Philip Chase has again crafted an epic and emotional masterpiece with Return to Edan the concluding novel to the Edan trilogy. I have rarely seen a book, and series, that combines immense scope and intimate personal reflections as well as Chase does here. While wearing his influences on his sleeve, the author crafts his own unique story that surprised me at every turn and left me emotionally drained by the end, but better for having read it.
The scope of this book alone is massive. There are over 10 POV characters, and the groups we have been following up unto this point are often divided and have members all over the continent. We visit almost every area of Eormenlond and almost every culture of people is involved. And just like in The Prophet of Edan, the plot went in directions that I did not see coming at all. In spite of this, Chase has a unique ability to relate everything that happens in his books back to his characters while still keeping the plot moving at a good pace. It’s hard to describe, so many things happen in Return to Edan, and we travel to so many locations, but the characters are always the main focus. There is plenty of combat, but even the fights are not about the fighting, but how it affects the characters. As Orvandil wrestles with his bloodlust and Sequara with her role as healer-turned-warrior, we see how things they are forced to do shape and change them. I know that this is how most books are supposed to be, but Chase does it in such a deep and visceral manner that hits me like almost nothing else I’ve read.
Our protagonist Dayraven has a very interesting journey in Return to Edan. He is now known as the Prophet of Edan and doesn’t remember anything of his past. He travels to Caergilion and start teaching the people there, trying to inspire the people of Caergilion and Torrland to make peace with each other. In many ways Dayraven find himself a Christ figure in this novel. He is able to look into people and see them perfectly as they really are and show them their true selves. In some this brings peace, to others misery. He also teaches the people in stories and parables, much as Jesus did. But while there is clear Biblical inspiration for this facet of Dayraven, we know that the power in him is not celestial but an indifferent, uncaring elf shard that want to free everyone from suffering by killing them. It is only the goodness of Dayraven as an ordinary human that allows him to direct that power into healing and teaching. And the things he teaches can be applicable to everyone regardless of religious belief or lack thereof. There are many quotable passages but one that struck me the hardest was when Dayraven was talking about the nature of Edan.
“Some call it Edan. Some Oruma and Anghara. Still others have many names for it, many faces. These are but words and symbols, a groping in the dark for what we all yearn for. My friends, no matter what name we give it, it dwells in us all. In Torrlonders and Caergilese alike. In all of us. And once we recognize the truth of this, once we grasp it with our minds and hearts, the only thing we can do is honor one another. In myself, in my family, in my friends, and, yes, in my foes: in all alike I recognize the god within. And once I recognize this, it becomes impossible to offer anything other than the love due to every living thing.”
And of course, while Dayraven is our main protagonist, the story Chase weaves is both about him but also in a way not really about Dayraven at all, rather about those around him. How they change and the things they do because of him and for him. At first, they do these things because of the power within him, to wield him like a weapon and use him for their own purposes. But soon everyone, including sometimes his enemies, respond to his character and goodness, and then they want to help him and be there for him. They want to be better people because of his example. This fact is perhaps exemplified in the way Dayraven is not featured in any covers for the trilogy where you would expect the protagonist to be shown.
This third entry is not only the most ambitious novel of the trilogy but is definitely the darkest and most emotional as well. In keeping with the brutal honesty and introspection of the novel, we witness the horrors and atrocities of war and ambition. In the physical sense as well, but more often the emotional cost and how it affects everyone involved. The ending of the novel was emotionally staggering but also beautiful. I had to take a while to just sit in silence and let in soak in before I could do anything else. I don’t know if there is a higher compliment I could give this amazing book.
Return to Edan is a modern classic masterpiece, delivered as always with the stunning prose of the author. The trilogy as a whole is one of the most powerful stories I have had the privilege of reading and is one I will be returning to for many years to come.