Synopsis: The Kisian Empire has fallen, and a Levanti Empire has taken it’s place. But the Empire is fractured and deadly secrets pulse through its heart. Miko must fight hard to regain her Kingdom, and Rah must choose his path – home or Gideon? Dishiva, having replaced Rah as Gideon’s trusted Captain, must navigate the new Levanti-Kisia Empire, but someone makes her wary, and Cassandra finds herself with the Witchdoctor, but can, and will, he ‘cure’ her?
CW/TW: Death/Gore/Violence/Rape (attempt/mentions)/Murder/brief mentions of ‘abortion’/other warnings associated with epic fantasy may also exist.
Spoiler Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Book 1 in The Reborn Empire Series. Book Review: We Ride The Storm (The Reborn Empire #1)
Devin Madson has done it again, We Lie With Death is as brilliant, unique and brutal as Book 1 in the series! This sequel manages to give us more depth, more mystery and more tension, while also shedding light on some of the questions raised in Book 1. This book was tense, I was gripped from the start and read the whole thing in one sitting – never have I been so stressed everytime a character was left alone...my heart could not take the cruelty!
Aside from Madson giving me a heart attack every few chapters, this books was an emotional and brutal ride, the stakes and risks are high and the costs are deadly. Book 1 ends with Cassandra on her way with the Witchdoctor, where she wanted to be? Yes. A success… well that’s up for debate. This alone raised A LOT of questions about the Witchdoctor and Cassandra (and the Her that resides with her). But, these are not the only questions – Leo (Dom Villius) is an enigma that baffles us at every turn, Gideon’s plans for the Levanti-Kisian Empire have yet to be divulged, and Rah and Miko’s fates are left in a jumble. So do we get answers in book 2? YES BUT ALSO MORE QUESTIONS!
We Lie With Death is again brilliantly written. From the descriptions to the dialogue, it is masterfully done – the prose is rich,witty and detailed, truly bringing the settings and characters to life, immersing us in this epic story. Again we get multiple narratives that all work flawlessly together giving us insight into multiple sides of the conflict and crumbling Empire, with chapters from Cassandra, Rah, Dishiva, and Miko, meaning we get an epic scope as well as incredible depth into different aspects of this world. I adore multiple narratives, and Madson does it perfectly.
So, Cassandra’s chapters deal with the curiosity that is the Witchdoctor. Cassandra is a character I love, and this book just cements my love for her. All throughout Book 1 Cassandra wishes to find the Witchdoctor, believing he can rid her of ‘Her’, the voice inside her head… that can also talk, take control of her body and reanimate the dead – you know the usual nuisances. I loved this storyline, and everything we learn. This narrative gives us a lot of answers and insight into why Cassandra has another voice in her head, and who or what the voice is. Not only does it add depth and complexity to the world and its history, it also opens up a lot more possibilities and mysteries for the rest of the book and series. Again we get the sassy, witty Cassandra who obviously tries her luck more times than she should, but with some new limitations popping up along the way, cleverly done and interesting to read about. I also loved the dynamic between Cassandra and those with the Witchdoctor, particularly Kocho, and The Empress (Especially with the Empress – this was so entertaining). The character relationships are truly amazing in this series, and I love watching how their relationships change and grow, particularly with Cassandra whose relationships are 90% sarcasm and conflict. Cassandra’s narrative ends on a hilariously (only by the characters reaction which I did laugh at) freaky note, that is horrifying and sets up for something big in the next book. It’s hard to explain how interesting this narrative was without spoilers but I LOVED it.
Next up Rah. Rah’s storyline follows his capture and imprisonment at the end of Book 1, after he defied Gideon. This time Rah must decide on his path, does he go home or does he stay in Kisia? Despite his conflict with Gideon, Rah is determined to find him and speak with him again, meaning he has to travel through Kisia, but he finds himself tangled up in another problem along the way. Another brilliant character, obsessed with honour and loyalty, Rah sticks to what he knows an believes and tries to do what is right. His plot was intriguing because he is a Levanti, in Kisia, who does not know Kisian. This could easily pose problems in the long run in terms of story telling but Madson finds a way around this. Firstly, with another Levanti who finds and travels with Rah – he is able to translate for the most part, but as conflicts rise Rah finds himself without his friend at his side. Despite being unable to adequately communicate with the Kisian he ends up with, the story maintains its intrigue, and watching the two characters work together and try to communicate was fascinating and shed light on the differences between the Levanti and Kisians but also their similarities. I really loved the dynamic between these two characters as well, and how their relationship slowly progressed to one with more and more trust. As with Cassandra’s narrative, Rah’s also ends on a curious note leaving Rah in a position where he needs to start making decisions.
Miko’s narrative follows her escape from the Chiltean attack on Kisia, and the subsequent Levanti take over. Miko needs allies, so she must find her way to someone she trusts, or can turn to her side, without getting caught by the Levanti. Miko is a brilliant character, a strong and capable warrior, a clever strategist and self-crowned Empress- and we get more of that in this book. As Miko works her way through Kisia towards those she believes she can ally with, she faces trouble at every turn and ends up relying on unexpected companions. Being both Otako and T’sai, Miko could have a lot of support, but with Gideon trying to ally himself with influential Kisian’s, it seems it will be harder than she expects. But, Gideon is not the only problem, she comes to find after speaking with childhood friend Edo. Miko find’s herself faced with difficult decisions one after the other in this book, as well as tough journey’s and complex politics. I love watching Miko’s story, her plans, her mind and strategies. But also we get to see some emotion behind her, and hints of vulnerability. Finally I also loved her relationship with the unexpected companion, watching them come to trust and rely on each other. Miko’s narrative ends on a very interesting note, leaving her in a different position with a lot of decisions to make in the next book – her ending leaves big promises for the next installment and I cannot wait to see where it goes.
The final story thread comes from Dishiva’s perspective. Dishiva is Gideon’s new trusted Captain, after Rah’s departure. I loved the addition of this perspective because it allowed us to see the inner workings of Gideon’s Empire. Dishiva is loyal to Gideon and the Levanti and struggles with adopting Kisian etiquette, but over the course of the book she finds herself having to follow increasingly difficult orders that test where her true loyalties lie. This part of the story is supported by her wariness of a certain freaky character who makes her uncomfortable and wary. She tries to find out more about them, to understand the motive behind their actions but the more she pries, the more dangerous life becomes. Desperate to protect Gideon and their new Empire, she does her best to figure out the truth, but as she does so she must carefully chose who in the new Empire she can truly trust. Dishiva already has issues with trust and control, partly stemming from the trauma suffered in Book 1, making it harder for her in this book – so I really loved how her and Jass slowly become closer and more trusting of each other. The conflict, almost a game, between her and the freaky character (avoiding spoilers!) is tense and intriguing to watch play out, as she pieces the truth together, and her strained loyalties puts her in precarious positions. Another brilliant plot, expertly woven into the wider story, and of course it wouldn’t be fun without a dramatic ending! This narrative’s ending leaves us in turmoil for the future of the Levanti and Empire as it seems to promise heartbreak and destruction.
One of the big questions at the end of book 1 concerns Leo. The man who died and received his own head… as you do. The man seems to be on God’s good side, coming back from the dead like it was nothing leaving us all to wonder how and why? Well don’t worry because you get some answers in this brilliant book! Now, this book still leaves a lot to be known about this creepy death defying man, but we do start to get some fascinating answers, creepy but interesting, which leaves big implications for the next book! I cannot wait to see how this plays out .
Overall, this book is epic,from its scope to its plot. The characters are engaging and complex, the plot is tense and shocking, and the risks are high! Madson has truly created something extraordinary, and it will keep you gripped from start to finish. A phenomenal sequel that sets up for, what I can only imagine will be, a glorious next installment. I cannot wait to see what happens next.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loved the first book, adores high fantasy and loves a mix of brutality, comedy, politics and more! This book, this series, definitely hits all the marks!
*I received a physical ARC from @Orbitbooks @Gambit589 in exchange for an honest review – a big thankyou!*