All Sky's life, his family has been moving from place to place, never staying long enough for him to make real friends. So, his best friend is his monocle-wearing uncle Phineas, who has taught him to solve puzzles and set and elude traps, and attempted to teach him botany. He has also taught Sky more esoteric knowledge--of monsters, and how to hunt or avoid them.
Sky's parents have always insisted that monsters aren't real. Now that they are moving back to Exile, where his parents lived before he was born, Sky will discover just how real monsters are, and some secrets about himself, as well. Pity that the worst monster of all, the Arkhon, will be released on the world in just three days, unless Sky can find a way to stop it.
Return to Exile by E. J. Patten is a middle-grade fantasy novel, the first book in The Hunter Chronicles. It's filled with fantastical monsters and exciting adventure, and characters with plenty of secrets of their own. With his uncle missing, Sky must decide who to trust and solve the riddles his uncle left for him, if he's to find Phineas and prevent the Arkhon from escaping its prison.
Patten is a bit wordy, initially. The first few chapters read like he was trying a bit too hard to make an impression, rendering the first few dozen pages something of a chore. Once the story picks up, though, you'll find it hard to put the book down. There are mysteries and problems to solve right up until the end, and there's always enough going on to keep you interested.
The world of Return to Exile is very well-realized, with a variety of monsters, plants (some monstrous), and monster hunters, forming a coherent world and history. If anything, Patten has created a world that's too interesting--I found myself wishing that I could read some of the in-universe books like The Evil Echo of Solomon Rose, so as to learn more about the history of the world. Hopefully, we can look forward to more details in future entries in the series.
Return to Exile is a great middle-grade fantasy book. It goes on sale September 6, 2011 in both hardcover and electronic formats.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free advance reader's copy.
|E. J. Patten||Author|