Th Heretic's Guide to Homecoming Book Reviews
Sienna Tristen’s debut novel is incredible. From the first chapter, Tristen establishes the importance of storytelling that permeates the entire work, often interrupting the main story for a chapter akin to a fable, or fairytale, woven in to the narrative. These extra tales teach the main characters, and the readers, important lessons or give insight and background into the actions of each character. In Tristen’s own words, it is “liberation through storytelling”. These additional tidbits only serve to amplify the fact that Heretic’s Guide is a major slow-burn, in the best possible way.
My favourite kind of book is one that is entirely character-driven, and in that way, Heretic’s Guide does not disappoint. The protagonist, Ronoah, steers the narrative along slowly, allowing the reader to learn about his past, his fears and anxieties, and the future that he is desperately trying to find for himself. Along the way, he interacts with several other characters, and allows his relationships to fully develop with them as well, allowing the reader insight not only into his own personality, but also that of the people he surrounds himself with. By the end of the novel, Ronoah’s emotional moments and triumphs felt like my own, I was so invested in him and his story.
In Heretic’s Guide, you’re guaranteed to find someone that you will relate to - whether it is Ronoah, anxiety-ridden but more determined than anyone else you will ever meet, or Reilin, calm and curious and always a mystery - maybe one of the Tellers, Sophrastus or Amimna, kind and welcoming with endless patience and stories of their own. No matter what, one of Tristen’s perfectly built characters will reflect your own beliefs and thoughts in a ridiculously eloquent manner.
Speaking of eloquence - The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming absolutely blew me away. Tristen has a knack for using unique metaphors to describe ordinary events in a way that draws you in and immerses you in the story. I have so many favourite lines - my book is underlined and dog-eared, and I know I’m going to keep finding more. Here are a few:
“Caught up in the sound of the man’s laughter, Ronoah couldn’t not listen to the sentence that followed it, still rimmed with the bubbles of his humour the way milk froths over fire.” (10)
"It was a look like the moons, ancient and exacting and profoundly arresting, full of thoughtfulness bordering on intimacy. A look born to pull the tides, to make the hunting dogs howl." (24)
“If you look, even the simple things are so complicated that it’s amazing it all works. Seeing the complicatedness only makes everything shine brighter.” (151)
I read a lot - and I read a lot of books that fit in to the fantasy, young adult sphere that Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming has a place in as well. However, it is rare that I finish a book and immediately want to flip it over and start it again - and that’s exactly what happened with Heretic’s Guide. I just know that Sienna Tristen has built Ronoah’s journey and the world of Heretic’s Guide so well that on a second, third, or fourth re-read I’ll still be discovering buried treasure and new perspectives. I cannot wait for the next book!
I started reading Heretic's a bit more slowly than Natalie. I didn't print it out, but instead waded through the PDF version (not ideal for keeping your place in a 500 page book; I'm really excited to receive my paperback copy in the mail). I read the first half intermittently over about a month, and I read the second half in a single Saturday. My favourite kind of reading is short story anthologies by a single author; you get little wrapped up reading snacks all in a unified style, which is less effort to process than a variety of authors in a single anthology. The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming is a hybrid of a short story anthology and a novel, and it really works.
Ronoah is a character that frustrates and scares me. When, as a reader, you have the distance to say “you’re doing it wrong” not because the character is making a mistake to further the plot, or because they’re obviously lacking in intelligence, but because they’re doing it wrong the way you do it wrong every day, it is embarrassing and hard to admit. When I say I identify with Ronoah and in the same moment I feel the need to add a disclaimer that I could never measure up to his level of compassion and self-awareness, I know that we are more deeply intertwined than I can wrap my brain around. When I stop reading right before the revelations happen because it’s too hard to confront myself that way, I know that this book has made me feel in a way that a book hasn’t in ages.
I am so humbled by Sienna’s creative genius, her Reilin to my Ronoah. This thing that lived in her brain and now lives on paper is so big my first feeling is insignificance and my second feeling is inspiration. This is literary dark chocolate and the cherry on top is the short stories sprinkled throughout. I love them, enmeshed and isolated. Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming left me feeling soothed and agitated all at once and I highly recommend it.
You can pre-order your copy of The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming here! But if you're in the GTA and free this Wednesday (April 25) you should definitely go to the book launch! Meet Sienna (she'll sign your book), listen to her read some excerpts, drink some custom tea! The event is happening at Bampot House of Tea in Toronto, and you can get all the details here! Natalie and I are unfortunately unable to make the event, and very sad about it. If Penrose Press friends attend, we'll be there in spirit!
Micropublishing Blog by Brianna and Natalie of Penrose Press