Return of the Ancients, by Greig Beck, is book one of the new series The Valkeryn Chronicles. A work of speculative fiction with both sci fi and fantasy elements, the novel is based on a young male being catapaulted into the future because of a mishap with a supercollider. The world he finds there mistifies him and he encounters danger around every turn; however, the more time he spends in this new land, the more connections to his own time he finds. This, along with a chilling history that has yet to be lived by mankind, creates an exciting read.
Return of the Ancients begins with a group of students going on a field trip to a science facility that will be testing a new supercollider. Upon arrival, they are swathed in security and led down to see the equipment before the first test firing. Arn, the main character, is mooning over a girl that barely knows he exists. The girl’s ex-boyfriend has a grudge against Arn and does his best to make Arn’s life miserable. At the height of bullying brililance, the girl’s ex-boyfriend locks Arn in a closet down near the supercollider. Obviously, he has no thoughts for his actions and just plays cool, satisfied greatly. Of course, no one realizes that Arn is gone until it is too late and they are about to fire the supercollider. They cannot stop the machine in time and Arn vanishes.
Arn wakes up in a world that is not his own. He ventures forth through a desert, a jungle with frightening and odd creatures, and is finally captured by the Panterran. These slinky, foul-smelling beasts exude evil and Arn is overwhelmed with the urge to get away from them. While he is being held, another captive is brought to be questioned – read tortured. The other prisoner is a female humanoid wolf. Arn is officially confused and bewildered at this point, specifically when the wolf seems to know what he is and indicate that he might be part of a prophecy.
Arn and the wolf female eventually escape and get back to the wolf’s people, the Canites. A culture with roots in Norse mythology, they resemble Vikings and appreciate the glory of the warrior. Arn soon finds that the Panterran are trying desperately to take over the Canites and are bringing a war with them, soon. Arn is transformed into a warrior whether he likes it or not. He decides to help the Canites fight, even though the battle could mark the death of the entire race.
Return of the Ancients was an interesting read. It started out very slow, with somewhat awkward discussions and a little bit of ambiguity when it comes to age ranges. The students seem to be high-schoolers but are referred to as going to a college. A clear picture is never truly given in regards to that confusion. The main character is Native American, which seems to be a random choice thrown in to give him a role as an outsider. Nothing truly ever comes of it in the book, so it seems like perhaps Beck forgot that he even chose that nationatility. The book is written by an Austrailian, so some English is used that is not what I was used to reading. The spelling variations sometimes gave me pause, mainly because of my copy editing instincts screaming in the back of my brain: “That’s wrong!”
There isn’t too much originality with the story setup at all. As soon as you hear that the group is taking a field trip to witness the firing of a supercollider, you can figure out that some sort of time or dimensional travel is going to occur. Regardless of this, Beck still keeps the book fresh with what comes after.
The cultures are unique, yet familiar. The use of Norse mythology is sparing and combined with enough originality to not be a tired usage. As you read, you slowly uncover the truth of the different species in the future world, which is quite an intriguing surprise. There are subtle connections to Arn’s time mentioned throughout the book and you don’t understand all the elements until you learn about more parts of the story later. That sort of writing makes the book very engaging and helps to promote an emotional connection with the story and characters.
A few moral issues are brought up through the story, but none are really resolved so much as simply dealt with as the tale permitted. There was defiitely room left for a second book in the series, which will certainly have plenty of action and loose ends to tie up.
I highly recommend this book not only because of the subject matter and delightful suprises found throughout, but also because it was simply a well written read. Though it didn’t start off in an amazing fashion, I found myself bereft when the book ended. It was very easy to like the characters and want to know more about them. I think this book would do well for a lover of speculative fiction or a simple lover of reading. If you have an affinity for Norse mythology, wolves, or speculative fiction future worlds, then this is a great addition to your library. I, for one, am excited for the next installment.
Speculative Fiction Challenge – Book # 7