by Peter S. Beagle
Cover Artist: Maurizio Manzieri
Review by Cathy Green
Subterranean Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781596063099
Date: 30 September 2010 List Price $35.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
In Return, a 101 page novella published by Subterranean Press, Peter S. Beagle again revisits the world of his novel The Innkeeper's Song, as the mercenary Soukyan returns to the place where he sought refuge as a small child and from which he fled as a young adult.
The story opens with the protagonist, Soukyan, being stalked by three Hunters. Tired of running, he stops in a clearing and waits for them to attack, at which point he is able to dispatch them surprisingly quickly. Having spent most of his life being pursued by trios of Hunters, Soukyan decides that the time has come to return to “that place” to confront his former masters and resolve the situation in a way that hopefully doesn't involve dying. He returns to the monastery wearing the glamour of a young woman, but the Brothers quickly see through his disguise and Soukyan is forced to fight for his life and solve the mystery of the Hunters, bringing himself to greater self-awareness in the process.
As with much of Beagle's fiction, the story is beautifully written in lush, lyrical language. While Return works as a stand-alone book, it will be best appreciated by those who have read The Innkeeper's Song or have at least read the other short stories Beagle has written in this world, given that the protagonist makes references to people and events from those works. This review is a bit shorter than typical for SFRevu, but given that this is a 101 page novella, to go into greater detail would give away too much of the story.
As with all Subterranean offerings, Return is beautifully produced. The cover art is a gorgeous illustration by Maurizio Manzieri that accurately captures the narrative in snapshot form. Manzieri provides four beautiful interior illustrations as well. This novella would not be a good choice to give to someone who had never read Peter S. Beagle before, but fans of his work, regardless of whether they are completionists, are going to want to acquire their own copy of Return.