Never Die by Rob J. Hayes
That's how I made friends with several paperbacks over the years. Sometimes it was a setting that sparked my interest or a style of narration, a promising title or my previous experiences with the writer.
Never before, however, a story seduced me with one line of its prologue. Until "Never Die" by Rob J. Hayes. I'm not sure how I come across this book at all, but one of the online previews (when I checked if that's something I want to invest a bit of time in) showed me this prologue:
"Itami Cho woke to the screams of her own death. She remembered it all."
At that moment I felt a shiver and there was no running away from the truth - I needed to read this book.
The setting of the story has a strong taste of Japan and China, spiced with a pinch of divine intervention from a certain shinigami. The author leads us through cities, countryside, and picturesque valleys, where, one by one, we meet characters as varied as their homelands.
Discovery of oneself is a huge part of Rob's storytelling throughout the book - when we meet our heroes, it's under circumstance which almost dictate our attitude towards them. Only with time have we the chance to meet them, and make our own judgement about their deeds. So do they. Their past, their hopes, and what they committed themselves, but most importantly - their reaction to them makes the characters alive in a very human way. They may be heroes, but they have fears and regrets.
The action through the book is well balanced - its reader will find both well-written action sequences as well as campfire stories, bragging, and complaining.
There is also some humour skillfully weaved through the weight of the quest taken on by the protagonists:
- "How did I survived this?"
- "You didn't. You were quite dead."
And some hard-hitting truths:
- "There's no such thing in Hosa. Justice of the sword is just murder by another name."
Overall - I tremendously enjoyed the story and would highly recommend it to fantasy fans, especially if you like an oriental vibe.
There is one flaw to it, though - I wish it was longer.
-----Never Die on Goodreads