The Returning: A Review


Bloodflower (US title: The Returning), by Christine Hinwood, is a fantastical tale of the people of Kayforl, and the town’s catalyst, Cam Attling.

Cam has returned alone from war in the foreign north, where Lord Ryuu, an Uplander, rules from his castle in Dorn-Lannet. No one in Kayforl is unaffected by Cam’s solo return. Their hero is much changed after his time in Uplander country. Besides missing his right arm, he has a dark side few can pierce.

The townsfolk badger him with questions about their missing loved ones, and ask why no other soldiers survived. He refuses to answer, pained by the memories of war. Pin, his sister, Graceful, his promised bride, and his best friend Ban, must deal with the suspicions surrounding Cam’s questionable reputation.

“ ‘And what did he see, do, all those years of fighting to come back half Uplander?’ Ardow was in very earnest. ‘Some say he fought for the Uplanders, not ours. Some say he killed all ours, else how did he come back so fine, horse and sword and all, Uplander in his ways?’ ”

Hinwood weaves complex story lines for the inhabitants of Kayforl. Pin, Graceful and Ban are brought together with other characters as Cam’s presence impacts them all. One of the most compelling scenes introduces young Acton, an orphaned boy whose father died in the wars. Acton stubbornly waits for days for an apology from Corban Farmer, the man who shot Acton’s dog for trespassing. Farmer, tormented by those who sympathize with Acton, has had the glass smashed out of his windows.

“The first light of day showed Corban Farmer walking about his yard. He kept bending down. Picking up glass, Acton realised, and felt a strange unease. Farmer paused and stared up at the ridge, at Acton. Anger crowded out any other feeling and, carried by it, Acton climbed atop the post and yelled, ‘You killed my dog, Corban Farmer!’ The man staggered, as if Acton’s words hit him bodily…”

Cam himself must face his enemy, the man who took his arm – but not his life – the Lord’s son, Gyaar. Restless, he returns to Dorn-Lannet in an effort to heal his psychological battle scars. Cam’s journey unwittingly bring together the two worlds of north and south, the Uplanders and Downlanders of Kayforl.

Hinwood creates a new world for her readers, exquisitely describing the customs, dress, and speech of the Uplanders and Downlanders. She illustrates each facet of their lives, such as details of the Lord’s home, and the Lady’s robes of silk. The reader follows as Pin grows into a young woman and her coming of age ceremony is another example of a society richly detailed and designed by Hinwood. Unique poetic, lyrical language sets the story in its mythical time and place.

Bloodflower is a riveting epic fantasy for all ages, that is well worth the read.

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Originally published in Australia by Allen and Unwin Press, Bloodflower will be released in the US in April of 2011 under the title The Returning. Preorder your copy today!

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