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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

We Lie With Death by Devin Madson (reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order We Lie With Death HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of We Ride the Storm 

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Devin Madson is the Aurealis Award-winning author of In Shadows We Fall. Having given up on reality she is now a dual-wielding rogue with a lot of points sunk into stealth and lock picking skills. Anything but zen, Devinsubsists on tea and chocolate and so much fried zucchini she ought to have turned into one by now.

If you’re after happy, fuzzy tales then you’ve come to the wrong place. Her fantasy novels come in all shades of grey and are populated with characters of questionable morals and a liking for witty banter. 

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: Into Kisia’s conquered north, a Levanti empire is born.

Loyal to the new emperor, Dishiva e’Jaroven must tread the line between building a new life and clinging to the old. Only Gideon can lead them, but when he allies himself with a man returned from the dead it will challenge all she thinks she knows and everything she wants to believe.

Now empress of nothing, Miko is more determined than ever to fight for her people, yet with her hunt for allies increasingly desperate, she may learn too late that power lies not in names but in people.

Rah refused to bow to the Levanti emperor, but now abandoned by the Second Swords he must choose whether to fight for his people, or his soul. Will honour be his salvation, or lead to his destruction?

Sold to the Witchdoctor, Cassandra’s only chance of freedom is in his hands, but when her fate becomes inextricably linked to Empress Hana, her true nature could condemn them both.

There is no calm after the storm.

CLASSIFICATION: The Reborn Empire is a gritty and violent action-packed, character-driven dark fantasy series. 

FORMAT/INFO: We Lie With Death is 484 pages long divided over twenty four numbered chapters. The narration is in the third person and focuses on four main POV characters: captain Rah e’Torin, whore/assassin Cassandra and Princess Miko. This is the second volume of the Reborn Empire series

This book is available in e-book and paperback format. It was self-published by the author. Cover art is by John Antony Di Giovanni, cover design is provided by Shawn T. King.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: With a richly immersive setting and complex characters, second book in The Reborn Empire series wraps readers in a dark and gritty tale. As far as dark epic fantasy goes, We Lie with Death checks all the boxes. It presents readers with a world so vivid and featuring complex religious and racial divides, it will satisfy genre’s most discriminate enthusiasts. I don’t count myself as one and yet I felt utterly engrossed in the events.

We Lie with Death expands and deepens the world Madson created. Where We Ride the Storm focused closely on three protagonists, the sequel introduces a new character’s point of view, adding another dimension to the events. I needed time to warm up to Dishiva e’Jaroven, Captain of the Second Swords of Jaroven, but once I did her chapters kept me glued to the pages. Not only does she have an interesting backstory and engaging voice, but she also sheds some light on Dom Leo’s dark secrets and Gideon’s machinations. 

Leo’s presence added a lot of colour and dark humour to the pages of WRTS and most readers took him for a charming, if slightly creepy and eccentric character. It turns out he has a nefarious agenda and he will stop at nothing to make it happen. New reveals surprised me and moved the story in an exciting direction. Prepare for clever twists that will make your jaw drop and nod in appreciation of Madson’s plotting skills.

Rah and Miko’s arcs intertwine as they spend a significant part of the book together. Their thorny relation changes and turns into something interesting, but not cheaply predictable. They come from radically different cultures and the clash is inevitable as showed in scenes where Rah tries to honour deceased by cutting their heads. Miko doesn’t appreciate it, where Rah sees his duty, she sees only barbarity. And yet, forced by the events they have to learn to trust each other despite their differences and language barrier. 

Ultimately though, it’s Cassandra Marius’ arc I find most exciting. Madson explains her unique talents and explores them in a darkly humorous way. Let’s just say the unfortunate turn of events will force Cassandra and Empress Han to form an unlikely alliance and their caustic head-to-head lightens dark themes their chapters explore. Cassandra remains my favourite character and I doubt it’ll change.

Along with her remarkable world building, Madson introduces rich supporting characters that are deftly drawn into both the battles and the layered political intrigue. She packs plenty of twists into the story. Though some revelations are predictable, most reveals and unique “magic” system elevate the story above most contemporary dark fantasy. Another great strength of the Reborn Empire series is its exploration of faith, religion, and how those in power adhere and abuse both. 

If it stumbles somewhere, it’s only with pacing. While I admire writers able to create complex mythology and detailed world as a reader I don’t enjoy all the details. I could live without them. And I would have even more fun.

The last thing that needs mentioning is the quality of the ebook production. Just look at the cover and the font - it looks spectacular. And it doesn’t end here. Each character has its own sigil printed in the beginning of his/her chapter. The book opens with the list of characters and a summary of the key events of the first book allowing the reader to refresh the memories.

We Lie with Death is a brilliant sequel. I recommend it to fantasy fans seeking their next dark epic fantasy fix.


Swiff said...

There's this one character... I forget his name... but man, was he awesome.


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