Review: Return of Souls by Andy Remic

Return of Souls (A Song for No Man's Land) - Andy Remic

We are now two books into Andy Remic's ongoing A Song For No Man's Land series, and I have to admit that I'll be taking a pass on the rest. I'm just simply not connecting to the material and will have to chalk it up to the old 'it's not you, Mr. Remic, it's me' excuse.


You see, I'm not much for traditional fantasy. I slogged my way through Tolkein's Lord of the Ring series and felt rather unrewarded (the movies are better, as far as I'm concerned), and forced myself to make it through Steven Erikson's Gardens of the Moon because of all the praise that Malazan series has garnered. There are exceptions of course - I'm a giddy sucker for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and am always on the lookout for new R. Scott Bakker books. I have a much easier time with urban fantasy series, like Chuck Wendig's Miriam Black novels.


All of this is a long-winded way of my trying to explain that I thought Andy Remic's latest novellas would be up my alley, with their heavy on World War I and light on fantasy elements approach. Alas, it's not meant to be...


Although Return of Souls, and it's predecessor, A Song For No Man's Land, are novella length stories, I've felt they were both too long and unnecessarily plodding. Each book has been divided into four parts, with the first 3/4 devoted to Jones and his time on the frontlines fighting German soldiers and beastly creatures known as walriders. The last quarter, though, is when Remic decides to take a sharp and sudden turn, introducing new characters to eat up the page count, hopping back and forth in his narrative between newbie cast and the old-hands, in order to set up the next book. This is a pet peeve of mine.


When I finished the prior entry in this series, I was curious to see where the story would go. Unfortunately, I found myself hitting a wall before the half-way mark into this latest entry and was ready to move onto some other book instead. Remic introduces a new love interest for Jones to pine after, and it mostly serves to grind an already slow narrative to a near halt. I finished it, merely because these are short books (even if they subjectively feel much longer to me), but can't muster up the enthusiasm to rate it any higher than a 3-star read - it's an OK story, and while I certainly didn't hate it, Return of Souls failed to connect with me in any way past a bit of a time killer.


Fantasy fiends may have a better time with it, or those who don't mind a war story with rather languid pacing. This book, and this series taken as a whole thus far, just isn't for me.


[Note: I received an advanced review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.]