Telling the dead a secret, something no other person in the world knew, so that the living and the dead would forever be bound to one another, no matter how many worlds they might be apart.
So what’s the book about?
The tyrannical emperor of Hosa, Henan WuLong, is to be killed to give freedom back to the people and this task was given to Ein. Ein has been commissioned by a shinigami, a death god, to kill the emperor, but Ein is an eight-year-old boy and must find heroes to complete the task. To bind the heroes to him, he must let each of them die and bring them back from the dead. Each of these heroes is offered a second chance at life if they help him kill the emperor. After he brings the first hero Cho back from the dead and binds her to the Oath, the path begins for Ein and Cho to find more heroes to stand against the cruel Emperor.
Why I wanted to read this standalone?
Once again, a book that I only bought because of the cover and I think you can see here that the cover is one of the most important factors when buying a book. I could tell right away that it was an Asian setting, which I just love in fantasy books. I have also seen the book so often on social media that you are actually forced to buy it. Honestly, I didn’t even read the blurb, but just bought the book, thinking that this 270 pages volume is a good story in between a big series and that I can read a simple and solid book – But after a few pages, I already noticed that the book has much more to offer.
These aspects attracted me the most while reading.
- Anyone who has played the video game Sekiro knows exactly what kind of world the author wants to take us into here – an asian setting that is grotesquely altered in such a way that it conveys an eerie atmosphere but set in a supposedly real world. And this distorted world is inhabited by eccentric heroes who breathe magic into the world through magical blades, bodies altered by Qi or through the mental strength and use of Qi. Each of the recovered heroes is reminiscent of a protagonist in a video game who has been endowed with special abilities. And it’s not only the heroes that add to the book’s flair, but also the enemies. The heroes have to face sinister opponents that look like grotesque creatures made of different parts, like a goat with a human head, some of which are also very reminiscent of creatures from Sekiro or Dark Souls. However, many of these creatures are not invented, but taken from Japanese mythology, such as the Yokai, Onia and Jikinink. Thus, you experience an ancient Japan, in a time full of brutal conflicts and fights to the death. In this dark world, the heroes have to survive and face mystical enemies, which leads to bloody confrontations.
- Each character in this story is amazingly diverse and fleshed out in great detail, as well as each of these individual heroes having its own charm, as well as their own backstories. Ein is an eight-year-old mysterious boy who is frightening in part because of his blank stare and unusual aim, but also because little is known about him and he reveals nothing of himself. Itami Cho is a reticent Shintei swordswoman who is notorious for her martial arts. She carries two blades, but only fights with one because of an sworn oath. Through her loving and self-sacrificing nature, Cho was able to creep into my heart in particular, as she made up the calmness in this book for me. Also, there is Zhihao Cheng, who is a villain and through his resurrection believes that he will be able to cleanse his life of depravity by completing the common task. Chen Lu, however, does not know these heroic feelings, for he only wants to achieve fame so that all people will know his name. He is as tough as steel, which is also reflected by his measurements and skin. Bingwei Ma seems to be the hero who is the only one interested in the task, sees it as his destiny to kill the tyrannical emperor, because he is the undefeated wushu master, and has acquired a clear mind over all these years. Lastly, there is Roi Astara, a leper who fights with his very own weapons. He is the only one not brought back from the dead, since he is already as good as dead. One gets an insight into the personality of all the characters and into their wishes and fears and what they hope to achieve through a second life. You also learn about the past from the characters and feel strongly connected to them even on these few pages. As soon as a new hero joins the team, the whole dynamic of the team changes and you just realise that this ragtag band creates a camaraderie that is unique and probably triggered by the Rebirth. Moreover, I felt like I was part of the team.
- The dynamics of the book also emulated a video game like in the vein of Sekiro. You keep encountering bosses to take down and in between you must make the journey to that boss first. If you’ve ever played Dark Souls, you’ll know the exciting and eerie feeling when you’re standing in front of the fog and you know that now comes an enemy you can barely defeat. That’s exactly how I felt when I read the chapter headings where you can tell that a battle between two heroes lies ahead. Also, the way to the so-called final boss, the emperor, filled with not quite so strong opponents – who, unfortunately, have not dropped any better loot :-D. The fights were described in detail, that you felt like you were in an anime (luckily the fights were not like in Sekiro or Dark Souls, because all the time dying and crying because you can’t defeat the enemy would be that exciting). Due to the fact that each of these heroes has a different way of fighting, each fight was exciting to read, as they felt completely different. Some fights were won by nimbleness, others by superhuman strength, by intellect, or even by not-so-glorious skills.
So what are my final thoughts about it?
I didn’t expect anything from this book, I thought I’d get a witty and short-winded story to read between big and epic series, but I’ve never been so wrong. The book has so much atmosphere and depth, which I did not expect at all on only 270 pages. It takes you away, because its a great combination of a really fabulously created world and matching characters, where each character has so much love and heart. I have a hard time finding words for this book, as I have never read anything quite like it. For my taste, all the qualities a story needs were perfectly tied together – the characters, as well as their interactions with each other; the tension maintained through epic battles; and through the world, which takes you into an eerie and grotesquely altered ancient real japanese world. Moreover, the ending rounded out the book perfectly, as I would not have expected this ending, but it fits so perfectly, even if it has a sad aftertaste. Also, I must note that the writing style of the book was so engaging that I would have expected an author who is already one of the greatest. The only criticism I could find here is that the book was over far too quickly and I need to read more. Any fantasy lover who hasn’t read this book yet has missed something unique here that they should definitely catch up on.
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