The Returning by Christine Hinwood

I ordered a copy of The Returning by Christine Hinwood because it’s blurbed by two of my favorite authors: Megan Whalen Turner and Melina Marchetta. Of course, I had to read it! It also recently received the Printz Honor. Plus, both the premise and the cover looked intriguing.

Here’s the summary from Goodreads:

Cam has a hunger, an always-hunger; it drives him from home, to war, from north to south. When he returns from war alone – all his fellow soldiers slain – suspicion swirls around him. He’s damaged in body and soul, yet he rides a fine horse and speaks well of his foes. What has he witnessed? Where does his true allegiance lie? How will life unfold for his little sister, his closest friend, his betrothed, his community, and even the enemy Lord who maimed him?

The writing is certainly different from anything that I’ve ever read. I’m not even sure what genre The Returning falls under – I feel like it’s a mix of both fantasy and historical fiction. Fantasy because it’s set in a different world (made up locations). Historical fiction because aside from the setting, I feel like it could be a story set in the past. There’s no magic in The Returning. The whole book focuses on the aftermath of the war between Uplanders and Downlanders and how it affects the various characters. I had a mixed reaction to this book: I’m glad I got to read it because I was intrigued but I didn’t end up loving it as I expected. It took me a while to get into the writing because of the shifting points of view. I felt like I couldn’t hold on to one character long enough for me to like him or her. Also, it’s a quiet kind of novel in the sense that nothing big or dramatic occurs. After all, we’re getting a glimpse of what life is like AFTER the war.

Overall, I think it’s a good book but I’m afraid it’s not something that every reader will enjoy. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the shifting POVs. At the start of the novel, I felt like every chapter was narrated by a different character (I think there were four or five various POVs). Just when I was starting to root for a character, the POV changes. I did like how everything came together in the second half of the novel but I was surprised at how fast the latter chapters moved in comparison to the earlier ones. The first half spanned months while the second half jumped a couple of years ahead. I liked that it’s a complex novel and that Christine Hinwood created so many layers to the story – we see what it’s like for a veteran soldier to go home, what it feels like for the family he left behind, how hard it is for him to make friends. I also liked the bit of romance weaved into the story but it felt underdeveloped. I think the narrative would have worked if the novel was longer because readers would get to know the characters more. As it is, I liked the book a lot more before I read it because it had so much promise. I feel bad because I could have fallen in love with The Returning but didn’t. If you’re curious about this book, I recommend that you still give it a try because you might end up liking it a lot more than I did. I’ve seen mixed reviews for Christine Hinwood’s debut novel – some loved it while it didn’t work for others – so I guess it really depends on the reader.

Other reviews:
Random Musings of a Bibliophile
Persnickety Snark
Books and Threads
Just Booking Around
Killin’ Time Reading

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19 thoughts on “The Returning by Christine Hinwood

  1. Ah well, some books just don’t work for us. I think the shifting POV is difficult to do too. I tend to wind up liking one character more than the others and feeling impatient when the POV shifts away from them. Love how the cover seems to reflect the quietness of what’s inside.

    • Yes, exactly. I tend to like one or two characters more than the others. In this one, I wanted more chapters from Cam’s POV. Also, I don’t think I mind two POVs but five is just too much in a book that has only 300 pages or so. I agree, I think the cover is perfect for the contents of the book. I’m just sad that I loved the cover much more than the story.

  2. I find it really hard to connect to books that have a short story-esque format. Yeah, the writing is beautiful, but I’m unsure of what the end purpose was of telling the stories about these characters. *sigh*

    • Steph, me too! I’m really not much of a short story reader. I usually don’t finish anthologies, I have no idea why. I prefer reading novels. Yep, I agree that the writing was beautiful but it just didn’t work for me. Are you planning to review this one? Looks like we had the same reaction.

    • Sigh, I know. I really wanted to love it because of the power MWT-MM blurb combo. But on the other hand, it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who was disappointed.

  3. As soon as you said Printz and Marchetta I thought “I have to read this” but after reading your review I think I will try and find a copy at the library, it does sound interesting and I don’t mind multiple POVs.

    • Yes, maybe it would be a good idea to try and read a library copy first before you decide if you want to purchase your own. Like I said, you might end up enjoying it more than I did.

  4. Interesting that the book has a different name in Australia, I don’t know why they do this. It makes it confusing for readers. I have had this on my TBR for a while now. I don’t really have an aversion to the shifting POV if it is done well. I will be reading this one, just not sure when.

    • I have no idea why they changed the title when it got published in the US. It IS a bit confusing but good thing Goodreads is there to help us out. πŸ˜› Now that I’ve read the book, I think the US title and cover has a better fit for the story than the Australian one. So do you have the Aussie edition? Let me know what you think when you get to read it.

  5. “As it is, I liked the book a lot more before I read it because it had so much promise.”
    What a perfect way to put it, exactly how I felt. Thanks for linking to my review too.

    • Yep, the POVs all tied together in the end but it just wasn’t enough for me. It’s good that you’re still interested in reading this, April. Would love to see what you think of it.

  6. I’m sorry it didn’t live up. After reading some disappointed reviews I didn’t rush out to buy it. I do think

    “Just when I was starting to root for a character, the POV changes.”=>Yes! I’ve had this experience with alternating POVs before and it usually doesn’t work for me. Like you said it’s not enough time to get invested in a character.

    • I think I pre-ordered this one? I’m not sure. I wasn’t compelled to read it right away because of the mixed reviews that I’ve seen. I was still curious though and since I already had a copy, I decided to bump it up the TBR pile. If you’re still interested in this, maybe you can just borrow a copy from the library.

      There have been novels with alternating POVs that I’ve enjoyed reading (Graffiti Moon comes to mind) but usually there are just two narrators.

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