Cover Image: We Are The Dead

We Are The Dead

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Member Reviews

This book took me by surprise, let me tell you that. Yes, yes, I am one of those people who judge books by their covers, so to be completely honest, I was going into this book completely blind. The cover though - a very divisive decision in my opinion, very much representative of the book and yet so distant. Coming back, I did not read the synopsis or research anything before diving into it - and that was the best decision in a way. From the first sentence, first page this book had me hooked and it was not going to let me go.
Am I the only one who was thinking about Mulan during the opening scene with one of our main protagonists Tinnstra?! Because that was a painful (in a good way) and a stunning beginning as I did not know what to expect next. The change in perspectives added a lot to the story, as by the end we have been switching between 5 people’s perspectives, from good to bad to ugly. I think this was done very elegantly and efficiently, as I could hear the difference in their voices and points of view, and on top of that, the fact that they were all located relatively close to each other and occasionally we would jump around their perspectives in one chapter, seeing what what happening at the same time.
Furthermore, who doesn’t want to read a twist on the good old cliché of the good guys always winning? The enemy, the bad guys, win and therefore the chaos ensues. It was such a refreshing read in this regard. In addition, one of the points of view was from one of the main villains from the Egril side - Darus, who is just a real evil dude; plain and simple. His thoughts brought a chill to my spine and I don’t know how to feel about that. 

This story showcases really well the struggles people go through when deciding between duty, family and personal wants and needs. There is so much more to it that I don’t want to get into as it’s a beautiful and harrowing journey to experience on your own, from ancient magic to war struggles to personal growth. Definitely a recommended book for any grimdark lovers and newbies!
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Review copy provided by the publisher—Gollancz—in exchange for an honest review.

4.5/5 stars

So much bloodshed and actions, Shackle’s debut is fast-paced, grim, and unputdownable.

I’m very eager to recommend this debut to readers of The First Law World series by Joe Abercrombie and War for the Rose Throne series by Peter McLean. We Are the Dead is the first book in The Last War series by Mike Shackle, and it leans towards the grimdark sub-genre rather than heroic fantasy. “No More Heroes” is put at the top of the cover art, after all. I honestly thought I was super late in joining the party for this great book because it has been six months since this debut was first published, but I must say that I’m surprised that not many readers have read this yet. I hope more readers will give this book a go.

“The Shulka. The best of the best, experts in all the martial arts. Each and every one of them taught to consider themselves already dead, their lives given to protect all those who lived in the blessed land of Jia from any and all threat. This core belief gave the Shulka their strength. A Man who is already dead has no fear and can act without hesitation to vanquish even the most fearsome foe. For all the good it had done them when the Egril had invaded.”

We Are the Dead tells a war story about an invasion. The Egril invades the land of Jia based on the differences in faith; they kill, pillage, rape—no explicit scenes—and dominate the people of Jia and the Shulka because they want them to submit to their religion. As you can probably guess, this novel isn’t for the faint of heart. Bad things happen to everyone; the weak suffer most, and graphic violence does exist in the narrative. The structure of the plot is slightly reminiscent to The Heroes by Abercrombie. In The Heroes, the entire story of the book depicted three days of war and what happened—mentally and physically—to the people who participated in it. We Are the Dead took a similar approach; the main story revolves around what occurred within eight days of rebellion. There was simply no lull moment in We Are the Dead. I picked this up based on impulse—Gollancz or the author didn’t ask for a review from me last year—only because the book is suddenly available to request again on Netgalley and so I requested it; I knew nothing about it, and I didn’t expect I would be this enthralled by it. It’s violent, vicious, and action-packed without sacrificing crucial characterizations.

“There are bad people in the world who will always find an excuse to justify what they do. They’ll blame anyone and hate everyone who isn’t on their side. It’s not your fault they’re like that. It’s just how they are.”

A LOT of life-changing events could happen within eight days of rebellion, and Shackle showcases this through the perspectives of five flawed and believable characters. Do not expect to fall in love with these characters from the get-go; be patient, there’s a curve to their character development, and it’s rewarding to witness. I mean it, the perspective characters—especially Tinnstra and Dren—in the first half was practically unlikable; Tinnstra was an utter coward, and Dren was a self-righteous rampaging boy who I wanted to kill for the entirety of the first half. War, atrocities, and countless deaths have transformed these people into characters that may be realistic, but unlikeable and infuriating at times to read. I was able to, however, understand why the characters behaved like that, especially in the awful situation they’re stuck with; Shackle did a great job with their characterizations and their development, and that was enough for their narrative to hook me completely. Instantaneous lovable characters aren’t a required factor in my reading; compelling characters that make me want to invest my time for them, however, are, and Shackle nailed this. From disliking Tinnstra’s cowardice and Dren’s destructive behavior, I grew to find myself rooting for them as they gradually developed throughout the book. Seriously, you know the character’s lives are so damn pitiful that when they lose a loaf of bread, you feel freaking sad for them.

Also, for reasons I can’t explain, Tinnstra and the world of this series reminded me of this gorgeous artwork by Guweiz.

Picture: War by Guweiz


I do think that if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced and brutal fantasy, you can’t go wrong with picking We Are the Dead. I was totally in the mood for this kind of reading experience, and this novel delivered on all fronts. The writing is accessible and extremely engaging, the balance between moments of respite and blood-soaked action scenes was done brilliantly; almost every chapter ended on a cliffhanger that compelled me to keep on reading. One of my favorite aspect of this book was Shackle’s way of handling the swordfights; the slow-motion effects perceived by one of the main characters—often followed through by a deadly counter-attack—gave a sense of cinematic visual in my imagination, and I sincerely wish there will be more of it to come in the sequels. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the Japanese and Eastern influences in the world-building; the terminologies and weaponry found in this book such as the Shulka sword (Katana), the Skulls armor (samurai armor), Mizu (water in Japanese), Kage (shadow in Japanese), and Owari (the end in Japanese) were some extra elements that made me enjoy reading the book further. Plus, the existence of monsters, demons, and destructive magic power increased the level of dangers that the main characters faced.

“We are the dead who stand in the light. We are the dead who face the night. We are the dead whom evil fears. We are the Shulka and we are the dead.” Words she knew but had never understood, never spoken. She’d never known the power in them.”

I flew through this book within two days, that’s how much I enjoyed it. We Are the Dead is a vastly addictive and riveting debut novel. Bloody, gritty, and relentless; I’m sure that enthusiasts of The First Law World series by Joe Abercrombie and War for the Rose Throne series by Peter McLean will have a great time reading this one. Sometimes in real life, no heroes will come to save you; everyone has to stand up for themselves. Shackle tells a merciless and incredibly good story about the mayhem of war, resilience towards oppression, survival of the fittest, fear of death, and bravery to protect what matters. I didn’t anticipate this, but now I highly HIGHLY look forward to reading the next book—titled as A Fool’s Hope—in the series due for publication the last quarter of this year.

“You’re writing a new chapter now. The past doesn’t matter. It’s what you do now that counts.”

You can order the book from: Amazon UK | Amazon US | Book Depository (Free shipping)

You can find this and the rest of my reviews at Novel Notions
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I loved this book and found it engrossing and entertaining.
The plot is well developed and never bores, the character development and the world building are amazing.
I loved every moment of it and couldn't put it down.
I look forward to reading other books by this author.
Highly recommended!
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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The premise of this novel is what drew me in, expecting an underdog story of guerrilla warfare; the unwavering Shulka Warriors in the shadows, taking back what’s theirs. But Shackle is relentless in establishing just how dire things have become for the world the characters find themselves in. It’s a story of one step forward, and losing the leg. 

I was blown away with Shackle’s ability to keep emotional and diverse narratives, whilst giving no leeway in their trudging-uphill battle against the enemy Egril forces. From Tinnstra’s forefront battle against her own fears and realised cowardice, to Dren’s wildcat rage and mercilessness against those who stole the life he should have had. Each chapter and character refreshed my reading experience, and kept me going.

The fantastical in the novel is a rare commodity for the protagonists use, whilst they fight against demonic beasts in the sky, and the sinister array of abilities owned by The Chosen. Whenever momentum finally builds, you feel hope and excitement build against your own better judgement, lest you see it crushed beneath their dominating power. Even a walk in the street is made to feel sinister and dangerous.

This was a great novel, and I highly recommend it for those in need of a palate cleanser for stories of rebellion and revolution, as it is so much more. 

I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy in return for a review.
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At the minute I have temporarily dnf'd this book at 35%.

At first I loved the book but then more people were added and I struggled to remember who was who and found myself not wanting to pick this up because I was struggling to follow it. 

After over a month of not picking this back up, I can't remember the story and would need to start again which I do not want to do at this point. 

Hopefully I will pick it back up again in the future as this book was promising.
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I didn't know what to expect when I started We Are The Dead, but I am sure that I loved it. The rich world-building, excellent characters and tense narrative made this a thoroughly gripping read. I became fully immersed in this world, rooting for the Shulka, willing the characters on as the action heightened. It is an utterly absorbing read. Dark, violent but with ultimately human issues at its heart. Family, survival and loyalty are all in play here, and I loved it from start to finish!
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This is an great new fantasy with some really good characters. It has war and diversity and I did find that I enjoyed it. I will admit that it took me quite awhile to get into the story but as I read on, I really liked it. I enjoyed the characters and the story. There were a few things that could have been better.
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Without even reading the synopsis I was intrigued by this book as the cover art is very cool! The story itself is very engaging and the author makes the characters come to life and the reader feels empathy and angst for their development and story, there is a lot of fantasy books in the market at the minute and as a reader I sometimes get deja vu reading a book as you feel you have read this story before, this book kept me feeling intrigued and interested and would recommend without reservation
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Very detailed and graphic storyline. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and the world building surrounding the culture of the shulka. This is bound to be a hit.
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