Book Review: You Die When You Die

You Die When You Die by Angus Watson, West of West #1


You can't change your fate - so throw yourself into battle, because you'll either win or wake up drinking mead in the halls of your ancestors. That's what Finn's tribe believe.

But when their settlement is massacred by a hostile tribe and Finn and several friends, companions and rivals make their escape across a brutal, unfamiliar landscape, Finn will fight harder than he's ever fought in his life. He wants to live - even if he only lives long enough to tell Thyri Treelegs how he feels about her.

The David Gemmell Award nominated author of Age of Iron returns with You Die When You Die - in which a mismatched group of refugees battle animals and monsters, determined assassins, depraved tribes, an unforgiving land and each other as they cross a continent to fulfil a prophecy.

Angus Watson surprised us all a few years ago with his Iron Age series. This time he is returning with a brand new series called West of West. I have to admit it though but I don't think that I have come across a title as catching as this one, You Die When You Die. A solid catchphrase that, with the promise of the in the synopsis, just had to come out great. 

The Hardworkers arrived years ago to the lands and were viewed upon as being something like blessed people by the tribes that roamed the lands. With there revered status they are given food and other necessities to live. But they are confined to the few miles where they came to land. 
Meet Finnbogi the Boggy. A young man from the Hardwork town. Finn is just finding out about himself. What it is to be a man and more importantly what it is to go outside the region. After this short introduction, the focus is put on the a more dire happening. The Empress of the Calnian empire has a vision that says that the people from Hardwork are bound to ruin the world. And for her there is only one solution. Wipe out the Hardworkers to prevent the vision from happening. The Calnian empire has a special warrior squad called Owsla, enhanced with magical powers (enhanced physical strength, agility, hearing etc.) Nothing can stop them. Unknown to they upcoming attack the Hardworkers casually continue with their lives right until the attack when only a handful of Hardworkers manages to escape with their lives intact. And thus begins the story for among others Finnbogi the Boggy for finding out what hit them and why. On a side note, some of the Hardworkers were hearing hints on where to go. "The Meadows". 

Along their trek west in unknown territory Finn and his party of fellow Hardworkers and an Hardworker outcast they face their own perils. The kill order from the mighty Calnian empire has found its way to the tribes and with their allegiance to the Calnians, the tribes also are set on killing the Hardworkers. The question remains if they will ever make it safely to the west. Since the mighty Owsla and their warlock can watch their every single move...

If you look at the world in which You Die When You Die is set, you directly notice that it is alive and vibrant. I do have to admit that I had to get a bit used to the double names of the characters like Finnbogi the Boggy of Keef the Berserker and Wolf the Fat. There is a specific emphasis on the last part of the name, with saying that it is either a vice or a virtue of said person. As you see the party making their way to the west you see the landscape and the people changing for the better. Nicely layered. In particular I also liked the flashing back and forwards to different persons in the story. First focusing on the Hardworkers and they casually going to the storyline of the Calnians and the pursuit done by the Owsla. There aren't that many places visited in this story as the focus is more on the people itself, this switch around to different perspectives gave a good overall flow and dynamic to the story. 

The characters of the You Die When You Die are quite a bunch. There are a lot of characters that you get introduced to. The character that stands out the most if Finnbogi the Boggy, a shy guy who is trying to find his place in the world, he is a bit of a dreamer but knows when to be realistic though. In the beginning he doesn't really strike you as a strong person, but right after he has to flee for the Owsla there is a nice change in his actions. he is growing up and getting into a phase where he wants to proof himself to his peers. I liked his interaction with Erik the Angry and how he wanted to proof himself towards Keef the Berserker. The other characters that really make an impact in this story are the Owsla, led by Sofi the Tornado, these battle hardened warriors are though and (supernaturally)powerful. The interaction between several of the Owsla worked out nice to put you on your edge that nothing is what it seems. 

When I first read about the Owsla I did got my reservations about their immense power and how it was balanced, I think this is important in such stories, no one can be unbeatable. When the little warlock of the party made a small revelation about their powers I got a big smile on my face. Its a pretty cool concept. Good to see the power balance. 

The writing of Angus Watson is spot on, their are plenty of jokes throughout the story that will make you laugh out loud. Do be warned though, swearing is also involved. 

Once again Angus Watson has created a solid start of what will be a strong series. 


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