Title: No Return: A Novel of Jeroun
Author: Zachary Jernigan
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication date: March 5th 2013
Buy at: BookDepository
On Jeroun, there is no question as to whether God exists—only what his intentions are.
Under the looming judgment of Adrash and his ultimate weapon—a string of spinning spheres beside the moon known as The Needle—warring factions of white and black suits prove their opposition to the orbiting god with the great fighting tournament of Danoor, on the far side of Jeroun’s only inhabitable continent.
From the Thirteenth Order of Black Suits comes Vedas, a young master of martial arts, laden with guilt over the death of one of his students. Traveling with him are Churls, a warrior woman and mercenary haunted by the ghost of her daughter, and Berun, a constructed man made of modular spheres possessed by the foul spirit of his creator. Together they must brave their own demons, as well as thieves, mages, beasts, dearth, and hardship on the perilous road to Danoor, and the bloody sectarian battle that is sure to follow.
On the other side of the world, unbeknownst to the travelers, Ebn and Pol of the Royal Outbound Mages (astronauts using Alchemical magic to achieve space flight) have formed a plan to appease Adrash and bring peace to the planet. But Ebn and Pol each have their own clandestine agendas—which may call down the wrath of the very god they hope to woo.
Who may know the mind of God? And who in their right mind would seek to defy him? Gritty, erotic, and fast-paced, author Zachary Jernigan takes you on a sensuous ride through a world at the knife-edge of salvation and destruction, in one of the year’s most exciting fantasy epics.
I’m not quite sure of what to make of this book. On the one hand, Jernigan brings something completely new to the genres of science fiction and fantasy. On the other hand, I finished the book feeling like something important was missing. So let’s split this review in two points: the good and the bad.
Let’s start with the negatives to get them out of the way. First, there were far too many info dumps for my liking. I get it, it’s a fantasy/scifi world with rules very different from your common stories, but it doesn’t erase the fact that it creates two major drawbacks: slowing down the pace of the story (which isn’t great to begin with), and taking time away from character development and world immersion. This may have been one of the reasons why I found it hard to connect to the characters. Despite the layered characterisation, I found it hard to empathise with any of them. At times, I’d be curious about one point or another, but the moment was always fleeting.
Another issue I had was that I could not always see how the different viewpoints and stories came together, or what the end goal was exactly. Often, it felt like the characters were traipsing about aimlessly, despite claiming to have this or that objective. Then, there’s the fact that this book offers quite a lot of erotica that did not seem to serve the plot. It was rather tiring to keep reading about everyone’s constant sexual desires. But it may just be that I was not expecting it to be such a huge part of the book.
However, like I said, this is not a bad book. In many ways, it is a book that deserves high praise. Why? To begin with, this is one very diverse novel. There are people of colour, homosexuals and bisexuals, single mothers, … and these are not background characters, but main ones. What’s more, there’s plenty of subversion of plot and character tropes. The author also treats the characters as human beings, with flaws, desires, and frames of mind equal to many we meet daily, despite the extremely different backgrounds.
Then, of course, there’s the fact that this is one highly creative book with very distinctive worldbuilding. Indeed, it’s difficult to pinpoint what genre it would belong to. It feels like a mixture of steampunk, fantasy, and sci-fi worlds, but, at the same time, not at all like that. In many ways, it is very refreshing.
No Return is an innovative book written by a promising writer. Although I am not certain I will read its sequel, I can honestly say this is an author to keep an eye on. Something tells me he will help revolutionise the genre(s).
The book in a quote
“Victors and dead men were separated by a blink of the eye.”