Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Returning by Christine Hinwood

It has a been a long, long war, and the Uplanders have triumphed over the Downlanders.  Cam comes home from war missing an arm and not sure why he was spared.  Graceful Fenister was engaged to marry Cam, but now will be web to an Uplander lord.  Diido is a victim of war, even though she was on the winning side.  An unusual and thoughtful look at the aftermath of war.

I had a hard time getting in to this at first.  The Downlanders' have a stylized way of speaking that it took me a while to find the flow off, and at first I found the constant switching of point of view distracting.  I wasn't sure whose story it was, or if it was anyone's story in particular and if there was suppose to be a single storyline or many.

Once I found the rhythm I ended up enjoying it.  It was an unusual story, and I don't think this is one that's destine to be very popular.  I classified this as fantasy but there's no magic in it.  It's in an imaginary world though, so I guess that makes it a fantasy?  There really wasn't any one story, although they all connect.

If I had to pick one character to give the story to, I guess I would say it's mostly Cam's story.  Everyone else's story connects to his in some way.  Cam's life was spared by the Uplander Lord's son, and Cam is restless to figure out why, eventually leaving his home again to find out the truth.  His leaving has an affect on many people, including his little sister Pin and his friend Ban, who is secretly in love with him.

After Cam leaves, the focus of the story moves more to the Lord's son, Gyaar, who's also a very conflicted young man.  Women are shown to be pawns of war, as Graceful's father breaks her engagement to Cam (now a cripple) and then gets her engaged to Gyaar despite her protests.  I really enjoyed Graceful coming in to her own after her marriage and changing thing for the better.  The saddest story was probably Diido's who is an Uplander herself but that didn't protect her from violence from soldiers.

Some character's stories were left hanging, and the end seemed opened for more which makes me wonder if there will be another book taking place in this world.

I would definitely recommend giving this one a read, it's strangely beautiful.  I think it will be a hard sell to middle school students thought.

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