Review: Return of Souls by Andy Remic

Posted by DarkChaplain at 5/22/2016
If war is hell, there is no word to describe what Private Jones has been through. Forced into a conflict with an unknowable enemy, he awakes to find himself in a strange land, and is soon joined by young woman, Morana, who tends to his wounds and tells him of the battles played out in this impossible place.

She tells him of an Iron Beast that will end the Great War, and even as he vows to help her find it, enemy combatants seek them, intent on their utter annihilation.

Return of Souls is the second volume of the trilogy Andy Remic began with A Song for No Man's Land.
A Song for No Man's Land had me intrigued, but Return of Souls has me wondering. I hope things get clearer in the final novel. Either way, here's my review.

The Story:
"If war is hell, there is no word to describe what Private Jones has been through. Forced into a conflict with an unknowable enemy, he awakes to find himself in a strange land, and is soon joined by young woman, Morana, who tends to his wounds and tells him of the battles played out in this impossible place.

She tells him of an Iron Beast that will end the Great War, and even as he vows to help her find it, enemy combatants seek them, intent on their utter annihilation.
Return of Souls is the second volume of the trilogy Andy Remic began with A Song for No Man's Land."
Disclaimer
The publisher offered me an ARC of the novel. I was highly intrigued by the predecessor when I read it earlier this year, so I jumped at the opportunity.

The Review:
As with A Song for No Man's Land, Return of Souls performed the best for me when it was dealing with Robert Jones' life in the trenches of the Great War. His mental health is rapidly declining, spiralling out of control to the point where the lines between reality and hallucination, or fantasy, are blurring.

On many occassions, I found myself questioning just what was really going on. What did Jones go through, compared to what he felt and saw. And I loved that. The war has ground him down, and the loss of his friends weighs heavy on his chest. The delivery was fantastic in those early chapters, up to the second third.

And then things changed drastically. The multi-dimensional war that was hinted at in the previous installment moved onto the stage, and Jones finds himself in a different place entirely, the only familiar things being the Walriders that have haunted him all along, and the ever-present threat of war. About halfway through, Return of Souls had crossed the line from dark military fiction with a heavy psychology angle into fantasy, albeit still with a psychological angle.

When the girl Orana entered the picture and Jones quickly fell for her, things started to drag a little for me, and again I started questioning what was going on. That is a major theme of the novel, as it answers few questions while posing countless new ones. Aspects of A Song for No Man's Land that I was hoping would be elaborated on were seemingly forgotten, or at the very least left for the third novel to connect to the ongoing narrative.

One disappointment for me was that there was only one single chapter delving back into Robert's childhood, back to the sanatorium that the first book showed as more than just a little traumatic for the bloke. That chapter was very short, but to the point. It had me put the book down and update my Goodreads status with a resounding "What the ——?!". The absolute disgust and pity I felt after that chapter got to me - as it was supposed to, so Remic scores a big point here.

At the end of it all, I enjoyed the adventure with Jones and Orana, even though it left me a bit dissatisfied for answers. Thankfully, it looks like Robert is as lost as me, and all too willing to trust strangers in that strange place. I'm definitely on board to find out what is going to happen next, after some big twists in the final chapters.

If Andy Remic can manage to tie everything together and elaborate on the situation in The Iron Beast, I'll salute him. I have my ideas about what is going on already, but I clearly need the third installment to make proper sense of it. For what it is, though, Return of Souls is a solid psychological mystery that makes me yearn for more.

Return of Souls on Goodreads

About the Author

I'm known as DarkChaplain across the internet, and call myself a passionate gamer and book enthusiast. I have been blogging mostly about games for a couple of years, but finally found my way to reviewing a different medium: Books. Honestly, I prefer that job so far.
Follow Me on Twitter @TheDarkChaplain


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