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Book Review

Book Cover

Return to Canifis


Author: T.S. Church
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.95
ISBN: 978 1 84856 727 6
Available 25 March 2011

Having saved the kingdom in their first adventure, Kara-Meir and her friends have gone their separate ways, promising to meet in the city of Varrock at the Midsummer Festival. Little do they realise that the fellowship has been sundered at a deeper level, though the Wyrd attack on the city has left little time for reflection. To confront the threat of the Wyrd and discern the undead’s part in her attacks, Theodore and his friends once more band together to cross the river into the city of Canifis, in Morytania...

Runescape: Return to Canifis it the sequel to T. S. Church’s first novel Betrayal at Falador.

Kara-Meir, Gar’rth and Arisha have headed off into the Wilderness, tracking Sulla and the Werewolf Jarrod, in the hope of ending his life, whist Theodore has been sent by his order to recruit more knights. In Varrock Theodore is a little out of his depth, caught in a web of courtly politics, the rest of the party have returned to the lands of their birth, only reuniting for the Midsummer Festival.

However, Varrock is not a safe city, with the Wyrd gliding through the night to take children away. In their place she leaves the city a message, written in blood: “He is Coming”. Most of the population fear that this is the final prophecy which tells of the days when the real king of Varrock will cross the sacred river, ride out of Morytania and with his army of the undead claim the throne for himself.

When the Wyrd attacks once more, Gar’rth nearly captures her, but in doing so reveals his true nature as a werewolf. With the king ready to execute him on the spot the group have no recourse except to take the king's offer of forming an embassy to Morytania.

This is a fine follow up to the first novel and as the characters have bedded in Church has been able to open up their thoughts to the reader, indeed there is a lot of omniscient point of view in the book, where we are privy not only to what is happening, but also to the character's thoughts. It’s a technique which sometimes works well and for the most part it does here, though the love triangle between Theodore, Gar’rth and Kara is played upon a little too much.

Like most fantasy books, there is the inevitable comparison to Tolkien and for Canifis, this is a half-truth. What Church has taken away from Tolkien is that there is no need to rush; in fact the embassy doesn’t even rear its head until half way through the book. Rather, he spends good time with both the major and minor character, making sure that his audience connect and care for all their fates. What the book does lack is the richness of description, most of which is fairly sketchy, which might work for a Hobbit but not a whole novel.

His characters are flawed, and even those which have come through great hardship together still find it difficult to trust one another. These rounded out characters added a lot to the enjoyment of the book. The pacing of the book is well constructed with a good balance between action sequences and more character driven moments. The descriptions of the action are engaging and often exciting.

Fans of Sulla may be in for a disappointment as the arch villain of the first book is reduced to little more than a vagabond and thief, though the end of the book suggests that it is too early to count out his influence on events.

The biggest reveal - no I’m not going to spoil it for you - is the truth about Gar’rth, which, given that the novel does not come to a satisfactory conclusion - another obviously in the pipeline - will be played out in the third instalment.

Overall, I did enjoy the book, and that is from someone who usually detests modern fantasy books and their endless recycling of the same motifs and themes. I certainly enjoyed it enough to consider buying the next one to see how events unfold, as Church has a knack of writing characters which you are more than happy to while away a few hours with.


Charles Packer

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