Rob J. Hayes can be considered a shining beacon to the self-publishing industry and a fresh new voice in the SFF community. Over the past five to ten years, one cannot ignore the boom of authors self-publishing their works and having great success. In fact, Mark Lawrence holds a contest for the best self-published books of the year voted on by a panel of bloggers and booktubers. Never Die was a finalist for this award in 2019 against some stiff competition and my final thoughts after reading the last page- I was left speechless at this monumental achievement. The imagination, themes, writing style, and Asian inspired lore makes Never Die the best self-published book I have ever read.
Never Die is a standalone book published in 2019 and follows multi-POV characters. Ein, an eight year old boy is on a quest to kill the Emperor of the Ten Kings, but Ein can’t go on to the Emperor’s palace by himself. He sets out to recruit a group of legendary heroes and bind them to him on his mission. In order to achieve this, the heroes must die and be reborn. At the core of this story is the awesome idea to bring heroes back from the dead and fight on your side. Itami Cho, Ein, Zhihao, Chen Lu, Bingwei Ma, and Roi Astara are a group of solders you would not expect to see in the same room let alone a warband. The growth and unity they show as to plot progresses brought me a lot of joy and sense of pride in their heroic conquest.
Rob Hayes writing style can only be described as watching an poetry in motion. His words are natural, easy flowing, and beautiful in his own way for describing scenes and battles. Readers will be able to fly through this book with the way Rob Hayes writes his prose. The plot revolving around the growth these characters show as they develop friendships and bring to the forefront their only unique personalities. The action sequences in Never Die are simply brilliant. Easy to follow with gritty, nail-biting combats you would expect to see in a Bruce Lee movie. You will never feel overwhelmed or lost at any point throughout the novel.
The story may seem like a straightforward revenge mission novel and for the first 75% of the novel it is just that. When you get to the last 25% of the novel you will be blown away with the twist, revelations, tragedy, and epiphany moments until the last page. The ending was so breathtaking that I immediately reread the entire novel and this hasn’t happened to be before or since finishing Never Die. Readers who have enjoyed the Emperors Blades, First Law, or anybody looking for an Asian inspired adventure will love Never Die.
I loved everything about this story. I could tell after reading the first chapter that I was in for a good story and Mr. Hayes blew me out of the water. I will be on the look out for anything Rob Hayes publishes from now on. Never Die is standing as my pillar of hope for the self-publishing industry and I am forever grateful to have read this.
Cheers to you Rob Hayes!