We Are The Dead by Mike Shackle

Series: We Are the Dead #1 Rating: 4.75/5
Date of Publishing: August 8th 2019 Genre: fantasy
Publisher: Gollancz Available: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Number of pages: 488 Author’s website: N/A

Quote of the Book

Tinnstra stood there, watching the mayhem, frozen to the spot. Smoke bellowed from a hole in the west wall of the west wing, near her room. Students and Shulka poured out of the main building, strapping on armour, putting on helmets, brandishing what weapons they had to hand. A boy, blood pouring out of a cut on his head, pointed skywards, shouted something, but it was if he spoke another language, one she didn’t understand.

Something flew high above them. A shape that flitted between smoke and shadow. It swooped down towards them. Fast, attacking. Tinnstra wanted to run but her legs wouldn’t work. Whatever the creature was, she’d never seen anything like it. It was too big to be a bird. Then she saw arms, legs, a body. A man. No. Not human. Not that. It had hooked, leathery wings that stretched six feet in either direction. Bulbous eyes, glowing red with hate and fury. Skin like armour. A demon.

And behind it… More of them. A swarm.
The demon roared. Tinnstra screamed.

*excerpt taken from book any mistakes are my own.”


The war is over. The enemy won. Now it's time to fight back.

For generations, the people of Jia - a land where magic has long since faded from the world, clinging on in only a few rare individuals - have been protected from the northern Egril hordes by their warrior caste, but their enemy has not been idle. They have rediscovered magic and use it to launch an overwhelming surprise attack. An invasion has begun.

And in moments, the war is over. Resistance is quashed. Kings and city leaders are barricaded in their homes awaiting banishment and execution, the warriors are massacred, and a helpless people submit to the brutality of Egril rule.

Jia's heroes have failed it. They are all gone. And yet... there is still hope. Soon the fate of the kingdom will fall into the hands of a schoolboy terrorist, a crippled Shulka warrior and his wheelchair bound son, a single mother desperate enough to do anything she can to protect her baby... and Tinnstra, disgraced daughter of the Shulka's greatest leader, who now lies dead by Egril hands.

A brand new epic fantasy: gritty and modern featuring a unique ensemble of characters who will lead a revolution against their overlords.

Personal notes

Copy made available by the author.

Song of the Book

Zombie by Bad Wolves

Jen’s Review

For ages, the Shulka have been the line of defense against the Egril, who in the past have been seen as barbarians. In truth the Egril have always presented themselves that way, their weapons primitive and their attacks messy affairs lacking leadership and discipline. But that all changes and very quickly when the Egril’s invade and decimate Jia’s pride, their Shulka army. And that was just the beginning…

This starts with a huge bang and doesn’t let up at all. The brisk style of the writing is packed full of information. The craftily placed tidbits work to fill in details through conversations, duties, and memories while keeping the pages turning – everything is supremely well-meshed and we just breeze through, picking up facts without even noticing we are doing so. I like this style a lot (as I am sure everyone knows by now).

The world and magic were very cool and felt like this was the tip of the iceberg with a ton of room to expand into the next book/s but the characters were the highlight for me. I love a good well-built world and neat magic but I probably am not going to care as much if I don’t have somebody to root for.

There are a few characters that we follow:

Tinnstra of clan Rizon – a proud house (and the first Shulka warriors) she has done her family a dishonour by being expelled for cowardice from the academy.

I’m always been a bit of sucker for the underdog makes good kind of character, and their journey to overcome adversity whether it’s outside, or within themselves. Tinnstra is that kind of character. She comes from a family of warriors, people willing to throw themselves in the line of fire and die trying, she just doesn’t have the courage or the heart for it herself.

Tinnstra could be really frustrating at times, because I wanted her to snap out of that paralysis, to quit mentally whining and kick some ass, but her fear also made me sympathise with her more so than if she’d been brandishing her weapon yelling “Die Bastards!”

The scene that showed her fear the best for me, was one with her cowering in terror, crying, but still too petrified to move out of dangers way – my heart went out to her in that moment, more so than any of the instances where she was remembering how she screwed up, or was berating herself for not being more courageous. I liked the slow procession her character took to find that courage and that we could see her progression.

Dren – A fisherman’s son. I think if Mike Shackle nailed anyone in characterization – it was this character, Dren, the fourteen-year-old kid who I equally wanted to hug or join Jax in his thoughts about throwing him in the sea.

I started calling him “the little asshole” in my head. Which really is quite rude of me because he is only fourteen, with a chip the size of a mountain on his shoulder and a hurt just as large in his heart. Poor kid.
He was so angry at the world for everything that had happened, and he lashed out at anything and everyone, not caring who died as long as one of them was an Egril.
I felt he was so real, and a lot of why I did get so frustrated with him was that his attitude was too close to my memory of my own child and dealing with him at that age (not that my child was out blowing shit up but let’s just say I swore off kids after that age group).

Dren has quite a journey through this book, and some of it was heart-wrenching. He was my favourite even when I wanted to slap him silly.

Yas – Works as a cleaner for the Skulls. Yas doesn’t want to be a part of anything, especially anything that’s going to call attention to her and endanger her child but she gets dragged into the revolution anyway.

Jax and Kaine – Father and son. Jax won me over for his complete love of his son and his total sense of duty to what he felt needed to be done.
And Kaine as well for his dedication. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree here, and like his dad he never gave up, despite his injuries.

Darus and Skara – The Emperors Chosen. They were in the vanguard that invaded Jia first, they’re brother and sister and I wondered if all the magic users, were as crazy as Darus.
They are really the only big magic users we see outside of the Tonin – the gateway openers who seemed quite demented as well, but not overly functional outside of their job opening the gate.
These two (Darus and Skara) were the worst kind of crazy, and that’s the functioning in a leadership position kind.

Most of our viewpoint of the Egril is through Darus and Skara or the Egril soldiers (which didn’t paint a pretty picture of them) but we also had the occasional glimpse of a more human side – a scared young soldier trying to throw up a white flag or something as innocuous as smiling and manners towards a shop employee and I appreciated these for making the enemy not just the “bad guys”.


There were moments in the story where you could see the trail, the event or the thing that had to happen to push or spur that character forward to their path. But then there were also times that the story took a total left, and I was like, What the hell just happened here? When you read a lot, those surprise moments are rare so the fact that there were a few; impressed me.


We Are the Dead is worthy of your attention. From start to finish this will keep you on the edge of your seat. This is an outstanding debut, you don’t want to miss it.


Other notes

The last third of the book was like an ocean swell of build and recede, hope would swell and success was close at hand, until finally everything surges and crashes upon the shore. Then we just wait for the water to clear and see what or if anything was left behind. So stressful.

Fast/sight reader problems – It took me a good half of the book to keep The Skulls and The Shulka separate in my head because the words are similar looking/sounding.

Zorique reads/feels a lot older than her age at times, even accounting for societal influences.

I really liked the breakup of the book into Days, for giving me a good stopping place.

A huge thank you to Mike Shackle for supplying a copy of We Are the Dead.

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