Review: A Promise of Return

Thank you very much to the author for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I ended up taking a little break this past little while, which unfortunately meant that I wasn’t able to read all the books that I wanted too this past month. Luckily, A Promise of Return is an excellent book to help me get back into reading and, most importantly, telling you how absolutely fun and thrilling this story is!

(IMPORTANT: if you don’t want any spoilers for A Touch of Death or A History of Violence, you should skip down to the rating!)

When Thom Anteros is arrested after breaking into the Building of Historical Records, he knows he has only one chance at survival: make a deal with the King. His life is spared, but when he refuses to give up Nate and Catherine, he is sent to be sold off as a slave into the Red Arena: a gladiatorial competition where the condemned and the innocent alike are forced to fight to the death for their freedom.

Thom has no choice but to fight for his life in the arena, with only his fellow captive Charles Thoreau, to help him avoid a brutal death. It takes twenty wins to earn your freedom. Twenty wins and twenty deaths.

But despite the odds, Thom is determined to survive the Red Arena and find his way back to those he loves. The promise he made to his brother is one he will not break.

How is it that this series manages to improve by leaps and bounds with each new installment? However it’s possible, I am here for it, and everyone needs to know about it!

It isn’t often that you can actually see a writer become more and more brilliant at storytelling, but with every installment of this series I can see the effort and the polish and refinement shining through even more brightly every time. Some of the same issues I had with the previous books still remain, however it all fits in exactly the right way to keep me hooked on every word. Everything feels as though it is all coming together perfectly, building up towards the ultimate climax in this series, and I am so excited to see how it finally comes about. There’s a lot to love in this book, and it only seems to get better every time.

What I Liked
  • The Characters – Once again, the greatest part of this book (and the entire series) is the characters. Rebecca Crunden manages to masterfully create such incredible, real, emotional characters that I can feel every step of their journey as if I was living it myself. The ability to make not just one, but an entire family of characters that feel like real, fallible people is so incredible, and I cannot stop talking about how much I love every single one of these characters. Thom, now in a center roll, is a great addition. Previously, he was a ghost – almost literally – as I wasn’t entirely certain of his fate, and his presence still lingered within Nate and Catherine. Now he’s a fully fledged character with his own journey to add to the mix. He’s less intense than Nate, more inclined to think first than burst into action, and he might be my favourite character so far! It’s hard to choose though, they’re all amazing.
  • The World Building A Promise of Return gave me exactly what I wanted from the start: more worldbuilding in the Kingdom of Cutta. Here we get a real sense of the darker underbelly of the kingdom by throwing us into one of the worst places. The Red Arena not only brought together captives from all corners of the kingdom – and all with their personal tales of mistreatment and abuse at the hands of the corrupt system – but provided a real sense of dystopian dread that wasn’t quite there in the first book. There’s still room for more, but this slow expansion of the world through the eyes of the characters makes the very gradual reveal of the worse this kingdom has to offer very effective, and impossible to look away from.
  • The Tension – As I mentioned above, this is probably the best book so far in terms of that real feeling of oppression and dystopia in this series. The threat of the Kingdom and Council is heavily felt here from the moment Thom meets with the King and only increases as he is forced to face the horrors of the arena. There is no ignoring the life or death stake here, and the danger is constantly on the forefront of the character’s minds. It’s a welcome progression and the intensity kept me absolutely glued to the page.
What I Didn’t 
  • The Pacing – As with the previous books, the author focuses more on her characters than the movement of events around them. This makes for some truly incredible character moments, but it also results in some scenes dragging a bit while others feel rushed. For the most part it’s absolutely fine, but it can throw readers off a bit when it feels like the characters have to rush a bit to keep up with the plot points.
  • The Payoff – This deals with spoilers, so I’m going to be purposefully vague here. However there was one scene that had really been built up over the last two books that didn’t quite have the satisfying resolution I was hoping for, at least in my opinion. Then again, I’ve been wrong before and this series continues to surprise me, so who knows? Maybe we’re in for an even bigger twist than I could have imagined. But for now, it ended up feeling flat, especially in comparison to the rest of the story.

A Promise of Return is an excellent addition to a series that just keeps building up it’s fantastic cast of characters. I have no idea what is going to happen next in this series, but I am absolutely dying to find out!

Title: A Promise of Return
Author: Rebecca Crunden
Publisher: Independently Published
Date Published: November 3, 2017
Series: The Outlands Pentalogy #3
Warnings: References to sex, graphic violence, death, and sexual assault.

Thanks for reading everyone!

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