by Zachary Jernigan is a tough novel to review. It is a work that has many good things mixed with several that I personally didn't enjoy very much. Make no mistake, Zachary Jernigan is a very very skilled author and it shows early. He knows how to write beautifully. His characterization is deep and very interesting. His imagination is top-notch, full of novel ideas and aspects and feels very fresh on a field that brims with stagnancy and repetition of the same old tropes and ideas. No Return
has nothing of those! But on the other hand, I felt as if some things were maybe a bit too much, as if they were taken all the way up to eleven when I was really not completely ready for it. So, I suppose most of my critique comes from a clearly subjective point of view but I think some points are a bit more general and objective. So what are my gripes?
I think the grittiness level was a little too high for my liking. I've read a lot of gritty books but there were scenes in here (graphically containing and describing violence, sex, etc) that caught me totally unprepared and pulled me out of it.
Another thing that bothered me occasionally were some rather dry info-dump passages. I'm sure Jernigan had a huge world and history behind this novel and was feeling eager to share it with us at any opportunity but it came out rather unnaturally and not as if it was part of the story. Those info-dumps often felt as a foreign body to the rest of the text, always making me feel provoked to skip them.
Finally, I have a personal gripe with the chapter structure. I've had problems in the past with books containing multiple viewpoints but in No Return
the forced chapter order (same character viewpoint order in each part) came out too stiff and artificial.
Other than that, the plot is a bit on the slow side, without any real urgency or (sometimes) aim but it always feels multilayered and rich.
In general, I think Jernigan took a risk and made a bold move with this novel. It offers a lot of new and fresh ideas, often pushing the boundaries of what is expected and acceptable in fantasy literature today and I feel that the points I deducted from the final rating are more due to my own unpreparedness and inability to adapt to what is offered in No Return
rather than from its problems. Did I enjoy it as much as I expected? No, not really. Do I regret reading it? Of course not, as it is a unique book that is not easily categorized or reviewed. Do I recommend it? Well it depends on what you want and expect but I'd say it's definitely worth a try!
I enjoyed it for 3 stars but it's probably worth at least 4!