No Return by Zachary Jernigan – Book Review [Bane of Kings]

No Return

Bane of Kings reviews Zachary Jernigan’s brilliant debut novel, No Return, published by Night Shade Books.

“An awesome novel with some great world building and some strong characters – Zachary Jernigan is an author who you want to watch out for.” ~The Founding Fields

No Return is a book that’s been on my TBR list for a while and when I got around to reading it, I was pleasantly surprised by the way that Zachary Jernigan had written this book. It’s varied, intense and very violent – Jernigan’s got the action certainly nailed in this debut. It’s got some great worldbuilding and boasts not only some cool ideas but also some very awesome characters that will keep you entertained whilst you’re reading this book. If you’re looking for a well written debut in the first half of 2013, then you can’t go far wrong with Jernigan’s No Return.

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.

So No Return, a novel that is yet again, hard to pin down into one genre – crossing between science fiction and fantasy and Jernigan has pulled off the mix in a very believable way – the sci-fi elements never feel too out of place and neither do the fantasy elements of this book. I think my favourite thing about Jernigan’s debut is probably the setting, the planet of Jeroun – one that is watched over by a god with unclear intentions for his people. The worldbuilding is immense in this book and we get a great ambitious look into what makes the world tick. Characters adapt to the setting that the world can throw at them and it doesn’t feel like a standard fantasy world at any point in the novel’s 320 pages.

No ReturnThe book itself focuses mainly on a core cast of characters – Vedas, a skilled fighter and a member of the Thirteenth Order, Churls – a Mercenary followed by the ghost of her dead daughter and Berun – the construct, boasting mighty strength but limited to performing the tasks of his creator – all have a key role to play in No Return and are another strength of the book itself. They’re three dimensional and are very enjoyable to read about. Other characters who are also present in this debut are the two mages Ebn and Pol, and are also characters that are very intriguing to read about.

Whilst this book is one of the more enjoyable ones that I’ve had the pleasure of reading so far this year, No Return does suffer from a couple of flaws. Firstly, the pacing isn’t spot on. There are some elements that I think dragged out a bit too slow when we were following Vedas, Berun and Churls’ journey across the continent to get to the celebratory games, it just seemed to take too long for my liking even if I can understand why this portion of the book is fast paced – after all, journeys take time. And the climax is also not as strong as the rest of the book was, but that barely dampened my overall enjoyment of the book and I will be sticking around to read more that Jernigan puts out when I can. This is a book that adult readers of either fantasy or science fiction should enjoy, as there are some scenes here in this book that I do not recommend for a younger audience.

VERDICT: 4/5

Milo, aka Bane of Kings, is a SFF/Comic reader, and watches a lot of TV. His favourite authors are Neil Gaiman, China Mieville, Jim Butcher, Brandon Sanderson & Iain M. Banks, whilst his favourite TV shows are Battlestar Galactica (2003), Person Of Interest, Firefly, Game of Thrones, & Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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