About the Book
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.
This book was provided for my review by the author.
No matter what you think of Night Shade Books, they have a long running record of releasing edgy, daring and bold books that end up being a huge success. Night Shade Books has become a cutting edge publishing house with a reputation to match. Nothing they release is typical, and that’s probably the reason why I have a standing policy to read every book that a Night Shade author approaches me with. I can always expect something bold and different. When you read 100-150 books a year, bold and different is very, very important.
No Return is the kind of book that does Night Shade proud. Jernigan has created something quite unique here. It’s not quite fantasy, not quite SciFi, but full of enough grit, sex and cold reality to catch anyone’s attention. However, despite all the in-your-face action, Jernigan is playing with some more subtle, deeper themes. No Return is a book of layers. There’s a lot of fun and a breakneck plot on the surface, but under all the pomp and circumstance is a tale about relationships, identity, and religion. If that’s not enough, Jernigan even toys with sexuality a bit in No Return. Really, there’s something for everyone.
Books that tell stories on multiple levels are the books I tend to enjoy most. On the surface, this is a tale of a few mismatched, headstrong and goal oriented individuals, all vastly unique in their own ways, all working toward their own objectives. There’s plenty of action, plenty of progression and exploration of individuals and their relationships. Nothing is sedentary in Jernigan’s book. Instead, everything is moving – moving forward, moving into orbit, moving across countries, moving on an inner journey, moving in dreams… It’s a constant, and the plot matches that with an energy that’s quite shocking. Jernigan drops the reader into a world that’s in flux and the reader automatically gets pulled along.
There is no slow world building at the start with a wonderful plot at the halfway point. Jernigan builds his world, cultures and peoples as he goes. With a plot as quick moving as this one, you might miss some details that could be important later. There could also be moments with some incredibly unique species where you aren’t quite certain what’s going on, but the plot will carry you along anyway, and time tends to clear up any confusion nicely.
No Return is a hybrid SciFi/Fantay. Books that straddle those two genres are rare, and rarer still is Jernigan’s world. It’s one of a kind; full of people that are just as unique as his world. It would be quite easy for Jernigan to let his world building slide a bit due to his intricate and overwhelming plot, but he doesn’t. His world is well realized and it truly shines. Jernigan focuses his time and energy where it’s important. He builds up interesting species, the likes of which you won’t see anywhere else, and really infuses them with a life of their own. I would have enjoyed a bit more history, and cultural variation to match the species variation, but these are niggling details that most readers probably won’t notice.
The characters are just as unique as the world, each shining in their own way. Perhaps what I enjoyed most was that Jernigan wasn’t afraid of showing his character’s frailties and flaws. The characters in Jernigan’s world get injured. They hurt. They fall in love. They suffer from sexual tension, just like anyone else. Jernigan really isn’t afraid to exploit any of that and work it nicely into his plot. This adds a level of realism that really surprised me in a debut work.
As I mentioned earlier, Jernigan deals with a lot of deeper themes. Issues of divinity, the nature of God and the power of prayer are introduced right in the prologue. It doesn’t take long for Jernigan to prove that he’s not too shy to throw readers into uncomfortable situations regarding violence and sexuality. While these scenes might make some readers squirm, they aren’t frivolous. It all works toward the plot, and builds up the more subtle, thought provoking themes that Jernigan is toying with. No Return is one of those rare books that is a joy to read because of the plot, but it also will leave you thinking. I tend to tip my hat at authors who aren’t afraid to make readers uncomfortable in their journey to explore these deeper themes.
That being said, Jernigan really doesn’t overwhelm his book with preaching, or deeper morals. Instead, he tells a hell of a story and weaves in some thought provoking questions as you go. It is easy to overlook these deeper themes in favor of many of the cool gadgets, situations and species that Jernigan has dreamed up, but they are definitely there if you look for them.
Jernigan has really unleashed something unique on the world with No Return. It doesn’t fit nicely into any boxes or cookie cutters. It’s quick moving, subtle yet bold, and absolutely R-Rated and raw. While there’s plenty here that might make some readers uncomfortable, I think Jernigan should take that as a compliment. It’s not often that a book is realistic and vivid enough to make readers uncomfortable. That kind of sums up No Return for me. It’s bold and vivid and it will probably make you uncomfortable, but that’s not a bad thing. Jernigan takes you on a one-of-a-kind journey and he leaves you breathless, gasping, and full of new thoughts.
Please sir, can I read another?