Title/Author: Return of the Ancients by Greig Beck
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: Feb. 2012, Momentum Australia
Blurb: Return of the Ancients – the Valkeryn Chronicles Book 1, is the first of a three part series and tells the story of a future world of great beauty and great horrors, and of two races who have fought a war for an eternity.
Arnold ‘Arn’ Singer an average teenager living in Illinois is thrown forward into this world and finds he is the last human alive. The land is populated with mysterious and bloodthirsty creatures – some want him dead, while others see him as their only hope for survival – a return of one of the mysterious and all powerful ‘Ancients.’
Arn has to survive in a hostile world and save his new friends, and also try and unravel the mystery of the disappearance of the human race. While the two mighty kingdoms prepare for a final war, Arn must make a fateful decision. It is an epic tale of love, betrayal and war in a world both familiar and terrifying.
I usually discuss what I liked before getting critical, but this review will make more sense if I discuss what I didn’t like first.
What I Didn’t Like: The voice. This was a big problem for me. The protagonist, Arn, is 17 and an apparent high school student meaning the book is aimed at a YA audience, however, I felt the voice was targetted at much younger readers. Arn behaved more like a 13/14 year old than a 17 year old. Given the lifestyles perpetuated by YA TV series and much of the YA literature, I expect a lot more sophistication and introspection from a 17yr old character. The character interactions and even the world building, as well as the tone of dialogue, seemed better suited to a middle grade novel than the upper YA bracket. The omniscient POV is also far more common in MG than YA. So, given that I feel this book would be better suited to the middle grade audience (it would only require changing the main character’s age from 17 to 14), I’ll discuss what I liked as if this were a MG read.
What I Liked: The MC, Arnold Singer, is Native American. I liked this as this ethnicity is rarely seen in more contemporary-fantasy cross overs. I would’ve liked to have seen his Native American culture and ancestry being more involved in the story but that’s just me and my preference for all things Native American.
The world is imaginative. The author manages to blend science and fantasy here in a way that again I think is better suited to MG than YA. I enjoyed the nod towards CERN and the Large Hadron Collider, and the use of a particle reactor to transport Arn to the parallel world.
The parallel world itself had some interesting creatures such as carnivorous butterflies, wolf-men hybrids and other nasty beasties coughed up from Norse mythology. Again, I would’ve liked more insight into the religion here and why Odin and his gang were preferred more than any other ancient religion. I would’ve liked a deeper explanation of their mythology in general, of which the author just seemed to skim the surface – another reason why I think this is better suited to MG readers.
The ending leaves a lot of room for a sequel, or possible series.
The YA standard is set pretty high these days in the wake of books like The Hunger Games, so my YA rating is a little low. As MG, this book gets a higher rating for its imaginative world and interplay between science and fantasy.
MG Rating: 3.5/5
YA Rating: 2/5