Spirits of Vengeance by Rob Hayes (The Mortal Techniques)

The third Mortal Techniques book time skips about eighty years from Pawn’s Gambit. This is the second time substantial time skip between novels and I believe the world is much stronger for it. It gives the land a chance to grow and change in the decades in between, so although we spend our time with centuries-old immortals, the environment and political landscape is given a fresh coat of paint.

Another advantage of this time skip is getting the chance to learn the fate certain characters at the end of the last book that I didn’t expect to revisit. So although these books are purported to be standalone novels, there is a payoff if read sequentially with a careful eye.

Hayes’ ability to write epic action scenes has always been one of his strongest assets, and they are relentless in this novel. Demonic yokai threatening towns and destroying schools, hunting families and shattering pasts. However, it seemed like more time was given toward developing the nuance of the yokai than the four main characters of the story. I was about 30% through the book and felt a large disconnect between all four of the main cast: the mercenary jerk who refuses to give anyone credit for helping him; a former fighter, turned-mediocre poet, that felt more a comic relief than a fleshed out character; a seemingly half-yokai who doesn’t know or say much about herself; and her caretaker, who knows a lot more, but speaks even less. It was a frustrating start.

The cast was given more room to grow throughout the story but it couldn’t quite recover from the somewhat hollow first act of the story. But make no mistake, the action in Spirits of Vengeance is like napalm in your morning coffee. Fans of Hayes’ first two Mortal Techniques will find lots to love here. And as the story progresses – his longest, yet -- the loose threads are tied together and the many questions start to become answered. But for my tastes, it took a bit too long to get there. Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing how the events in the final arc will affect the world in the M.T. volumes ahead.

7/10 Epic action sequences but thin characters combine for another exciting adventure into this fast, expanding world.

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