Today I am delighted to be reviewing We Lie with Death by Devin Madson, the second book in The Reborn Empire series. I fell in love with the first book – We Ride with Storm (Review Here) and couldn’t wait to pick up this one, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Disclaimer – I received an e-arc via netgalley in exchange for an honest review
Into Kisia’s conquered north, a Levanti empire is born.
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 honor 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.
There is no calm after the storm.
We Ride the Storm was a ride, and as the blurb says there is no calm after the storm and in this second installment in The Reborn Empire, we hit the ground running. I do have to take time though to appreciate the recap and character list at the beginning of the book as it had been a while since I’d read the first book, and this is a practice I hope becomes more common.
The worldbuilding in this series is fantastic, and here we see it expand in terms of breadth and depth. Madson had created a vivid, living breathing world of contrasts and divisions, complex religious beliefs and cultures, and in We Lie with Death we get to see more of the intersection and clash of those cultures. However, As much as I adore the worldbuilding, The Reborn Empire is ultimately a character-driven fantasy and they steal the show again here.
In We Lie with Die we continue not just with the three main POVs from the first book, but we also get introduced to the point of view of Dishiva e’Jaroven. While we had met her in the previous book, it took a little while to get used to her pov, I think because I was familiar with the others, but her voice was so unique and I think by the end of the book her chapters had become some of my favourites. There was camaraderie and tension and mystery around her pov, and it was interesting to see her struggles between the current situation and Levanti tradition, especially when held in comparison to Rah’s – and as much as I adore Rah, it felt as though there were more depth and motivation to her conflict and search for answers.
That said, Rah remains my favourite, and although it felt as though he didn’t perhaps grow as much as I might have wished, there was still development and the feeling that there is more to come. For a man so set in his beliefs, it was interesting to see him so shaken and trying to come to terms with what happened, and while I will say his experience seemed to pale a little when read alongside Dishiva’s, it is still a powerful arc. What was particularly interesting though, was how his path intersected with Miko – and it was fascinating to see them together, the culture clashes that permeate through the book brought to an individual level in their interactions.
Miko too continues to grow throughout this book, and her arc probably had the most moments that had me holding my breath. It had taken me a while to take to her in the first book, but here in We Lie with Death I could see her as Empress not just in name, but in purpose and character, and it was like watching (to quote Mulan) watching a flower blossom in adversity. I feel that she is really coming into her own, and some of her choices and the situations she faced truly caught me by surprise in this book, and I can’t wait to see where she will go from here.
Cassandra was a character who I’d felt was a little neglected towards the end of the last book, but that is far from the case now, and her arc is possibly the most exciting in this sequel. Madson has taken everything that made Cassandra a standout character and polished it here while exploring and explaining her unique talents in a way that added a necessary facet of humour to the book. Especially through her relationship with Empress Han (and really my quote had to come from them because I just love their interactions).
The first book was everything I love about fantasy, and We Lie Death continues very much in the same vein – but with a few more twists and turns added into the mix. Does it suffer from being the second book in a series – yes, a little, especially when you compare the pacing in this book with the first, but this was a book that needed to take its time more than the first did. And I for one feel that We Lie for Death is a strong sequel because it took that time to develop the characters, the world, and to unfurl some of the questions and mysteries (and add some new ones) from the first book.
We Lie with Death was everything I wanted from this sequel and more, and has firmly cemented this series as one of my favourite series – ongoing or otherwise – and I will eagerly be awaiting the next installment.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.