Book Reviews Fantasy

We Lie with Death by Devin Madson

Book Summary

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.

WE LIE WITH DEATH immediately carries on from where We Ride the Storm left off, continuing the stories of Rah, Miko and Cassandra but, as we saw at the end of We Ride the Storm, introducing us to a fourth character, Dishiva e’Javoren, who is offering us yet a fourth storyline within an already complicated set of threads. Showing us more about the exiled Levanti, Gideon and his new court, and his alliance with Lord Bahain, and more, Dom Leo Villius.

While the first book is one long roller coaster ride of exploding events, dark reveals and riveting intrigue, I found We Lie With Death to be more of a character study. And let me qualify that, yes, there is a lot happening, yes, there is still plenty of action, intrigue, back stabbing, violence, and twists and turns at every juncture.

But it’s also an exploration into each characters past, showing what created them, what shapes them, and what drives them. This, while on the surface was interesting at first, also made for a long slow read. Especial when you take into consideration each character is on the run, working their way, mostly on foot or by slow cart, across the continent. Each evading someone while looking for allies, or ways to fight back, after the devastating collapse of Kisia in We Ride the Storm.

Throw in a new character and suddenly everyone’s story becomes dragged out to the point where I got frustrated. I raced through the first couple of hundred pages but then, the pace slowed even more, as we are taken from point A to point B with a trickle of back-story being added like a leaking tap, one drip at a time.

So that by the time we came to the first big reveal I already knew what was happening, and what to expect. And, well, for me, it fell a little flat. Maddeningly so. For anyone who’s already read IN SHADOW WE FALL, there are subtle clues as to what Madson’s fantasy is, at its heart, and I would loved to have seen more of this side of the fantasy, in better detail, in this outing of the series. Rather than it always being offered as a side long glance.

I could happily read this as two different series, one featuring Cassandra, the Witchdoctor, and ‘others’, as a separate series, but still set within Kisia and this time period. And have Miko, the politics and palace intrigue along with the war with Chiltae and the Levanti, as a second series in its own right.

Maybe that’s because I felt like I was reading two different series that have been melded as one. And, for me at least (you may feel differently) because the middle part dragged, I felt like We Lie with Death is about 150 pages too long. Add in the fact there are two more proposed books in this quartet, each of which could be 500+ pages in length and, quite honestly, I wonder what Madson has planned. Will I be along for the ride? I don’t know.

Best part of this whole book, for me, was the pairing of Empress Hana with Cassandra, and the banter between the two. It was priceless, and I wanted more.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed most of this one, when it wasn’t meandering all over the place. That said, if you enjoyed We Ride the Storm, there is every likelihood you will love We Lie with Death, as it’s more of the same.

The Reborn Empire #2
Devin Madson
Orbit Books, 2021
Paperback, 520 pages

4 comments on “We Lie with Death by Devin Madson

  1. Avatar

    That’s a shame you didn’t enjoy it quite as much as the first book. Maybe things become more linear in the third book?

    • Alex

      I think it was the middle section that did me in, Jake. It just seem to drag on and on without actually achieving anything. I appreciate character building, but a lot of this felt like excessive padding. But then, that is just my own opinion.

      • Avatar

        It’s an unexpected angle to take for such an action-packed story

        • Alex

          The action seemed very muted in this second book compared to the first, and there was a lot more background going on for all four characters, that became a bit much. Doing little, if anything, to forward the plot. For me, it could have been edited down to be a lot tighter and therefore, more punchy with the reveals.

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