't the case here. First of the champions is Itami Cho, AKA Whispering Blade the fastest and quietest warrior in the kingdoms. A spoken word from her can shatter walls and tear apart bodies. Secondly, Emerald Wind is a bandit who is the real self-centered bastard most of the story. He is able to blink in and out of existence moving from place to place. I find that his unabashedly disreputable character is refreshing and adds an excellent counter-balance to Itami Cho because not all heroes are good people. Thirdly we have Iron Gut Chen. He has an impenetrable skin and an impenetrable ego. He needs to consume massive amounts of wine to be happy and reminds me of a jolly sumo wrestler. Lastly, Bingwei Ma rounds out Ein's literal dream team. Bingwei is the greatest living master of wushu ever to live. He uses no weapons and has never lost a fight.As you can see, this is a team of heroes not cut from the traditional cloth. Each also has a weakness one is good but tortured, in the case of Ikami. One is gregarious but full of himself in the case of Chen, and you have one that is chaotic with a streak of goodness, buried deeply. During the journey of the story, there is the day to day peril of existing, not enough food to eat or angry villagers, punctuated with bouts of violence and battles. This keeps the frenetic pace of the story plausible and comfortable. Hayes knows as a writer how vital pacing is, that the slow moments in a story are just as important as the wild crazy ones. As these heroes move towards their overall goal of slaying the Emporer, I found myself cheering for this band of miscreants and heroes. Will they succeed in their quest? Will they tear themselves apart first. Can Ein keep the band together through the threat of not giving them a full life again? The questions are answered beautifully in the denouement of the novel. It takes the reader to places that I had no idea where coming. I absolutely loved and appreciated the ending. I am new to the worlds of Rob Hayes and his wonderful fantasy novels. But I am sure as hell going to stay around and make myself comfortable. If his other books are one-tenth as good as this one is, I am in for a treat. Come for the story of "Never Die" but stay for the heroes. You will be happy you did.
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  • Mike Everest Evans
    January 1, 1970
    Full review to be posted on https://fantasy-hive.co.uk/Preview: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets Dynasty Warriors in this awesome Asian-inspired anti-heroic/heroic fantasy (say that five times fast). It’s a self-contained standalone, so there’ll be no heckling for ‘finish the series’, but I for one am already crying out for more. This is easily one of the best self-published novels I have read. Ever.
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  • Filip
    January 1, 1970
    This review originally appeared over at booknest.eu my link textRob J. Hayes won me over with a little book by the name of City of Kings, published last year. The book in question was among my favourite works of grimdark fantasy for the entirety of the year, and it had a lot going for it, chiefly a gripping ensemble of characters, each of whom was possessed with a unique voice, personality and view of the world. I loved the lot of them to death, and if you’ve somehow missed out on City of Kings, This review originally appeared over at booknest.eu my link textRob J. Hayes won me over with a little book by the name of City of Kings, published last year. The book in question was among my favourite works of grimdark fantasy for the entirety of the year, and it had a lot going for it, chiefly a gripping ensemble of characters, each of whom was possessed with a unique voice, personality and view of the world. I loved the lot of them to death, and if you’ve somehow missed out on City of Kings, you can read my review of that novel over here( http://booknest.eu/reviews/peter/1271... ). The band of heroes and anti-heroes in Rob’s latest novel… I love them to life! A statement strange enough, I confess, until you read Never Die’s blurb:Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight-year-old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die. Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from storybooks read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them… In that sense, my love for these heroes is strong enough to bring them back to life. But I am getting ahead of myself. Never Die’s heroes are as different from one another as you might expect from Hayes, if you’ve experienced his previous work. First among these heroes is Itami Cho, known far and wide through the land of Wuxia as Whispering Blade. Itami is an honour-bound warrior of great prowess, whose great fault stems from ever-present guilt -- no matter the oaths she swears, Itami lives to see them turn to dust. She has only ever managed to keep one of her vows; to keep the second of her blades sheathed, no matter what comes. The mystery of that sword is one the author takes his sweet time building up, and its pay-off is…well, I wouldn’t want to spoil the revelations coming your way.Zhihao, the Emerald Wind, is the second “hero” recruited to Ein’s doomed quest. Unlike Itami, he’s no paragon of justice; all the tales told of his heroic deeds are either bluster or serious misinterpretation of events by second-hand witnesses. Zhihao is little more than a thug with a heart of gold whose wrong choices hound him in his second life (as they probably did during his first). I liked Zhihao despite myself, at first; his humour and search for redemption warmed me to this twin-blade wielding brigand, and his special ability to move through the world certainly helped.Then we’ve got Iron Gut Chen, Chen Lu to his friends, an extremely fat man who cares for food, drink, and a crowd to listen to his boasts and heroic deeds. I liked him well enough, and the imagery of an extremely fat man with nothing but a loincloth and an umbrella doing all the ridiculous feats of strength this guy pulls of is…well, it’s thoroughly entertaining.Rounding up this quintet of mostly alive heroes are Roi Astara, Death’s Echo, a mysterious leper viewed both as an assassin and a hero for his many feats; and Bingwei Ma, The Master of Sun Valley, the greatest master of unarmed combat, undefeated and with Batman’s moral code and Superman’s sunny disposition! They come in a bit later than the rest, but I had a particular fondness for Bingwei Ma, in particular.The setting, as you probably guessed, is inspired by Eastern culture (Chinese history, martial arts and Japanese anime). In fact, I’ve never read a book that felt more like an epic anime! My innermost dream right now is to see someone pick this novel up and turn it into a stunning anime. It certainly deserves the treatment. Hayes’ descriptions are so visual and kinetic, second only to the dialogue he writes.Here, again, I’ll draw a comparison between this novel and Hayes’ City of Kings – I vividly recall coming across a few sentences, now and then, which broke my immersion somewhat, in that novel. Very few and far in-between, but they were there; Never Die didn’t have a single one of those. It’s worthwhile noting how many pieces of the dialogue spoken by different characters, especially towards the end of the novel, can be parcelled out and quoted to your fellow fantasy nerds during dinner parties! It would be no lie to point out that Rob J. Hayes’ prose has developed even further over his work on Never Die; like Benedict Patrick, he too seems to grow visibly better with each new novel penned. Never Die switches gears for its last six-seven chapters. Where before the story had a slightly adventurous feel to it – a band of heroes going from one place to another to increase their number – these last few chapters sketch a wider conflict, brutal and reminiscent of Hayes’ blood-curdling siege in City of Kings. But the personal, gratifying one-on-one battles are not done; far from it. Everything leading to that final showdown is exhilarating, and the bomb-shells keep on dropping ‘till the very last page.All throughout, Rob treats us readers with one badass fight after another; most of the main characters end up beating the living crap out of each other, or otherwise facing off through some convoluted challenge. The battles--and I can’t stress this enough (try as I might)--are like a shot of adrenaline through the system; if you’ve ever liked an anime battle, they will immediately fill familiar; and if you haven’t, they’ll still be cool as hell. Steel against steel, the sound of rifle fire and the smell of gunpowder, sweat, and metallic taste of blood – these are but a fraction of the images I came away with, after reading this delightful novel.Books like this deserve to be read by all lovers of fantasy. It’s got just about everything you could ask for in the genre; and a few things you’d never think to ask. And now, onto the score:The Characters: 15/15 I’ve said so much about them already, but the characters truly are the best part of this excellent novel. Their interactions with one another are pure joy, whether they’re fighting, discussing their beliefs and backgrounds or just sitting around and drinking ash-tasting wine.Plot Twists, Pay-Off, Finish: 15/15Setting: 13/15Style: 8.5/10 Rob’s style gets better and better. The ease with which words translate to images isAnime Infusion: 15/15 What’s this here throw-away categoryBeastiary: 10/10 All sorts of monsters run amock in the world: yokai, evil spirits whose abilities are great and small alike. Would’ve been an 8/10 if not for a certain hero’s “pets” making an appearance and impressing me to no end.Pacing: 9/10 In less than 300 pages, this novel doesn’t have a lot of time to dilly-dally; and it certainly doesn’t! Everything moves at a reasonable pace.Personal Enjoyment: 9/10 I loved every minute of my time with Never Die. If I had more time over the holidays, I would’ve read it in exactly two sittings.Final Score: 94.5/100!What a great way to start off my indie fantasy experience for 2019! Now, I can’t help but wonder – what’s next for Rob J. Hayes? Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC from the author in return for an honest review.
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  • Michael
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Rob’s newest novel Never Die, which was in fact the first book of his I have read. I now plan on digging in to his back catalogue, as he is truly a master craftsman, and a prolific one at that.Never Die is the story of five undead, re-animated heroes, (or in some cases anti-heroes) that have been given a second chance at life by an eight year old Necromancer in order to defeat an evil emperor. It follows the five great warriors: Whispering Blade, The Emera I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Rob’s newest novel Never Die, which was in fact the first book of his I have read. I now plan on digging in to his back catalogue, as he is truly a master craftsman, and a prolific one at that.Never Die is the story of five undead, re-animated heroes, (or in some cases anti-heroes) that have been given a second chance at life by an eight year old Necromancer in order to defeat an evil emperor. It follows the five great warriors: Whispering Blade, The Emerald Wind, Iron Gut, Ghost Echo and Bingwei Ma, as they come to terms with having died, been resurrected, and then having been forced to join young Ein on a gruelling and seemingly impossible task, or return to death.While not a comedy per se, there is a great deal of situational humor in the book. In a sense it’s a road story, in which our five protagonists, each with very different back stories and values are forced into an unsteady alliance by a mysterious and disturbing child with little understanding of why their quest exists and why they were chosen. Much of the humor comes from Zhihao Cheng, The Emerald Wind, who is a lecherous cretin with a heart of gold. Imagine a Samurai Shrek and we’re basically there. Zhihao’s tumultuous relationship with Itami Cho, The Whispering Blade is well written and there are some wonderful character moments that encapsulate the honourable Cho’s warming to Zhihao as the novel progresses. There are also many endearingly written moments between Cho and Ein, which really paint the portrait of her as a sympathetic character and the rock of the group.Clearly Hayes did his research, as there were many elements of classic Kurosawa films, a great deal of anime inspired outrageousness, and even some video game influenced action. Many of the chapters that introduce a new character to the gang of misfits begin with a Mortal Kombat style battle, and Hayes’ descriptions of the fights are gloriously choreographed, and a tremendous amount of fun to read.I have made reference in an article I co- wrote about this book to M. Night Shyamalan’s film “The Sixth Sense”, and it was not only due to the obvious “creepy kid” factor. Rob Hayes has written this book with the intention to surprise, with plot twists around every corner, and a guarantee that when you reach the conclusion you will want to re-read it to look for signs of its meaning. Without spoiling anything, I will say that a book that deals with the spiritual realm always allows for great potential to re-visit the world, and while it seems as though Rob intended Never Die to stand alone, the return of these engaging characters and well fleshed out setting would be extremely welcome. One of the best I’ve read in 2018 and I look forward to a great deal more from Mr. Hayes.
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  • Cameron Johnston
    January 1, 1970
    Never Die is best described as an anime and manga inspired action romp, with swordplay, fists flying, and a variety of special powers used by a group of (mostly)alive heroes resurrected by shinigami death god powers to fight an evil empire.The pace is fast, the action frantic and exciting, and the murdered boy Ein that resurrected the group of heroes is mysterious and creepy.Ein was murdered by the Emperor, and a shinigami death god has given him the ability to raise dead heroes to achieve his r Never Die is best described as an anime and manga inspired action romp, with swordplay, fists flying, and a variety of special powers used by a group of (mostly)alive heroes resurrected by shinigami death god powers to fight an evil empire.The pace is fast, the action frantic and exciting, and the murdered boy Ein that resurrected the group of heroes is mysterious and creepy.Ein was murdered by the Emperor, and a shinigami death god has given him the ability to raise dead heroes to achieve his revenge. Each of the heroes is fascinating and vivid in their own way, their powers are great and they all play off each other very well.One of the biggest draws for me is that this book is fast and FUN and you can sit down and just devour it. Fun seems to be in short supply these days.
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  • ♠️ Tabi ♠️
    January 1, 1970
    dude this cover gives me Mulan vibes and I am instantly there for anything, anything that reminds me even the slightest of that movie okay??
  • malrubius
    January 1, 1970
    Excellent. Grim and funny. Great characters to fall in love with as they press on to fulfill their mission. Fast-paced and action-packed with some amazing battles and magic. Well done.
  • Tim Dedopulos
    January 1, 1970
    The short version: Never Die is a top-notch fantasy steeped in oriental myth. It’s a creative novel, fast-paced, and full of charm. The world is vivid, the characters are fun, and the plot has plenty of interest to pull you along. The editing and layout are spotless, easily as good as anything put out by the big publishers. So although Rob is an indie, don’t be fooled – this is confident, assured, pro-grade fantasy. The longer version: I’m a publishing professional, and I’m a very fussy sod abou The short version: Never Die is a top-notch fantasy steeped in oriental myth. It’s a creative novel, fast-paced, and full of charm. The world is vivid, the characters are fun, and the plot has plenty of interest to pull you along. The editing and layout are spotless, easily as good as anything put out by the big publishers. So although Rob is an indie, don’t be fooled – this is confident, assured, pro-grade fantasy. The longer version: I’m a publishing professional, and I’m a very fussy sod about writing and editing. It’s a professional hazard. So when I say that I basically inhaled this novel, what I mean is that I could easily have believed it’d been released by Tor or Roc. Rob is a prominent indie fantasy author, and his experience and talent really show. You’re in safe hands.Never Die is a tale of epic heroes of the sort only Eastern myth can do believably – very human, very engaging, often deeply flawed, but still gifted with astonishing martial arts abilities. In a nutshell, a murdered child is revived by one of the death gods, and tasked to recruit heroes to kill a vile emperor. The only problem is that the heroes have to be killed and resurrected first...The adventure that follows is a delight. The pace never flags, and whether you’re there for the intriguing world or the character interplay or the skilfully described action, you won’t be disappointed. Rob Hayes is one of the best fantasy writers in the indie sphere right now. This is one not to miss.
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  • Nichole
    January 1, 1970
    I was sent an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. I have had Rob J. Hayes on my TBR for quite a while now. I have a kindle, but much prefer physical books. I think that is the only reason I haven't read any of his stuff until now. When offered an ARC, I decided to finally check his writing out. I was not disappointed.This story follows eight year old Ein on a mission to kill the emperor. To do this, he has been granted the power to bring warriors and heroes back from the dead t I was sent an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review. I have had Rob J. Hayes on my TBR for quite a while now. I have a kindle, but much prefer physical books. I think that is the only reason I haven't read any of his stuff until now. When offered an ARC, I decided to finally check his writing out. I was not disappointed.This story follows eight year old Ein on a mission to kill the emperor. To do this, he has been granted the power to bring warriors and heroes back from the dead to aid him. He already knows who he'll raise from the dead. They are heroes from the stories his father used to read to him. Now they have to die so he can bring them back to life. It's the only way to kill the emperor.I really enjoyed this. The characters are so different from each other. I loved how they started off strangers and grew to be a team and a dysfunctional sort of family. They each have their own kind of magic that was interesting. I loved some of the names they gave each other. I liked this book so much that I have already bought physical copies of his first 2 series! Highly recommend for all fantasy readers.
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  • Rhian
    January 1, 1970
    I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of Never Die and lucky really is the word. This is a fantastic adventure romp with a far Eastern feel, exciting action sequences, compelling characters and a clever twist. Most enjoyable, in the style of Rob Hayes' Ties That Bind series but with new and exciting characters and setting.
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  • Iryna *Book and Sword*
    January 1, 1970
    Saw this as the most anticipated from Kitty G (on youtube) and suddenly I need this like right now??! I'm weak, so weak.... My WEBSITEMy INSTAGRAMMy WORDPRESS BLOG
  • Matt McAbee
    January 1, 1970
    I was sent a copy of this book by the author for a honest review.Never Die set in an Asian themed land features Ein, an enigmatic boy that has the power to bring fallen warriors back to achieve his mission. Starting with Itami Cho, The Whispering Blade, he c0llects his warriors to attempt to end the rule of a tyrannical emperor.This book is very well written and a joy to read. The character development is very well thought out and the characters soon feel like travel companions as you read the s I was sent a copy of this book by the author for a honest review.Never Die set in an Asian themed land features Ein, an enigmatic boy that has the power to bring fallen warriors back to achieve his mission. Starting with Itami Cho, The Whispering Blade, he c0llects his warriors to attempt to end the rule of a tyrannical emperor.This book is very well written and a joy to read. The character development is very well thought out and the characters soon feel like travel companions as you read the story. The dialogue and banter between the band of warriors feels so real that it adds further depth to an engrossing tale.This is a must read.
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  • Liam
    January 1, 1970
    I received an ARC of Never Die from the author (at my request) in return for an honest review. The digest: Never Die is a much-needed break from your typically Wester fantasy fare. The novel is a tale of retribution and atonement, our characters led by the servant of a shinigami in order to fight the Dead God's battles. Expect awesome weapons and magic-infused fighting techniques and you will not be disappointed. Fans of shonen manga/anime will absolutely love Never Die. Since reading City of K I received an ARC of Never Die from the author (at my request) in return for an honest review. The digest: Never Die is a much-needed break from your typically Wester fantasy fare. The novel is a tale of retribution and atonement, our characters led by the servant of a shinigami in order to fight the Dead God's battles. Expect awesome weapons and magic-infused fighting techniques and you will not be disappointed. Fans of shonen manga/anime will absolutely love Never Die. Since reading City of Kings by Hayes in 2018 as part of the TBRindr programme (and loving it), I have known that I needed to read more of his work. I've currently got a couple of his novels on my audiobook TBR (which I paid for with my own money) but jumped at the chance of reading Never Die before publication in return for an honest review. From Never Die's Goodreads page: "Ein is on a mission from God. A God of Death. Time is up for the Emperor of Ten Kings and it falls to a murdered eight year old boy to render the judgement of a God. Ein knows he can't do it alone, but the empire is rife with heroes. The only problem; in order to serve, they must first die.Ein has four legendary heroes in mind, names from story books read to him by his father. Now he must find them and kill them, so he can bring them back to fight the Reaper's war." What did I like? The characters are a rag-tag bunch, each with their own nuances and clearly defined traits. We spend most ouf our time with Itami Cho  a shintei with a bit of a questionable past, though we also spend a fair amount of time with each of Ein's other recruits. I can't tell you who my favourite hero is because that would be a spoiler - just know that not everyone here is 100% serious 100% of the time. Each of the main characters has a clearly differentiated fighting style (and perhaps a more magical style, too), and at no point was I confused about who was who. The Eastern setting is well done. We don't have in-depth descriptions of the politics and economics of Ein's homeland, but we are treated to a look into its mythology and religious system, as well as how these have changed under the rule of the Big Bad. I found this setting to be a refreshing break from your typical fantasy fare, but at no point did I feel at all alienated. Following on from the above point, I really enjoyed learning about the different aspects of magic in Never Die. This isn't immediately obvious from the outset (beyond the resurrection mentioned in the Goodreads blurb), so I won't give specific details. Just know that the combat is imbued with a sort of magic not entirely out of place in some more recent video games (and, in fairness, the oldest stories - think mythical techniques and such), and there are new reveals right until the last chapters. The action scenes are very clearly written & I never felt lost. In all honesty,  I found these to be some of the best I have read in recent years. I'm very much a reader who likes to picture fights as if I were watching a movie and I found Hayes' precise use of language and his clarity of style allowing me to do this easily. The pacing never lets up. In some books this is a downside, but by moving quickly from one scene to another (and indeed skipping over what could be considered 'boring' journey time), Hayes ensures that the time-sensitive nature of the story never falters. A potential downside of this is that we don't see much in the way of character arcs. We do learn a bit about the backstory of a few of our heroes, but none of them starts off entirely evil and ends up entirely good by the end of the story. Don't think that an action-oriented story means there are no moment of levity, as there are certainly a couple of laughs here and there. Unusually for a novel, I did actually laugh out loud in a few spots, and if you read Never Die, I'm sure you'll be able to guess which character(s) these involved. The ending was satisfying - there is an ending which doesn't necessarily require any expansion, but Hayes leaves himself enough room to return to this storyworld should he want to. Sure, we don't have all of the answers or an explanation of exactly what happens now, but do we really want one? I appreciated the fact that we were given enough so we could form our own conclusions, but don't think for one second that there couldn't be a sequel to Never Die one day (I really hope there is!).  What was I less keen on? The plot is formulaic. Decide who needs recruiting, fight them, kill them, revive them, convince them why they need to fight for you. Rinse and repeat. There is nothing wrong with this style per se, and if you are a fan of video games or shonen manga/anime you will most likely not be put off at all by this. A formulaic plot isn't necessarily a bad thing, but don't go into this thinking you are going to have a short-form epic because you aren't. As was touched on above, we don't get to spend as much time with the characters as I would have liked. It is no secret that I'm a fan of character-driven plots, so it should come as no surprise to know that Never Die, as fast-paced and action-oriented as it is, wasn't exactly my cup of tea. This is personal preference so I didn't let this point influence the final score too much. That isn't to say that we learn nothing of our cast (see above). Ein, for instance, can definitely be an intensely creepy bugger. I massively enjoyed reading about the different magic that the characters of this world could use, but I was disappointed that there was never really an explanation of how the magic worked. What is the limit of the magic? Are all the different varieties all part of the larger overall system (like in Harry Potter), or are they all somewhat separate from each other (like in Fullmetal Alchemist)? In addition ot this, if we accept that shinigami and co. exist in the real world, is there a 'good' version, too? If so then where are they, and if not then why are the shinigami not our overlords? In fairness this could be part of the folklore from which Hayes is drawing, but I think a novel shouldn't require external knowledge in order to function.  In conclusion: 4/5. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Never Die once I got on-board with the formulaic plot structure. If you love shonen media and the gradual progression of fighting incresaingly strong enemies then you will most likely love this novel. If you aren't particularly a fan of shonen things, there is still more than enough quality content here to keep you interested, so I recommend it to fantasy lovers in general, too.For more of my reviews, take a look at my blog: aperturereads.wordpress.com :) Thanks to Rob for sending me an eARC :)
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  • Michael Mclendon
    January 1, 1970
    Review originally published on Booknest.EU Visit now to see our finalist for SPFBO 2018Never Die is the lean, fighting-anime-inspired fantasy novel you’ve always wanted. I love action-packed sword-slashing fantasy-filled anime. BUT somewhere along the way, I get a little bit disnterested. Now this is partly due to the serialized nature of the story telling. It generally doesn’t have to end and if it’s popular why would they end it? They’re stil selling Batman and Spider-Man comics as far as I’m Review originally published on Booknest.EU Visit now to see our finalist for SPFBO 2018Never Die is the lean, fighting-anime-inspired fantasy novel you’ve always wanted. I love action-packed sword-slashing fantasy-filled anime. BUT somewhere along the way, I get a little bit disnterested. Now this is partly due to the serialized nature of the story telling. It generally doesn’t have to end and if it’s popular why would they end it? They’re stil selling Batman and Spider-Man comics as far as I’m aware.I say all that only to set a contrast to what Rob accomplishes in Never Die. Within it is contained: a cast diverse in personality and aesthetic, breathtaking action set pieces, successively higher stakes for our characters and the battles they must face, and an overarching narrative and mystery that binds it all together. Perhaps the best way to recommend this novel to our readers is simply to encourage you to judge this book by its cover. Felix Ortiz(illustration) and Shawn T. King(design) delivered a cover that not only piqued my interest in reviewing this book but it’s also one that doesn’t oversell the nature of the story contained inside. And lest we forget, however cool the cover and the action scenes might be, it really is these characters-their brokenness, their hope for redemption or glory, their relationships to each other- that make this story worthwhile.Never Die is a perfectly paced, action laced katana of a novel that cuts through expectations and delivers a killing blow to the outside world until you’ve bled with this rag tag group of legends to the tale’s satisfying conclusion. *I received a free ebook copy of this title for review.
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  • Jordan
    January 1, 1970
    Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!Never Die is a story with a premise quite unlike anything else I've read. It starts out with a young boy named Ein who basically picks out four of the best warrior heroes to bring back from death to help him with a much larger overarching goal. That's not something you read everyday, but I almost wish I could because it was highly entertaining and inventive.This is a shorter book, coming in at a little under 300 pages--definitely the shorter side fo Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!Never Die is a story with a premise quite unlike anything else I've read. It starts out with a young boy named Ein who basically picks out four of the best warrior heroes to bring back from death to help him with a much larger overarching goal. That's not something you read everyday, but I almost wish I could because it was highly entertaining and inventive.This is a shorter book, coming in at a little under 300 pages--definitely the shorter side for fantasy--but it didn't lack in content, world-building, or interesting characters in the slightest. I've only read one other book by Hayes so far (something that I hope to rectify this year!), but I felt that this was even better than the other that I've read and will have a much broader appeal to more people. The East Asian setting in particular was something that I really enjoyed, as it was one that felt vivid and fresh and I'm always looking for more well-written non-Western fantasy.As much as I enjoyed the setting, it's really the characters that make this book shine as much as it does. These are warriors who prove their power and might regularly through dueling, a concept that really sets the tone for much of the rest of the plot. I usually comment on a few particular characters in my reviews, but I couldn't decide on just a few to remark upon and I also think part of my enjoyment with this book was learning about each character as I went, so I've decided to not individually mention any. As far as personalities go, Hayes did a great job of developing a wide variety of character types, some of which get along and some that absolutely do not. Each character also tended to have a particular fighting skill that they excelled in, which was usually what they, as warriors, were most known for and that I loved seeing in action. That felt like a very classic element to add to the story and I learning about that with each character.One of the things I'd most like to praise about Never Die is the pacing. It's not as though there's constant action in this story, but there's always something interesting going on. There is still plenty of action, but it's balanced really well with other events that make this a truly satisfying read that I had no problems getting through. There is also plenty of humor peppered throughout the story, though it's balanced well with more serious discussion and events as well, which again helped the book to feel balanced in all areas.The only potential issue I had was simply that I would have liked to see the world developed a bit more. It was developed well enough that I could understand and become somewhat immersed in the world, but it just didn't feel quite as detailed or expansive as it could have been. There were a few times when it felt as though it were on a larger scale without as much detail. That's a minor quibble, though, so it didn't impact my overall enjoyment much. Overall, I've given Never Die four stars! If you've not read anything by Rob J. Hayes before, I really think you can't go wrong with this great fantasy. I received a copy of Never Die courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the book.
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