Title: Never Die
Author: Rob J. Hayes
Date Published: January 29, 2019
Synopsis: 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.
Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! This is officially the first book I’ve read for the #Avengersreadathon19 with the prompt “Book with a Colorful Cover” and while Never Die’s book cover has only a limited color palette, it is a freaking masterpiece. It’s so beautiful, I HAVE TO READ IT. Despite the fact that Never Die has a lot of high reviews in Goodreads though, I find myself in the minority.
Fast paced and Action Packed
Let me give you a glimpse of the prologue (which I think was golden!)
Itami Cho woke to the screams of her own death. She remembered it all.
Yes. That was the whole prologue and I immediately got intrigued! The first few chapters were exceptionally crafted to propel the story into action without sparing any breath for flowery imagery. It was still beautiful though in its own way.
References Rich Asian Mythology in the World Building
There are a lot of Japanese references here and if you love anime, you’ll surely be squealing with delight! There’s a shinigami, there’s yokai, the art of wushu, martial arts, katanas, qui/chi/chakra and, A LOT MORE. This is the initial aspect that hooked me because I totally got most of the references!!! Rob J. Hayes may not be an Asian author but I’m sure as heck he did his research. ((I also lowkey think that he’s an avid anime fan and gamer))
Archetypal Characters With Lackluster Relationship Dynamics
Never Die has six main characters as you can see from that (gorgeous!) book cover. It was designed by Felix Ortiz and the typography is designed by STK.Kreations. Make sure to check out these artists’ page!
- Itami Cho “Whispering Blade”
She is somewhat the quiet and contemplative type that has her own personal issues.
Some swords strike with a growl, some with a roar.
Some shake the battle like a rock slide, some bring ruin like a wild flame.
But there is one sword that passes with but a whisper, and you shall know it for it says:
Death has been here.
- Zhihao Cheng “The Emerald Wind”
The resident “outcast” here; Zhihao is I think supposed to be the most likable due to his morally grey nature. He denies the ways of a hero, yet deep inside wishes to belong.
Whither it blows, east to west or north to south, The Emerald Wind carries the stench of death.
Such is the way of those who prey on the living, and steal from the dead.
- Chen Lu “Iron Gut”
Iron Gut Chen is honestly more of a comic relief for me.
“To master one’s qi is to master one’s body.
To master one’s body is to master one’s self.
To master one’s self is to master one’s destiny.
Now bring me another chicken!”
– Iron Gut Chen, on the mysteries of qi.
- Bingwei Ma “Master of Sun Valley”
The humble master, and somewhat embodies most of the desired heroic qualities.
None so strong and kind.
None so skilled, none so humble.
None so free of fear.
- Roi Astara “Death’s Echo”
The unknown variable of the lot. I actually don’t like him that much.
Somewhere between the crack of thunder and the hammer striking the anvil, lies Death’s Echo.
Those who hear it have mere moments to describe the sound, for they are already dead.
- Ein – The little boy who was the main game changer in this book.
As you can see I have sparingly described all of the main characters here. The very fact that they were assembled as a roster to defeat the Emperor aka the final boss entails that their relationship and camaraderie will have to evolve throughout the book. And this, for me, was where it fell short the most.
The characters were archetypal in nature for me. They may be morally ambiguous, but they were also the conventional types I often see in books, anime, and video games. Now, while that may be the case I had hoped that I would have been attached to them more with their relationship dynamics, which again, failed to deliver. There wasn’t enough banter or any relationship devices that made this little ragtag team cohesive. Their dialogues were also not engaging. I didn’t connect with them and I was most disappointed in this part because this kind of setup usually entails for the characters to build a relationship.
I adore character driven books than plot driven ones, but if they were perfectly blended it would definitely be a top-notch book. If only the characters relationship were well fleshed out, I think I would have loved this book.
Formulaic Plot Sequences
This was very predictable and, tbh there’s nothing wrong with predictability as long as it delivers. Which it didn’t. Never Die is heavily dependent on the plot which made little room for character relationship. So naturally, since it already fell apart in the character aspect I hoped I could see more of the plot’s ingenuity; It has after all, a very intriguing premise. However, it was just like a video game where the characters meet and assemble, take on a trip and defeat the corresponding monsters. As the level rises the level of difficulty also increases, theeeeennn everyone will work together to defeat the final boss at the end of the lane.
I do know that this sequence is a staple, and a lot of books had also used this. Harry Potter does this, and PJO as well. This is definitely not a new plot sequence, but the way Never Die’s plot was laid out was pretty clean cut. Do this, do that, and we get to that. It’s frustrating and highly unentertaining.
I initially love this one, with its pacing and Asian references and themes but because this fell short in fleshing out the relationship of the characters, I ALMOST decided to DNF this. If you like anime, and Japanese mythology, I think you will fairly like this. For me, not so much.