Review: The Returning by Rachelle Dekker

The Returning by Rachelle DekkerThe Returning (Seers #3)
Rachelle Dekker
Tyndale House
Published on January 7, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About The Returning
Twenty years have passed since Carrington and Remko Brant’s baby, Elise, was kidnapped and they were forced to leave her captive in the Authority City. Though they fled with the Seers far from Authority reach, they’ve never given up hope of rescuing their daughter from the man who betrayed them. Now Authority President, he’s ushered the city into a new era of “peace” — one where the Scientist Roth Reynard’s Genesis Serum has eradicated all memory of emotion or rebellion.

But the mysterious Aaron and his Seers are once again on the move, threatening the illusion the Authority has worked so hard to build. As the Seers send seven chosen warriors to rescue Elise and bring restoration to the Authority City, the lines are drawn for a final battle between light and darkness. The key to ultimate victory may rest within the strangely powerful girl who has felt forgotten but was never abandoned — a truth she’ll need to wage war against the powerful forces of evil.

My Review
If you’ve been reading my reviews awhile, you’ll know that I have a couple of particular pet peeves in books that get classified as YA. One is having a lot of scenes from adult characters, especially in cases where I think the scenes could have been told from a younger character’s perspective. I felt that way with this book and the scenes from adult points of view. That said, I’m not sure this is really classified as YA. Right now in the Christian fiction world there seem to be more adult novels with crossover appeal to YA readers, and this is probably best categorized as one of them.

The Returning hits a great balance between telling a fast-paced story and yet keeping its readers in the know—even if you forgot what happened in earlier books, you can still enjoy this one without feeling lost or like you’ve missed anything. I love that!

At first I wasn’t sure I’d like Elise. Her early scenes mostly leave her a passive vessel. But as she begins to find her feet and embrace her destiny, I felt like I began to like and admire her more. Despite the number of characters, I felt like it was easy to keep track of who everyone was because they had really specific personalities and roles and were introduced gradually, so I had time to place everyone in the story.

The light versus dark theme emerges as a strong plot in The Returning. It’s simple, sure, and at times maybe a teeny bit contrived, but overall I think it worked. The dystopian setting made a great backdrop for that kind of conflict.

I liked this book better than the first in the series—it’s not quite as dark as The Choosing. The biggest struggle I had with the story really had to do with its theology, which you can read about more in the Spiritual Content section below.

The Returning on AmazonRecommended for Ages 12 up.

Cultural Elements
Really limited cultural or race details. I think the major characters are white, but there really aren’t a lot of descriptive details.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Brief kissing between man and woman.

Spiritual Content
The Returning has a very strong good versus evil/light versus dark theme. In some places the theology runs perfectly parallel to Christian teaching. Elise must reject the lies she’s been told about herself and others and embrace truths from her heavenly Father.

In other scenes, I struggled with the theology. It seemed to equate suffering with evil, which I just don’t find to be Gospel at all. At times I felt like it was saying humans are basically good and need to simply throw off the corrupt influences of evil around them. The Returning, like the first book in the series, again and again repeats this idea that you are perfect, you are blameless. For me that ran too close to contradicting the salvation message of the Bible. Maybe I simply didn’t interpret the author’s meaning correctly, but I felt like the theology got really muddled and confusing.

Violent Content
Battle scenes which turn fatal between soldiers and civilians. In a couple scenes, a character faces torture with some description. Some graphic threats of violence—in one scene, a man threatens to skin a woman alive.

Drug Content
Authority City leaders use a powerful serum to control citizens. The serum erases memories and makes recipients compliant. One character possessed by darkness takes vials of his blood and injects them into others to give them some of his dark power.

The Returning on Goodreads

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About Kasey Giard

Kasey is a mother, reader and aspiring author. When she's not reading or writing, you might find her out on the water fly fishing, pretending she can keep houseplants alive, or talking with the family rescue cat.

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