Esmes Indie Higlights/SPFBO: The Empire of the Dead by Phil Tucker

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This one is part of Lynn’s Book’s grouping and so far it doesn’t have any feedback yet.

The Short Pitch:

Demigods, sons and daughters of the old gods are being hunted down and sacrificed, anyone with a touch of ‘godsblood’ is in danger and needs to stay hidden.  A son of one of the characters is taken hostage during a raid, and two demigods who have been deprived of their powers since the deaths of their gods go on a suicidal rescue mission.


Archarsis is a demigod, a son of the god Ekillos who is the god of male fertility and knowledge, he’s a ladies man but has a special place in his heart for a woman named Anarra, who he hasn’t seen in 17 years.

He goes to see her after almost two decades to find she has a husband and family, and is quite settled in a smaller town living a “boring” life.

Almost the same time as he arrives, Death Wagons arrive at the small town to collect the dead and purge out evil spirits. But, there is a suspiciously timed raid leaving many of the townsfolk dead, including Anarras husband, and her son Elu has been kidnapped.

It comes out later that Elu is Archarsis’s son, and therefore has a touch of godsblood – he’s been taken to the empress’s to be sacrificed as the other godsbloods have been.

Archarsis wants to help Anarra, so they set out to form a band of people who may be powerful enough to break into the prison, and steal Elu back before he’s sacrificed.

Jerek is another demigod, and he and Archarsis don’t get along at all, they used to be friends but since Archarsis was tricked into betraying his friends, they’ve had a falling out and when Archarsis goes to get his help, Jerek would prefer to kill him rather than help him.

But, they enlist Jereks help, mostly because he’s tired of rotting at the top of a mountain not doing anything with his life, not so much to help his excommunicated friend.

The plot after that picks up some more characters, some more demigods, and there’s lots of obstacles and things getting in the way of their rescue mission.

Final Score: 8/10



  • Anarchis – he’s made mistakes in his past that haunt him and others, believing that a woman was in love with him, he played right into a trap to get all of the godsblood together in one place and most of them were slaughtered. He’s kind of worn down over the years, but still has a bit of a sense of humor. He’s definitely the more light hearted of the two demigods on this mission
  • Jerek – he’s lost a lot in his life, his love, his friends, and he’s been living on the top of a mountain for 20 years while most people think he’s dead. He’s pretty surly, kind of gruff, and an excellent fighter. He is also a demigod, the son of Alok. He’s lost most of his powers since his father was killed, but some of it still remains – which begs the question if the gods are truly dead.
  • Anarra – tough as nails ex-priestess to a dead god, she’s lost her husband and now her son is kidnapped but she’s utterly undeterred. She’s on a mission that she’ll die for and is the driving force behind this band of rebels.

There are some side characters introduced later, some more godsblood, an elderly woman named Ishi who I really liked, but those are the main characters.

Final Score: 8/10

World Building:

There are dead everywhere in this book, necromancy is commonplace and seeing hoards of dead people walk by isn’t unusual. They aren’t intelligent and generally follow simple orders.

There are 9 dead gods who were defeated by treachery, and now their sons and daughters are being hunted.

Deathless are these creepy bounty hunter/assassin type creatures that wear bone masks. It’s not clear if they are human or magically created at first, they sense the presence of godsblood in the cities across the realm and are hunting anyone with a drop of the divine for sacrifice.

Moon candles created by Ishi can protect the godsbloods aura from the Deathless, created using her hair as a wick, and being blessed by her goddess, it’s one of the few defences the group has against their enemy.

People can have personal demons that show up right as something is about to go wrong, Acharsis sees a demon who dances and mocks him right before the raid at the beginning of the book, and again right before they set out on their rescue mission – it’s always a precursor to something going disastrously wrong.

Final Score: 8/10


This was a short book and it was well paced, nothing felt like it should get cut, there weren’t any big info dumps, and there weren’t any “slogs”.

The tone was pretty creepy, but also adventurous.

10 fucks were given during this book, so I’d call it moderate cursing. There were a couple editing errors, but nothing that detracted much from the book.

Pacing Final Score: 7.5/10

Writing Final Score: 8/10


I’ve seen a lot of undead in books before, but nothing that was done quite this way.

I also don’t get a lot of demigod POV’s either.

Final Score: 8/10



  • undead hordes
  • rescue mission
  • multi pov
  • gods and demigods are real, interact with society, and can be killed
  • creepy demons
  • moderate magic
  • shorter/quick reads


Final Total Score: 47.5/60 or 7.91/10 or 4 stars on goodreads.


  1. Enjoyed the heck out of this book. The big set pieces are exciting and the author writes battles really well, and with lots of creativity. It’s a good start to the trilogy with a nice lead-in to the sequel.

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