The Returning – Rachelle Dekker

The Returning Rachelle Dekker
The Returning by Rachelle Dekker
Series: Seer #3
Published by Tyndale on January 17, 2017
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Suspense, Speculative
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four-stars

Twenty years have passed since Carrington and Remko Brant's baby, Elise, was kidnapped and they were forced to leave her captive in the Authority City. Though they fled with the Seers far from Authority reach, they've never given up hope of rescuing their daughter from the man who betrayed them. Now Authority President, he's ushered the city into a new era of "peace"--one where the Scientist Roth Reynard's Genesis Serum has eradicated all memory of emotion or rebellion.But the mysterious Aaron and his Seers are once again on the move, threatening the illusion the Authority has worked so hard to build. As the Seers send seven chosen warriors to rescue Elise and bring restoration to the Authority City, the lines are drawn for a final battle between light and darkness. The key to ultimate victory may rest within the strangely powerful girl who has felt forgotten but was never abandoned--a truth she'll need to wage war against the powerful forces of evil.

Warning: Contains spoilers for The Choosing and The Calling.

For twenty years, Elise Brant has been a captive in Authority City, abandoned by her parents, subject to experimentation, unusual because the Genesis Serum doesn’t affect her. She knows that she is seen as a threat, or as a curiosity, but the very fact her whole existence has been like this means she doesn’t truly understand how different her life has been.

The Returning picks up twenty years after the closing pages of The Calling. Carrington and Remko have fled Authority City, leaving their daughter behind, having only the hope from Aaron that their Father will protect her. And then twenty years pass.

Let’s stop for a moment.

This is the hardest part of the book for me, both in terms of plot and story. Emotionally—as a parent—I can’t fathom leaving my child in captivity for twenty minutes, let alone twenty years. And yet this is rather glossed over. It’s just accepted as fact and as trusting Aaron. Remko does make mention of several times he went to mount a rescue, only to be stopped by Aaron, but we are told that, not shown it. Dekker skates over the agony of twenty years and never really justifies it.

There’s such a vitriolic reaction in me to this that I have a hard time seeing Aaron as the good guy. Dekker paints an extreme circumstance and then just asks me to accept it. The Choosing (book 1) really dove in and dealt with all of these emotions of identity and acceptance. The Returning just glosses over that emotional trauma—in Elise, in Carrington, and especially in Remko.

From strictly a writing standpoint, it’s hard to introduce a novel that is just “X years later.” Inevitably, readers are going to want to know how one thing led to another. While Dekker did a great job of subtly setting this plotline up in The Calling, the sudden twenty year jump still makes it seem abrupt. Readers are left feeling like they missed something.

The Returning turns to Elise as its main character, keeping the hook of each novel in the Seer series having a different protagonist. As a standalone novel, this would have worked better, but because we know Carrington and Remko, we’re left feeling like we’re missing out on their story.

The Returning is about the rescue of Elise and the redemption of Authority City. In the twenty years, those running Authority City have determined a way to remove human emotion. Individuals dosed with the Genesis Serum become compliant, obedient, and good. This is only for the lower classes, of course.

The concept is pitch-perfect and Dekker writes the story well—my only criticism is that the first two books felt more like unwanted baggage than compelling backstory. There was definitely an attempt to straddle the concept of a trilogy with the concept of standalone novels and, while Dekker hits the highlights of that strategy, she also falls prey to some of its pitfalls.

The story this book tells is absolutely incredible. The concept is strong, the execution nearly flawless. Elise is a powerful character who thematically illustrates the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and the weightiness of faith and trust. The symbolism and imagery create a compelling story that drove me onward and, yes, led me to overlook the novel’s flaws—which are only its attempts at connecting to the previous books.

I wish Dekker had written this as a standalone novel or better integrated this story into her Seer world. I never felt like there was a wasted page and I was left wanting more. The story wraps up a little too nicely and neatly, a little too cleanly and easily. Dekker could have gone deeper. But still this is a solid offering.

I was enamored with The Choosing. Unfortunately, while the other two novels in the series were solid, they never quite hit that initial hype for me. Dekker is establishing herself as a writer to watch out for, honing her craft, and slowly building her expertise. I look forward to what she has in store for the future.

four-stars

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