Book Review: Spirits of Vengeance

Note: Spirits of Vengeance is the conclusion of the Heroic Age Trilogy in the Mortal Techniques universe. While the events are not directly connected, there are many overlapping characters. Check out Never Die and Pawn’s Gambit first.

I’ve spilled much digital ink discussing the hard-hitting action-packed nature of this series. I’m going to trust that you get it at this point. Let’s shine a spotlight on the reason the action is so impactful: context. The stakes. Hoards of people die in these books. Why do some read like set dressing, while others nearly make you cry? It all comes down to the masterful job Hayes does of drawing you in step by step, making you care deeply about these character’s lives. We feel for their struggles to shake off old baggage and live a new life. We laugh at their gallows humor. We are shocked at their betrayals. The end result is that when the swords come out, it’s not just another fight scene. When they hurt, you feel it.

The Basics:

Title: Spirits of Vengeance (The Mortal Techniques #3)
Author: Rob J. Hayes
Genre: Fantasy, Epic Fantasy, Action, Horror
Published: Rob J. Hayes, 2021

Spoiler-Free Summary: 

Haruto is a ghost hunter, an onmyoji, cursed with immortality until he grants his murdered wife eternal rest by exorcizing her vengeful spirit. As consuming as this mission is for Haruto, finding one yokai among a plethora of towns, thousands of miles, and millions of people is like searching for a single grain in a bag of rice. So, his overarching goal has been on the backburner for a long, looong time. These days he travels with Guang, a reformed bandit and mediocre poet, and Shiki, a familiar spirit essential to his ghost-cleansing mission. When Haruto takes on the burden of Guang’s murdered son, he must resolve the poor man’s unfinished business to release his soul. Unfortunately, that business involves hunting down and killing an onryo – a particularly powerful evil spirit which has regained its sentience and mortal memories. As if that wasn’t enough, the offending spirit is no lone monster. The onryo is part of a band of awakened ghosts serving a dark power with a mission to unleash a destructive force which could wreck humanity. Along the way, they pick up a fiery school teacher, her carefree (yet dangerous) onryo student, and a foppish courtly assassin. Things fall from bad to worse to oh-my-word-how-is-this-even happening as Haruto dies over and over again in the name of vengeance and salvation. 

Dueling Ghost Hunters… who wore it better?!?

Why You Will Love This Book: 

Spirits of Vengeance is genuinely touching. I laughed. I almost cried. I mentally covered my mouth and screamed “OOOOOOHHHHH!” like a kid witnessing a schoolyard fight. Hayes’ generally punchy prose can drift into beautifully crafted imagery effortlessly. The effect is not unlike listening to a good rock album: ⅔ of the tracks are high-energy bangers, but they throw in a melodic ballad every so often to move you in a whole new way. The characters are all such delightfully conflicted, self-contradictory messes, I could not turn away from their journeys. 

This is the third book I’ve reviewed in this series. They’re masterpieces. The action is great. The characters are subtle and nuanced. The twists are perfectly surprising, yet inevitable. Do yourself a favor and pick them up. 

Where Can You Find More?

Check out the author’s website for the latest and greatest, and see what other readers are saying over on Goodreads. 

Happy reading, folks.

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