Can’t Wait Wednesday : Spirits of Vengeance (A Mortal Techniques novel) by Rob J Hayes

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Spirits of Vengeance (A Mortal Techniques novel) by Rob J Hayes.  I’m so excited to read this one.  I have a copy lined up and I was waiting desperately for the cover reveal – just look at it.  What a beauty:

He’ll die as many times as it takes.

The Ipian Empire was once a land that welcomed dragons and spirits alike, but a century of war and bloodshed saw them all but vanish. Now, the lost things are returning and the Onryo have gathered. Five legendary spirits with mysterious powers, bent on freeing an ancient evil that would wreak havoc on humanity.

Haruto swore his soul to the God of Death for the chance to hunt down the vengeful ghost of his wife. Now an onmyoji, he’s tasked by the Imperial Throne to hunt down monsters and malicious spirits. But he knows not all spirits are evil and not all deserve the peace of the sword.

Kira is a student at Heiwa, an academy for children with dangerous techniques. But she has a secret, she’s not like the other students. When the school is attacked, she flees with one of the tutors, determined to hide both from those who would kill her, and those who would use her.

As a plague of spirits sweeps across the land, the Onryo leave a bloody trail for Haruto to follow. But who’s hunting who?

The Mortal Techniques novels are a series of stand-alone stories that can be read entirely independently, set in the award-winning Mortal Techniques universe.

Expected publication : September 2021

So, because I’m super helpful, because I love good cover art, because a thing of beauty is a joy for ever and simply just because I can – here are all three covers, posted here for your edification and delight – be warned, you may want to sit down as glimpsing all three together is simply overwhelming and might knock you off your feet:


Pawn’s Gambit (A Mortal Techniques novel) by Rob J Hayes #PawnsGambit #MortalTechniques

Today I’m very happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Pawn’s Gambit by Rob J Hayes.  I’ve listed lots of information below so please check out the other blogs taking part and take a chance to look at the author bio.


Pawn'sPawn’s Gambit is the second book in Rob Hayes’ Mortal Techniques series and it’s impressive. This isn’t my first book by this author and it certainly won’t be my last but what it shows beyond any doubt is that Hayes has some writing chops and he seems (unbelievably) to improve with each successive novel.

Never Die and Pawn’s Gambit are set in the same world but are two horses of a very different nature, although, they share a common thread.  That of heros.  I think I can confidently say that you could read this book as a standalone although I think personally it makes sense to start with the first.  There are small references in here that readers of Never Die will enjoy but at the same time I have the feeling that the author is really going somewhere with this series.  Like, yeah, you can read them alone, but also they’re going to collectively build into something fantastic.

So, Pawn’s Gambit is set in the same fantastic world as Never Dies but a few years down the line.  We meet up with our central protagonist Yuu.  Yuu is at a low point in her life.  She has massive guilt for things that happened in her past and usually loses herself in a bottle by midday each day, although she’s still sharp enough to regularly beat anyone who wants to stand against her at chess.  Each day is much the same as the last until one day a new pretender sits opposite, a young girl called Natsuko who turns Yuu’s world on its head again, and in using that phrase ‘turn on it’s head’ I’m also picturing one of those hourglass devices – because, put bluntly, the time is ticking.

Let’s go back to the beginning.  Imagine, if you will, a pantheon of the Gods. The ruler of the Gods is currently the God of War, and you might be able to imagine the bloodshed he has wreaked upon his mortal worshippers during his time on the seat of power.  But now, his fellow Gods have the opportunity to challenge him. Each may seek a champion who will, on the mortal world, seek relics on behalf of the God which they serve.  The idea is that eventually a challenge will occur and perhaps a new God will sit upon the throne – one that doesn’t harvest lives but instead creates harmony? Maybe yes, maybe no – at the end of the day all the Gods have their own agenda.  Let the games begin.

At its heart Pawn’s Gambit is a quest,  All the champions are racing the clock to find the most relics and each is assisted by the God they’ve signed up with.  Now, this isn’t the quick, all swords blazing thrill ride that Never Ride was.  This is more a story of redemption and, whilst it’s not a slow burn, it certainly provides some character development that is impressive.

So, Yuu is a strategist.  In a former life she was known as the Art of War although that is both a mask and a moniker that she left behind long ago.  Natsuko is a God.  The God of lost or forgotten things in fact.  Sometimes a young girl, sometimes a crone.  In spite of mutual distrust the two strike a deal.

Look, I’m basically not going to talk about the plot.  It’s good.  That’s all you need to know.  Trust me on this if you please.

The Writing.  Well, I just think Hayes gets better and better – the crazy thing is, I loved both of his books that I already read and so I can understand you might be thinking how reliable is this woman – how can things keep improving if they were already so good.  Look, I’m not here to explain the laws of the universe but I can tell you that this author reinvents and improves himself on a continual basis and it’s fascinating and compelling.  This is a book set in the same world as Never Dies, it has little shout outs which are great if you read the first book, but at the same time not necessary if you haven’t, but it has a totally different style and feel.  The first is all fighting, furious paced and something of a thrill ride.  The second is a game of strategy, with some incredibly thrilling individual set pieces that are both unique and gripping.

But, the best part of Pawn’s Gambit.  Well, I say the best part but always bear in mind that I’m a sucker for the long game which is definitely a factor here, is the characters.  The potential that is explored and the variety.  Hayes seems to be a master of gathering together the most unlikely contingent of characters and making them gel together in a way you couldn’t conceive and then making them into something more.

Anyway, at this moment, apart from the fact that I clearly loved this book I’m struggling to decide which I like more.  At the end of the day I don’t think one is better than the other.  These are two entirely different beasts.  both full of captivating scenes, shocks and heart.  One fast paced and furious. The other a mind game that, don’t get me wrong has plenty of action,  but that builds to a grand finale of brains against brawn.

Seriously, people, read Hayes. That is all.

My rating – 5 of 5 stars

Blog Tour:

  1. Novel Notions – review 
  2. Grimmedian – review
  3. Out of this World sff  reviews – review
  4. The Book Prescription – review
  5. Realms of My MInd
  6. Maxine’s Obsessions
  7. Grimdark Magazine
  8. Fantasy Book Critic

Official release date: 26th January 2021

Author info:

Twitter : RoboftheHayes

Winner of Mark Lawrence’s 3rd Self Published Fantasy Blog Off (SPFBO) with Where Loyalties Lie

Rob J. Hayes was born somewhere south of the cockney wastelands in a small town called Basingstoke. He grew up with all the usual boy toys including Lego, Star Wars figures (complete with working lightsaber action) and plenty of Transformers. Playing with these toys inspired his imagination and as soon as he was old enough he started playing with swords… OK, wooden sticks.

At the age of fourteen he started writing but, like most fourteen year old boys, everything had to be either a vampire, a werewolf, or have superpowers. Thankfully, like most fourteen year old boys, he eventually grew up… a bit.

After four years at University studying Zoology and three years working for a string of high street banks as a desk jockey/keyboard monkey, Rob ran away to live on a desert island in Fiji for three months. It was there he re-discovered his love of writing and, more specifically, of writing fantasy.

When he’s not madly scribbling his next epic, Rob has a variety of hobbies that, unsurprisingly, are fantasy themed. He regularly plays card games based on the A Game of Thrones and the Netrunner universes and attends tournaments throughout the UK. Rob also enjoys Airsofting: the act of running around a forest with fake guns shooting (being shot by) his friends.

Self Published Spotlight

Today’s post is all about spreading the love for self published fantasy books. I have some fantastic books just waiting to be read and so I thought I’d share them with you. Take a look at these beauties:

Firstly, two books from author Phil Williams. I read Under Ordshaw as part of the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off competition. Under Ordshaw is such a fresh take on urban fantasy. Here is a city that looks, on the face of it, like any other and yet below the streets is a warren of tunnels just crawling with supernatural creatures. The world building is just great but, without doubt, the characters steal the show.

Now, I confess that I’ve been a little tardy keeping up with the series but I can say that this is not a reflection of my enjoyment, more a simple fact that time is sometimes in short supply and I can be a little over enthusiastic (aka as book greedy) when it comes to the number of books that I think I can read during the course of any given month. But, in the next few weeks I’m hoping to continue with the second book in the Under Ordshaw series – Blue Angel and I’m also really excited to have an advanced copy of Phil’s latest book Kept From Cages.

Kept From Cages is the first part in a new story arc in the Ordshaw world (with all new characters), and is more of a fast-paced supernatural action-thriller. It follows a gang of criminal jazz musicians who stumble upon a red-eyed child tied to a chair. While they’re thrown into a madcap chase across the Deep South, an international agent investigating the massacre of an Arctic fishing village follows a trail into the heart of the Congo, with an erratic female assassin in tow. The parallel stories converge amid corporate conspiracy, mutant animals and a cult of sword-wielding murderers. Seriously – doesn’t this sound pretty amazing? I think so.


Secondly a book that I promised myself I’d read much sooner (*headdesk*) but – well, you know what ‘they’ say about the best laid plans (a phrase that might have been coined with me in mind). Legends of the Exiles (Perilisc) by Jesse Teller. Legends of the Exiles is a book with four intertwining novellas – here’s a taster of the description over on Goodreads:

The isolated barbarians of Neather have deep ancestry and strict traditions. Four resilient women defy tribal customs as they fight to overcome their own tragedies. Abuse. Addiction. Assault. Grief. What struggles can they endure to defend their hopes and their hearts?

And here is the gorgeous cover:


Yes, I’m hoping to pick this one up soon.


My third choice is the second in a series known as the Woern Saga. A Wizard’s Sacrifice by A.M. Justice. I would point out that although this is the second in a series it can also be read without having read A Wizard’s Forge.

‘A gripping tale of wizardry, warfare, and moral dilemmas unspools in a breathtaking blend of fantasy and science fiction.

And, another stunning cover:



So my next book is literally staring me in the face in the most guilt inducing fashion possible. This is an author that I really like. And I actually went out of my way to request a copy of this book – and yet I still haven’t read it. Sometimes I just can’t believe myself. *hangs head dejectedly*. I can only try and do better. Enough about my guilt. This book sounds like something I will just love. I’m expecting it to be dark and a bit brutal.

No one escapes the Pit.

At just fifteen Eskara Helsene fought in the greatest war mankind has ever known. Fought and lost. There is only one place her enemies would send a Sourcerer as powerful as her, the Pit, a prison sunk so deep into the earth the sun is a distant memory. Now she finds herself stripped of her magic; a young girl surrounded by thieves, murderers, and worse. In order to survive she will need to find new allies, play the inmates against each other, and find a way out. Her enemies will soon find Eskara is not so easily broken.’

Also, just check out this absolutely drop dead gorgeous cover – no, I’m not fickle. Seriously I think Rob J Hayes has been blessed by the God of Great Covers.



The final book I’m highlighting today is one that I’m very excited about. Again, yes, I’m late to pick this one up – but a very good author once said to me that author’s want book reviews all year round, not just on publication day – and I confess that that little eye opener does allow me to feel slightly less guilty than I might otherwise feel. This book is the final instalment in the Paternus Trilogy by Dyrk Ashton – War of Gods. And oh my giddy aunt but this book is receiving some of the most glowing reviews ever. If I don’t manage to carve out some time for this very soon I may literally explode, and nobody wants that. Check out the description and believe me when I say if you love fantasy, then you need this series in your life.

From Africa to Asgard, to an invisible island in the Pacific and the Bone Road of a forgotten world, Fi and Zeke must come to grips with not only their newfound abilities but also who they are – and accept what they are becoming: wielders of ancient and dangerous powers, warriors, and maybe even heroes. But the end of worlds is coming, and time is short.

Titans will clash. Gods will battle. Monsters will swarm.

Can Peter and the Deva possibly defeat their age-old enemy in the face of overwhelming odds against them? There’s only one way to find out.

And, dare I say it – another incredibly winning and dramatic cover:


That’s all for me for the moment. Hopefully, I’ll be reviewing some of these in the very near future.

#SPFBO Review of Never Die by Rob J. Hayes

Posted On 22 November 2019

Filed under #SPFBO, Book Reviews
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Comments Dropped 16 responses


NeverDieNever Die is one of the titles on my list of books for the SPFBO competition and was one of the books that I decided to roll forward after having read the first 30% with the idea of reading and reviewing fully.  In this respect I have 4 more reviews to follow which I’m hoping will be in fairly quick succession followed by a post to reveal my semi finalists and the book I will be taking to stage two of the competition.  So, straight to my review of Never Die

Okay, Never Die is a story of revenge, but it’s one of the most unusual and unique revenge stories that I’ve ever encountered.  This is a story of heroes and honour, it’s packed to the rafters with action, steeped in Asian culture and folklore and delivers a fast paced tale that ends on a, well, I’m lost for words exactly how to best describe the ending, ‘it’s a little jaw dropping’ is the first thing that springs to mind.

Here we meet a young boy on a mission to bring down an Emperor.  Of course he can’t do this by himself.  He’s a young boy of eight or nine years maybe, he doesn’t have the strength, he isn’t a fighter, he doesn’t really have a plan for that matter, come to think of it he has very little, not a pot to piss in or even a pair of shoes.  But he knows his heroes and embarks on a hero recruitment drive if you will – the only slight deterrent for anybody wanting to take up a position, they have to be dead in order to do so. It’s not the best incentive to apply for the role.  As it happens the heroes have very little say in the matter, they need to die and so die they must.

Now, first things first.  I am not going to be discussing the plot at all other than the above paragraph.  This is a story that delivers a number of twists and I’d sooner leave further elaboration well alone in order to avoid spoilers.  Strangely enough, and although I obviously now know the final reveals this is a book that I would very much like to revisit.  I think it would be really interesting to see how, or if, the knowledge of the ending affects the rest of the story for me.

So, what really shone for me with Never Die.

I have to applaud Hayes’ ability to come up with such an action packed novel that plowed forward relentlessly and intensely yet at the same time invited me to get to know the characters.  How many times do you read a book where the characters suffer from the intensity of world building, or the furious nature of the adventure takes centre stage and you can’t get a feel for the place.  This really is an incredibly well rounded novel which is even more impressive when you consider it’s just shy of 300 pages.  The action is delivered at breakneck speed.  The story, in fact, opens with a battle sequence where the fighting is portrayed so well that I could see the characters playing out their deadly dances.  The characters are introduced one at a time which gives you the chance to get a feel for them without becoming overwhelmed.  And the world building – well, it’s taking place in every sentence really.  Names, places, clothing, food, back stories, they’re all related with an effortless grace that really belies the skill that it must take.

The characters are all so very different.  And they start out with no small degree of hatred for each other not to mention a good deal of competitive swaggering and banter.  Eventually though, they begin to develop bonds which I suppose gives weight to the idea that there’s nothing like a shared goal to bring people together.  They’re all masters in their own way, whether with the sword or with fighting without the use of weapons.  I’m not going to try to describe all the different techniques, frankly I’d just make an absolute mess of it.  Just lets say they’re all masters in their given fields and leave well enough alone.  They all have some pretty cool names and some of their abilities make for great reading during the throes of battle – I’m definitely looking at Emerald Wind right now!

In terms of criticisms.  Well, this is a conundrum because I did have a couple of little issues as the story progressed, but, the ending kind of answered my qualms and it’s really difficult to discuss what they were because, obviously I’m being all secretive. I will say that I did guess one of the twists part way through the story.  I actually have no idea how because I wasn’t reading the book at the time, in fact I was doing something a bit brain numbingly mundane when suddenly a light bulb went on in my head in a most unexpected and comic book style fashion.  I wasn’t aware I’d even be thinking of the book but there you go.  So, yes, I had my little ‘ah-ha’ moment and of course I was feeling quite smug and also not a little bit disappointed (like, if this is what the ending is all about then really….) but, of course there’s a but, yes, I had guessed what I will call one third of the twists – but (again with the buts) it was only the smallest element of the twist in the tale and the other two revelations – well, hot damn – and that’s why I need to do a reread.

I guess this leaves me with only one downside, or maybe two.  This was shorter than I would have liked (even though it does have a certain epicyness to it – that is a word, I’ve seen it on the internet so it must be true) and it’s a standalone.  In a world where series of books can sometimes reach double digits I guess I should be applauding a standalone – but, please sir, I would like more.

Oh, and I suppose I forgot to mention all the fantasy elements, ghosts, and monsters and the like, but – go and pick up a copy and discover them for yourself.

I received a copy courtesy of the author, for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.


Where Loyalties Lie (Best Laid Plans #1) by Rob J. Hayes

whereloyalties lieWhere Loyalties Lie is a winning combination of pirates and grimdark that isn’t for the faint hearted.  No Disney style pirates here but plenty of raucous banter and bloodshed on the open seas.

As the story begins we make the acquaintance of Captain Drake Morass.  He’s just made port at one of a number of pirate islands and he has a dark tale.  It seems like the Five Kingdoms and Sarth are joining together in a bid to clean up the waters and they’re not taking prisoners.  They’re destroying pirate townships, literally killing everyone and burning the place to the ground – and these are the good guys – so that might help to shed a little light on what you can expect from the rest of this book.

Basically, if the pirates are going to survive they need to wise up, pool resources and stand united under one leader and Captain Morass figures himself to be just the man for the job.  Of course, being a lying, cheating, murdering, swindler and double crossing no good son of a so and so (characteristics which I might add are running amok amongst most of the pirates) most of his fellow pirates are reluctant to believe his story and smell a rat.  What Captain Morass needs is an ally and he has the very fellow in mind, in fact he’s been told unequivocally that Kellin Stillwater is just the man to get the ball rolling. Now, there’s more to the plot than I’m outlining here – there are twists aplenty, what with pirates trying to outdo each other and all but I think that probably gives a fairly good flavour to whet your appetite.

So, lets get to the world building.  To be clear from the start this story takes place very much on the high seas.  Yes, I hear you – it’s a pirate story – but, really, seriously, the majority of the action takes place off terra firma so if you don’t have your sea legs you might like to take that into account.  I just loved it to be honest.  There’s such a lot of creativity going on here ranging from tempestuous sea Gods that might just kill a whole bunch of superstitious pirates on a whim, Islands with monsters living beneath the sand and tropical forests that just might lull you to sleep so that insects can slowly eat you.  On top of that there’s magic, wielded by Arbiters and the like who hunt witches and burn them at the stake.  There’s plenty going on here and no shortage of things to entertain.

The characters are up for scrutiny next.  What to say really.  They’re not a nice bunch in fact I spent a good part of the build up really puzzled about whether or not to like any of them – until they began to work their magic and win me over, some of them at least.  The main characters are Keelin, Drake, Tanner Black, his daughter Elaina Black and an arbiter named Beck.  For the most part the POVs switch between the occupants of the different ships which is a great way of varying the landscape and giving us a different perspective on things as they develop.  I admit I’m impressed with the way the characters are built up.  They slowly reveal little bits about themselves and there are a good deal of skeletons in closets.  The whole lot of them are firmly in the area of grey – apart from Tanner Black who is literally a downright nasty piece of work and deserves his terrible reputation.  But, two things that are worthy of mention.  Firstly, grimdark really lends itself to the area of pirating.  Let’s be honest now, these are people who, no matter how charismatic or charming they might appear, kill and rob on the high seas.  The majority of them have little compunction about murdering a crew or torturing someone for information, they’re not nice people.  That being said there is a certain camaraderie that eventually makes you view them slightly differently..  They begin to understand the predicament they’re in and just how desperate things are and they begin to pull together in real underdog style.

The writing here is really good, the dialogue is sharp, the pacing is fast, there is never a lull in momentum and the writing manages to show the restraint necessary to keep a good balance between action and intrigue.  However, I can’t stress enough that this is downright dark and brutal and I feel that I must point out that there is rape and torture amongst the bloodshed.  Now, I didn’t feel like any of the content was gratuitous, in fact I felt like it was relevant in really highlighting that these pirates are nasty and in fact some of them are downright evil.

In terms of criticisms.  I don’t really have any.  I think there was maybe a slightly slowish start but nothing that really stopped me from wanting to read on and I definitely had  moments where I felt like I might struggle to like any of the characters and I worried that might be an issue.  That didn’t turn out to be the case though.

I thoroughly enjoyed Where Loyalties Lie.  It’s dark and twisted.  It’s brutal and bloody.  It’s entertaining and creative.  It kept me hooked to the page with the intriguing plot and creative landscape.  I loved this nautical adventure and look forward to reading the next instalment.

My thanks to the author for providing a copy for review.  The above is my own opinion.


My rating for Where Loyalties Lie is 9/10 which equates to 4.5 out of 5