Ten years ago Welkin laid down his staff and hawk’s beak, shut himself away, and tried to forget a lifetime of rancor and bloodshed. Last night a pair of bravos kicked in his front door and tried to cut that life short. Neither bravo died well, but die they most certainly did. Now Welkin has a problem that extends beyond the stains on his floor. Who hired this incompetent pair of killers? How did they get past his wards and warnings? More importantly, how did they find him? With his need for answers overriding his common sense, Welkin dusts off his staff and hawk’s beak, straps on his boots, and takes to the road. His search will lead him back into a world of bizarre sorcerers, marauding ghouls, zealous inquisitors, brutal thugs, and former lovers. Some want to see him dead, some want to see him in chains, some don’t want to seem him at all. Welkin will have use all the skill and cunning acquired over the course of a lifetimes if he wants to make it out of this mess alive.
Welkin, The Returned is a unique and charismatic experience that I enjoyed very much.
The first half of the book is somewhat bleak, in a good way. We follow the sardonic, aged wizard as he wanders away from his comfortable life in a reflective and somewhat disgruntled mood. The interplay with ‘the Imp’ really turns this desolate journey into something special. Their relationship is extremely relatable and Wears uses it as a wonderful device to explore Welkin’s character and snippets of his history. We quickly become very familiar with both characters, and I enjoyed sitting in their skin whilst deeper elements are served up during perfectly calculated breaks between courses.
We are treated to occasional samples of Welkin’s magic use and these examples help to summarise the writing style of the book. Wears has a unique way of making everything simple and digestable. Not to say, by any means, that the plot or world building is lacking, it is smooth, light and easy to swallow.
Once into the second half of the book, in which we are blessed with more well-expressed characters and more familar territory in terms of fantasy civilisation, we are fully armed with a strong relationship with Welkin and his wonderfully snarky Imp.
I would typically dissaprove of waiting this long before getting to the bones of the main plot, but the journey has been so enjoyable and I now feel comfortably familiar with the main characters and also the environments they have graced. There is an exceptional intimacy to how locations are delivered in this book. Aided by the first-person perspective, there is a certain laid-back charm to the writing style that inspires patience and satisfaction in the pace and slow-burn throughout.
The plot, which slowly unfolds amongst Welkin’s varied and colourful encounters seems a distant and intriguing horizon in a well-crafted fantasy world, the real joy in this book is the journey and your relationship with leading man and his nameless sidekick.
This book isn’t exactly hard hitting, it has bleak elements, and it does have grit and cynicism, but for most of the book Wears manages to blend these elements into a smooth and nutritious potion that slips down easily and works its magic without a hint of reflux.
However, the last act provides a shift in tone that lengthens the shadows and brings an impressive and malevolent new perspective. There is a darkness that permeates and swallows the sun, leaving the reader colder and more conflicted than throughout previous pages; Welkin suddenly and engagingly becomes a different book!
Welkin’s skeleton crawls well and truly out of his closet and the effect has you frantically sifting through your memory of the book, overlaying a new, darker blueprint, just as the insidious new climax builds to the point of pure dependency and drops the end credits. Ensuring your pre-order as surely as it confirms your hunger for the next book.