12 August 2013

Review: No Return

No Return
No Return by Zachary Jernigan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've more than occasionally struggled with the type of book Night Shade puts out (or, I guess I should say, put out), in that they tend to be very well-written, but with higher concepts than I prefer combined with descriptive, often flowery writing that appeals to a number of fantasy readers, but isn't always what I'm looking for.

On one hand, Zachary Jernigan's debut was getting a lot of good press and some solid reviews from bloggers I like and trust. On the other, it was another Night Shade title that came out right before things combusted. The book finally ended up in my library system, so I gave it a shot, and it was well worth the wait.

The concept is pretty high and bends the fantasy genre fairly significantly. We have a world where there's a god that many people fight over, mercenary warrior types, alchemist astronaut magicians, the whole deal. There are battles to be waged, discoveries to be made, and so on. It's very detailed and there's a lot going on for such a short book.

Why No Return works better for me on a whole than other books like it is because Jernigan hit the balance between plot and world building perfectly. There's a good deal of sex in the book, but none of it seems gratuitous and it all seems purposeful to fill the character roles that the world that's created here demands.

In a way, I kind of wish there was less plot so I could just enjoy what was going on in the setting itself. This is not to take away from the story, which has two competing plotlines that are both equally interesting. I loved the idea of mages in space, I thought the warrior battles were interesting and fun to read as well. The plot is, overall, the only place where things do get dragged down a bit, only because the language and descriptions are so detailed that it ends up with a "get on with it" quality from time to time. It wasn't nearly enough of an issue for me to throw in the towel and say "enough," but I can imagine it being a turnoff to many who may prefer the "grimdark"-style or a more straightforward narrative.

Otherwise, a great debut by an author I can't wait to read more of, in a setting I hope he doesn't leave behind. Definitely recommended for fantasy fans looking for something a little different.

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