Rob J. Hayes’ new Mortal Techniques series reads very much like a script from a video game and is bound to enthrall lovers of fast-paced, all-action, and fighting books where everything is violence-driven.
If you’re looking for noble characters with a strong sense of right and wrong, happy endings, and damsels in distress, this book is not for you. It’s GrimDark in all the sense of the word. But, the setting and the unique world give it a different flavor from what you’d expect from, say, Michael R. Fletcher and Joe Abercrombie.
For starters, the world is a delightful one, reminiscent of an epic Chinese movie (and characters named thus!) and with the fighting techniques to go along!
The characters are aptly named, sporting real Oriental names like Itami Cho and Zhihao alongside parallel English names/nicknames like Iron Gut, Whispering Blade, Century Blade, Emerald Wind, and Death’s Echo.
It feels surreal, seeing that I’ve never read this type of Eastern-flavored epic fantasy… And yes, I’ll call this one epic, given that the world is what it is.
Very little happens outside of the main plot, which is a series of events that lead up to a battle-loaded finale. As far as fantasy goes, the book explores new themes, a satisfying variant of something very much underwritten in simple fantasy- a book primarily concerned with lots of great fights.
We hardly get fights in fantasy anymore, except on a vast scale with screaming horses, complex battlefield tactics, and prolonged warfare. In Never Die, we see the quality and thrill that 1v1, 2v1, and 3v1 fights can bring… almost like playing MK or Street Fighter on console!
There’s a slight plot twist at the end that’s a deviation from what is otherwise a WWE royal rumble. Nonetheless, it’s a fine read.