Book Review: Return by Charity Santiago

15852344Title: Return (Lady of Toryn #1)

Author: Charity Santiago

Genre: YA Fantasy

Age Group: Young Adult

Rating: 4 stars

Purchase: Goodreads, Amazon

For the last three years, eighteen-year-old Ashlyn Li has been running from her destiny. A free-spirited ninja, Ashlyn would rather loot an abandoned city or challenge a fiend to battle than assume leadership of Toryn, her father’s kingdom. However, when a series of attacks reunite Ashlyn with the friends who helped her save the sun three years ago, she discovers that her kingdom is at war and her father has presumed her dead.

Suddenly Ashlyn is faced with not only fulfilling her birthright, but also making sense of her feelings towards two very different men- Drake Lockhart, the enigmatic vampire who captured her heart three years ago, and Vargo, the charismatic assassin who was once Ashlyn’s sworn enemy.

Will Ashlyn ascend the pagoda and become Lady of Toryn?

Ashlyn Li is the heir of the kingdom of Toryn. After waging a war in which she defeated Lord Angelo, an evil dictator, she seperated from her friends and her father, the leader of Toryn, and began travelling all across the country. When she returns to her half-sister’s tavern, she meets all her old friends again. They gathered there because they wanted to come up with a plan to fight against Devlyn. Devlyn is the adoptive son of Ashlyn’s father, the one he crowned rule of Toryn after Ashlyn’s disappearance. Ashlyn comes up with a plan to duel Devlyn – according to custom, the one who wins the duel will become ruler of Toryn. Since Ashlyn is the oldest heir, it’s her right to challenge him. The only question is if Devlyn will allow her to live long enough to challenge him.

The story features a wide cast of characters, which was a bit confusing at times. There were so many characters to keep track of that I mixed them up every now and then. If they had been more defined, more different from each other, it would’ve been easier to keep track of who was who. Also, some of the names were a bit similar. Ashlyn has a half-syster named Restlyn for example, and then there’s also the bad guy in the story, Devlyn. Since the characters had no clear characteristics, especially at the beginning, it was hard to keep them apart.

We also meet Ashlyn’s love interests early on. One of them is Drake, a cold and distant vampire who may not be so cold after all. I actually kind of liked Drake. The things he said came natural to him. He has this natural vampire air that makes him strong and powerful, even if he’s not doing anything. He’s actually a good match for Ashlyn. Then there’s the other love interest, Vargo. I had more trouble with him. He’s a Spartan soldier, and I’m not sure what that means – an elite soldier? An excellent fighter? Or is it just a name? Anyway, Vargo is a little odd, and I didn’t like him at all. He’s the kind of guy who says things like “hey, beautiful” to greet Ashlyn. Uhm, yeah, not my style. Disliked him from the start, and my feelings toward him never grew any warmer, so I was team Drake from the start.

There’s a lot of background story between the characters. I felt that from the moment I was introduced to them, and I was glad it was explained slowly throughout the book. There’s never a large info-drop though, which was good. Nothing happened that slowed the story down. The story was fast-paced, with plenty of plot twists I never saw coming, and at the end I had the feeling I knew most of the main characters well. My problem was with the side characters, which I felt just weren’t introduced enough. I didn’t know why they were doing what they were, their motives, their pasts, etc. and I could’ve used that information to get to know them better.

I loved the fantasy setting. It felt familiar and original at the same time. What really did it for me was the plot though. Like I mentioned, it was completely unpredictable, and I had no idea where the story was going most of the time. It was great. I loved that I couldn’t figure out what would happen next until it actually happened. The action was non-stop. It started from page one and didn’t stop until the end.

I recommend this book to all YA fantasy fans, especially those who are looking for a new, clever mix and an original story.

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