Review: NEVER DIE by Rob J. Hayes

Publisher: Self-Published
Page Count: 276 pages
Release Date: January 29th, 2019
Rating: 4/5 stars – Really Liked It!

Note: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

42732016Itami Cho is a warrior for hire known as Whispering Blade.  At least, she was, until she was finally killed in battle, cut down by a bandit army.  But that’s just the beginning of her story, because shortly after dying, Whispering Blade finds herself “mostly alive” again, thanks to the mysterious power of a young boy named Ein.  Ein has been given an impossible task by a shinigami, a god of death: kill the despot Emperor of Ten Kings.  To complete his mission, Ein is putting together a group of legendary warriors.  But to make sure that they are committed to the task, Ein’s team must be bound to him through his magic – which means that first, they must die.  Whispering Blade agrees to Ein’s quest, which means she must confront and defeat several of the world’s most renowned fighters before they are ready to storm the capital city and defeat the Emperor himself.

Reading NEVER DIE felt like reading the book equivalent of a wire works martial arts film, and I mean that in the best possible way.  This is a world of warriors, where people commonly go by monikers like Whispering Blade or Death’s Echo.  It has that heightened folktale kind of feel, where it’s like “our” world but just a little bit more. Every warrior has their “technique,” an ability that is theirs and theirs alone – one can make his skin impervious to harm while another can use her voice as a kind of sonic wave. All of these abilities are used to great effect in the fighting set pieces, which are the highlight of the book.  The descriptions are incredibly cinematic, allowing you to see every cross of the blade, feel the tension in the standoff as master warriors evaluate their moves.

One of my few complaints is that after a bit, the narrative did begin to feel slightly repetitive.  While I loved the individual set pieces, there are a number of them: every hero recruited has their own fight, not to mention fights with supernatural creatures on the journey to the final showdown in the capital city.  At a certain point, I was ready to be off the road and at the finale.   And while I knew and loved a lot about Whispering Blade and Emerald Wind, I wish I had gotten to know some of the later characters better, particularly the Master of Sun Valley, the last member to join the team.

All that being said, this is still a book I highly recommend.  There was great camaraderie between the various members of the party, banter that started out disgruntled as each person came to terms with the fact that they were now “mostly alive” and traveling with people they didn’t necessarily trust.  Friendship born of battle soon begins to blossom, creating a team that will put their lives on the line to make sure that the mission succeeds.  Fans of films in the vein of CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON should definitely check this out, as well as those who like action-driven books in general.


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