We Are The Dead is a grimdark story about hope. Yeah, I know, that sounds weird, but hope is the underlying theme of the story here. It is story about war and invasion, after the invasion. And quite simply, it is a superb opening novel to The Last War series that takes you on a break-neck speed ride of plot twists, bloody battles and pain for our characters.
The story revolves around the land of Jia. A land protected by the Shulka, an elite order of warriors raised from the noblest clans that have never lost a war. Until now. The northern ‘barbarians’ of the Egril have somehow defeated the Shulka with the aid of magics long thought lost to the world and demon allies from the mankind’s darkest nightmares. Now they rule over Jia with an iron fist. Subjugation, terror, starvation and torture are the everyday life of the Jian survivors, but there is a little fight left in the Shulka that brings with it the faintest glimmer of hope.
Within this setting and story, we meet a whole host of fantastic characters. All of them great in different ways. The most ‘important’ of these are our Point of View characters, and I really enjoyed reading all their chapters. Given the grim theme of the book, some of them are just awful people who you aren’t necessarily rooting for, but I can honestly say that each POV was absolutely enthralling in their own unique way. I think my personal favourite characters to read were Dren, whose hatred for the Egril oozes through the pages and the delightfully sadistic Darus, our lone POV from the Egril’s side. He is just all sorts of evil. Definitely on the Ramsey Bolton scale there.
Away from the characters, the writing and pace of We Are The Dead really jumps out. Mike Shackle superbly captures the emotions at the core of each twist and turn of the story – something that makes this book feel unrelenting in the best possible way. If our POV character would be anxious, nervous, terrified, angry or any other emotion in a scene, then you best be damned sure that Shackle has captured that in his writing.
Overall, I can’t really recommend this book enough and I can’t wait to jump into the A Fool’s Hope. Who am I kidding, I have already started it! I didn’t want to wait to learn what happens to our ‘heroes’ and learn more about the world Mike Shackle has built here. Anyway, if you like your fantasy on the grimmer, darker side with plenty of twists and turns, compelling characters and bucket loads of action, then this We Are The Dead will be for you.
If you fancy picking up a copy of We Are The Dead, then I have included my affiliate link below. This is with bookshop.org, an online book store that supports local independent book shops here in the UK and in the US.