Molewhale Press (2018)
Reviewed by Keshia Mcclantoc for Reader Views (1/19)
“The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming” is the first in what proves to be a promising series for Sienna Tristen. This story follows the boy, whose name seems larger than life, Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani, as he leaves him home and looks for a path of redemption. From there, he meets the adventurous Reilin and together they take a journey full of magic, challenges, and strange and wonderful creatures amuck. As Ronoah recounts the epic journey that they take together, the reader has no choice to but to be drawn in.
And drawn in I was! As I read this narrative, I found myself amazed by the ways Tristen clearly crafted an interesting and compelling world. While many fantasies find themselves falling in step beside each other, with retellings of the same creatures and magic, Ronoah’s story felt like a breath of fresh air. With each chapter, I dove more deeply into the world that Tristen created and found myself delighted by both the light and dark magics that the characters encountered. I applaud Tristen for the deep and intrinsic world-building that was put into the novel. Although some readers would find the multilayered level of detail overwhelming, I found it compelling and complicated in all the right ways.
Tristen succeeded in creating a narrative that was beautifully written, not just in mythos but also in its treatments of its characters. Ronoah’s story is not only a story of magic but also a story of finding yourself in a world rife with complex emotions. Ronoah has anxieties, doubts, and fears which he carries throughout the entire novel. And Tristen writes on these emotions in a way that is rich with understanding and empathy. The emotions of these pages read not as some farce designed to make the character seem like they’re struggling but as real and human as the reader. When Ronoah panicked, I panicked. We he was joyful, I was joyful. And as he grew and learned to understand himself, I felt like I was learning with him. This type of emotional connection is rare for me; it takes a truly brilliant author and narrative to cultivate that and Tristen’s narrative does so.
Overall, Tristen’s “The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming” is one of my favorite fantasies I have read in a long time. Although the narrative is complex and perhaps confusing at times, it is one that is willing to wrap you into its world if you allow it. It is a novel for anyone who wants to take that dive and give themselves over to a whimsical, adventurous world. Tristen proved herself to be a capable author not only in building a compelling world but also a compelling set of characters. I’m looking forward to the worlds and characters she continues to produce.