I recently reviewed NO RETURN, the debut novel from Zachary Jernigan. The short review for those on the fence is that Zachary has thrown down his gauntlet on this Fantasy, Space Opera mashup. His characterization was exceptional, and the combination of intriguing characters and a rich setting is why I’m championing for a sequel. If you’ve read NO RETURN, read on and then share why you think he should or shouldn’t write a sequel. Due to the latest Night Shade Books legal issues, it’s important to spread the word about this book so sales help it get a chance at a sequel.
The main reason why I want to see a sequel is because I am emotionally invested in his surviving characters, and while I enjoyed the resolution to their arcs in NO RETURN, their journeys are all just beginning.
Our main character, Vedas, became likable for his honor, the slow building romance, and his many weaknesses. I like how Zachary showed us that he was honorable, through his journey to the tournament and how he sacrificed himself for his companions, and how in the end he tried to give a speech that united people against an unjust god (Adrash) instead of people who did not share the same beliefs. NO RETURN is just the beginning of the imminent war against Adrash, and no doubt against the humans who will fight in his name.
How will Vedas grow in this future war? His weaknesses included insecurity in his self, both physically and mentally. There is confidence in his fighting ability, but he’s humble. He more so just does what needs to be done, and is willing to learn and get back up when he fails (i.e. training under Churls). Zachary has set up a good character for making mistakes as a leader in the sequel’s war. I’m curious to see how Vedas evolves considering his attachment to his body suit, and if maybe he has to go without it (i.e. Iron Man 3). The ending change of him turning his back on his religion will no doubt have consequences, and I’m curious if there will be any positive views on faith. NO RETURN has a pretty black view on religion and faith, though it’s understandable since the only religion we see is one that worships a false god who has only oppressed the people. I’m curious to see if Zachary can expand on the white side of the issue of faith and religion, and if we can learn more about the eggs that were left on this planet which Adrash used to create people. This idea is one reason why I think Zachary has a potential for an epic series, even if he wraps this planet’s story up in one more book. How many other planets have these eggs, and who put them there?
Churls did not end the story the way I thought she would, though Zachary did foreshadow her demise through anger, drinking, and gambling. I was wondering how he would handle her and Vedas fighting in the same tournament, and was disappointed that she never made it, both because I wanted to see her fight, and because she was not there to root Vedas on or see his speech. She has some major redeeming to do in the sequel as far as responsibility to her potential as a fighter and mother, her self control over drinking, anger and gambling problems, and whether or not she’ll be good for Vedas or bring him down with her. One of the things I love about my wife is her strong character. She’s imperfect, sure, but I don’t have to worry about her, which helps me focus on my own problems and obtaining my goals. If Vedas has to worry about her in the sequel, will she be a hindrance to his leadership?
If all we really had to go on as far as characters to follow in the sequel, these two would be more than enough. Major props to Zachary that this duo isn’t even half of what we have to look forward to.
Churls ghost daughter, Fyra, is one of the coolest side characters I’ve read about in a while. Her ability to heal is wonderfully imaginative, and yet balanced to prevent making the heros’ struggles too easy to overcome. I’m curious about this land of the dead, about the boundaries where they can and can’t go, and how this girl is bold enough to go beyond for her mother’s sake and her companions. I’m very excited to see more of the dead in the sequel, to see the world from their viewpoint, and discover more of their powers and limitations. Since they’ve experienced the afterlife, what is their view on God/higher power(s)? I can understand if Zachary wishes to leave this area untouched. Sometimes I prefer stories not telling me their world’s truth about a Creator, especially if I hold a different view.
Berun was also fascinating in how Zachary stayed true to the construct’s non-human limitations of smell and feelings, but was curious about and offered a unique viewpoint on human interaction so that he could offer advice, develop friendships, and seek to improve his character (overcoming oppresion from his creator and control his anger… I think it was anger… so as not to become like his creator). Berun is also wearing down now, I think because of his time in the ocean, and if I remember correctly, he will no longer be able to regenerate. Even though he’s a machine, I am emotionally attached to his well-being as if he were a more than just a machanical guardian or pet.
The villains in Pol, a new god, and Adrash will offer tantilizing new displays of power, and the type of threat every epic book dreams of presenting to a band of heroes. And yet they are not unsympathetic. Whether or not they realize it, they are obsessed with power, and are alone and unhappy because of it (unsure if Pol would say he is unhappy). I look forward to seeing whether these characters redeem themselves or die in a flame of our heroes’ glory.
How about you? What are you most looking forward to in a sequel? Maybe you disagree, and think this should stay a stand alone. Tell me why.