Old review that GR deleted.
No Return is the debut novel from Zachary Jernigan and I have to say this is a difficult one to summarise my thoughts on, mainly because I enjoyed so many different elements of this fantastically layered story.
A fantasy novel with strong Sci-fi elements set on the planet Jeroun, the world building is excellent and paced well, the characters have depth and likeability, there's plenty of sectarian violence and a martial arts tournament between the two factions, sex that incidentally is quite well written but the thing that stuck with me the most is that this primarily is a story of relationships and how they develop. As the plot unravels the three main characters move through various feelings towards each other from initial dislike and wariness to a profound respect for one and outright desire for another.
The Sectarian violence and near eternal dispute is between the white suits, the followers of the god Adrash and the black suits, the followers of man who believe Adrash the enemy. Both factions meet in organized fights that usually result in death's on both sides.
Vedas Tazul is a member of the 13th order of black suits, he wears an elder cloth suit that has not been taken off in twenty years, the suit has magical properties including protection against contact or blow and healing. Vedas is chosen to represent the order of the black suits from the city Golna to fight in the tournament between the two factions at Danoor.
Berun is a constructed man of spheres and a hero of the people from the fighting tournaments, he achieved notoriety by assassinating a powerful religious figure in Nos Ulom, after escaping to Golna, where the governor's invited him to a tournament merely to aggravate those in Nos Ulom. He now lives in Butchertown above the Abbey of the 17th order, his only interest is violence and he protects the order although he has no religious affiliations. He tells the orders leader of his visions and it is arranged that he will travel with the chosen Golna champion Vedas to Danoor.
Churli Casta Jons is a tough female fighter hiding out in Basec after running up gambling debts, she is visited by her former lover and manager who puts a proposition to her. She must fight in Danoor as the prizes are considerable and anyone reaching the last eight has the option to retire. First she must meet Vedas and Berun, win their trust and act as there guide.
Their journey to Danoor is one of discovery, each character has flaws, demons and an inherent goodness in them and their interaction is a joy to read.
The second thread in the story is about the leader of the royal outbound Mages, Ebn Bon Mari and the object of Ebn's desire Pol Tanz et Som another mage with a hidden agenda, this story is equally as riveting, as their ultimate goal is to reach the God Adrash and ensure peace for the planet.
My only slight complaint was the epic build up to the tournament that seemed over in a heartbeat although there is a lot of other things happening around these events, Berun and Churls never fight, the focus is all on Vedas who has a pivotal role to play.