A Promise of Return

Rebecca Crunden

The Outlands Pentalogy
3
Fantasy, Dystopian
When Thom Anteros is arrested after breaking into the Building of Historical Records, he demands to be taken before the King. A laughable demand for anyone else, Thom’s request is granted and the King spares his life. Yet what’s to become of him is left in the hands of the one person Thom truly fears – Mickey Taenia, the King’s Hangman. Infuriated by Thom’s refusal to reveal the whereabouts of Nate and Catherine, the Hangman sends Thom to one of the worst places in the Kingdom – the slave markets of Muntenia. It is there that Thom is bought for the Red Arena: a barbaric, gladiator-type competition where the children of convicts and other unlucky souls are forced to fight to the death. Twenty wins is release. One loss is death. With the help of Charles Thoreau, a fellow captive, Thom begins not only to survive, but to thrive. A master of words becomes a master of death, and Thom’s prowess in the arena frightens even him. But death isn’t the only thing haunting Thom. As the days go by, he dreams of his brother, and the promise he cannot forget. I will return.

This book contains:

  • Torture
  • Slavery
  • Gladiator style ring fighting to the death
  • Sex for information and social advantage
  • Cannibalism
  • Mental suffering.

Thom is the brother to Nate (A History of Madness follows Nate, and he’s heavily included in A Touch of Death) and Complement to Kitty (A Touch of Death follows Kitty, and she’s heavily included in A History of Madness) and a master of words. He’s a politician through and through and has been since he was a child.

Finding ways to advantage his loved ones is something he’s done his entire life, it’s natural for him. Yet there is so much more to him than just making sure his brother and Complement are safe and happy.

Picking up from near the end of A Touch of Death, we follow Thom as he’s caught breaking into restricted government buildings and brought to the King for judgement. From there we follow him throughout his torturous days until he’s reunited with Nate and Kitty (the ending of A History of Madness) and then continues from there as he tries to build a life in the Outlands.

Hearing Thom’s story, how he became who he was, made so many small pieces of his personality that showed in the first two books make sense. He’s a fixer. He needs to make sure those around him are happy, healthy, and safe and if doing so also sets him up for advantage later, all the better.

While I wasn’t expecting the relationship he developed with Charles (purely because this part of his personality wasn’t really mentioned in the first two books), after hearing about his earlier life it made sense. When you’ve only known someone to be straight, it is a shock to discover that’s not the case. For me personally, so long as it makes sense for the characters to suddenly change (and in this case it wasn’t sudden, we just didn’t have the full backstory before this book), I don’t care.

In this instance, Thom’s sexuality played a major part of the storyline and therefore made sense. So I have zero issues, instead, I found it added value, complexity and depth to several characters that enhanced the story overall.

Compared to the previous two books, this is definitely bloodier and gorier. But I found I quite liked it!

Sometimes you need the blood and guts to break up other genres and every part of that added thrill and adrenaline to my reading experience and set me up to want to dive immediately into the next book.

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