REVIEW: Return to Edan by Philip Chase

Last Updated on February 12, 2024

Finding the right words to describe Return to Edan, the darkest and most ambitious volume of the Edan Trilogy by Philip Chase, feels like an exercise in futility. This final installment of the Edan Trilogy is a book of extraordinary thematic depth, also delivering an unputdownable story with a well-realized cast of relatable characters.

Return to EdanThe novel opens with a nine-year-old village boy, Oran, trying to survive in a cruel world following the death of his father. A mysterious figure enters the scene, bringing a sudden transformation to a local thug and demonstrating firsthand the power of the famed Prophet of Edan.

Return to Edan has a melancholy feel reflected in the dark color palette of its stained-glass cover art. The cover depicts a new point-of-view character, the nature-loving girl Seren, who quickly becomes a highlight of the novel. She suffers terrible tragedy but may also hold a key toward salvation. Meanwhile, the sorceress Sequara and her friends are searching for the lead protagonist, Dayraven, who has lost his identity and much of his memory in becoming the fated Prophet of Edan.

The first two books of the trilogy, The Way of Edan and The Prophet of Edan, leaned heavily into a Buddhist-influenced journey of self-discovery. Return to Edan retains this Buddhist influence but also serves as a Christ allegory with numerous Biblical parallels. As Dayraven travels the land, he preaches very Christ-like lessons on the importance of love:

“The path of love is not always easy, and it is not always clear, though it will reward you like no other. You may stumble away from it at times, but it is always awaiting your return. It requires courage and determination to stay on it. You must be true to yourself and your deepest beliefs. Most of all, it requires being the person you choose to love.”

Dayraven also uses his powers to reveal the sins of evildoers, forcing them to confront the horrors of their own actions:

“A long wail escaped the king’s mouth, which gaped in a rictus of agony. When his scream ceased, the man gasped for breath as he knelt and stared ahead with eyes that did not see.”

There is clear Biblical inspiration for this from both the Old Testament, “Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the assembly” (Proverbs 26:26), and the New Testament, “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2).

But Philip Chase has given a grimdark twist to the typical Christ allegory, since the source of Dayraven’s powers is not goodness but rather a morally ambiguous elven power that could be evil in nature or simply indifferent to the affairs of humanity.

Dayraven’s power is not an intrinsic part of his existence: it is something foreign to him, embedded in his being, constantly threatening to take over. Dayraven wrestles mightily with the internal struggle that this creates, trying to harness the elven power for good. In this way, Philip Chase has also captured the essence of Frodo’s conflict in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, another Christ allegory where the power of the One Ring is an evil that threatens to consume Frodo’s own identity.

Like Frodo, Dayraven must consider if he is willing and able to make the ultimate sacrifice for others. Humanity is capable of such deep love and beauty but also terrifying evils. After the War of the Way from the last book, the world of Return to Edan is rife with violence and disease. An outside observer like the elf might justifiably ponder if a species that has caused so much suffering and destruction is truly worth saving. Is humanity just an irredeemable cancer on the face of the planet?

Grimdark fans will find much to love in Return to Edan. Set in a dark and brutal world, Philip Chase doesn’t shy away from realistic depictions of violence and the shadows of war. The rawness depicted in several scenes made me wince in pain. There is also moral ambiguity, as Dayraven’s powers are both wondrous and terrifying: he could end up being either a savior or a destroyer. In this sense, Philip Chase threatens to subvert the chosen one trope in a manner that could potentially go the way of Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah.

Continuing the trend in the characters’ personal journeys, both eastern and western theologies are reflected in Philip Chase’s concept of Edan, which seems to encompass both the Buddhist notion of nirvana and the Biblical notion of paradise (“Eden”) as a state without suffering or sin. But Chase also astutely captures the inherent tension between loving human attachments and the emotional detachment required to achieve such a state.

My review barely scratches the surface of Return to Edan. The Edan Trilogy can be read on multiple levels, and a complete analysis is more worthy of a Ph.D. dissertation than a short review such as this. But putting aside such in-depth analysis, I should emphasize that Philip Chase also delivers a perfectly paced story with beautiful prose and engaging, empathetic characters.

Taken as a whole, the Edan Trilogy is a modern masterpiece, a lamentation as timeless and beautiful as the stained glass depicted on each of its three covers. With the Edan Trilogy, Philip Chase proves that fantasy can achieve the highest echelon of literary greatness while delivering a gripping story, epic in scope and deeply personal in its impact.

5/5

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John Mauro

John Mauro

John Mauro lives in a world of glass amongst the hills of central Pennsylvania. When not indulging in his passion for literature or enjoying time with family, John is training the next generation of materials scientists at Penn State University, where he teaches glass science and materials kinetics. John also loves cooking international cuisine and kayaking the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York.