Book Review: Never Die

A group of heroes is on a quest to kill an evil emperor. We’ve seen that before in fantasy, right? Yeah, a few times. Well, what if… the heroes were all dead? Well, mostly dead. Slightly alive. Insert Princess Bride joke here. Never Die is a fantastic example of a book that takes a familiar trope, twists it just slightly, and executes it well. It is a dark, gritty epic about the balance between justice and vengeance.

The Basics:

Title: Never Die (The Mortal Techniques book 1)
Author: Rob J Hayes
Genre: High Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Action
Published: Rob J Hayes, 2019

Spoiler-Free Summary:

A murdered child, Ein (pronounced EE-Yen) is resurrected and chosen by a god of death to assassinate a despotic leader. The only power given to Ein is the ability to raise heroes from the dead to join him. The catch: They must be recently dead. Their reward if they succeed? A second chance at life. The mismatched band journeys across the kingdom… “recruiting” other renowned champions to join their assault on the emperor’s impregnable palace. They are:

Itami Cho, “the Whispering Blade”, functionally a paladin.
Zhihao Cheng, “the Emerald Wind”, pragmatic former bandit.
“Iron Gut” Chen Lu, the hulking, jovial, often intoxicated folk hero.
Bingwei Ma, the “Master of Sun Valley,” the honorable undefeated martial artist.

Along the way, personalities and goals clash along the road as this mismatched party marches toward a battle for the ages. In addition to killing to recruit each ally, they are beset by deadly yokai (demons) serving rival death-gods who want to thwart their patron’s plans.

Why This Book Is For You:

I think all truly successful books know their audience. There might be huge swaths of the reading world don’t like this or that, but authors cannot write for them. It is best to lean into what you do well and swing for the fences. Never Die is a book that knows what it is and runs hard in one direction. It has an unapologetically over-the-top plot with larger-than-life action scenes guaranteed to make you grip the book more tightly.

Look, it’s a series! More precisely, it is a connected world. I understand that Never Die is a standalone.

The driving forces of this book are the epic action scenes (see above), and the clashes between the personalities in this vividly realized ensemble cast of characters. The best of friends often have the most diametrically opposed personal goals and certainly always disagree about the best way to accomplish their mission. Read it yourself to find out whose philosophy carries the day.

Some readers may notice that this is an independent book and let that dissuade them. Please don’t. This is seriously one of the most exciting and well-written books I have read all year.

Where Can You Find More?

Hayes is truly a prolific author. Keep up with his work at his web site.

Happy reading, folks.

Get Murray’s Bookshelf in your inbox whenever there’s an update.

Connect with us: Facebook: MurraysBookshelf / Twitter: @JCmurraybooks / Tumblr: jcmurray

Photo by John-Mark Smith on

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s