Best Fantasy Books.com‘s Top 25 Best Indie Fantasy Books is a very handy list if you’re interested in discovering new fantasy talent. It originally appeared in 2016, and has been updated at least once, in November 2017. Buried deep in the article the (anonymous) author notes that
I found Mark Lawrence’s (you know, author of The Broken Empire series) Great Self Published Fantasy Blog Off contest immensely helpful for helping to point me in the direction of some of the stand out picks.
Okay, I didn’t know Mark had a self-publishing contest, but what a cool idea. The SPFBO has apparently been running for several years now, and has showcased several intriguing writers. For example, Rob J. Hayes won in 2017 for Where Loyalties Lie.
What’s so intriguing about Hayes? For one thing, except for one book from Ragnarok Publications, he’s exclusively self published, and his backlist is lengthy and impressive, including the Best Laid Plans series, The Ties that Bind trilogy, It Takes a Thief to Catch a Sunrise (2016) and City of Kings (2018). And next week his newest self-published effort Never Die arrives, the tale of five undead heroes re-animated by an eight-year-old Necromancer to take on an evil emperor. Here’s a snippet from Michael Gruneir’s review at Fantasy Book Review.
[Click the images for self-published versions.]
Never Die is the story of five undead, re-animated heroes, (or in some cases anti-heroes) that have been given a second chance at life by an eight-year-old Necromancer in order to defeat an evil emperor. It follows the five great warriors: Whispering Blade, The Emerald Wind, Iron Gut, Ghost Echo, and Bingwei Ma, as they come to terms with having died, been resurrected, and then having been forced to join young Ein on a gruelling and seemingly impossible task, or return to death.
While not a comedy per se, there is a great deal of situational humor in the book. In a sense, it’s a road story, in which our five protagonists, each with very different back stories and values are forced into an unsteady alliance by a mysterious and disturbing child with little understanding of why their quest exists and why they were chosen. Much of the humor comes from Zhihao Cheng, The Emerald Wind, who is a lecherous cretin with a heart of gold. Imagine a Samurai Shrek and we’re basically there. Zhihao’s tumultuous relationship with Itami Cho, The Whispering Blade is well written and there are some wonderful character moments that encapsulate the honourable Cho’s warming to Zhihao as the novel progresses. There are also many endearingly written moments between Cho and Ein, which really paint the portrait of her as a sympathetic character and the rock of the group.
Read Gruneir’s complete review here.
Never Die will be published by Rob J Hayes on January 29, 2019. It is 276 pages, priced at $13.99 in trade paperback and $4.99 in digital formats. The cover is by Felix Ortiz.
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