It took author Duane Simolke over 20 years to turn his short story idea into a novel. Let us hope that it does not take that long for it to evolve into a good novel. The Return of Innocence is desperately in need of an editor.
The story told in the book is fairly simple and has all the elements of a decent fantasy novel. Sasha Varov and her family are exiled from their home country of Jaan because her father tried to stop an evil wizard from doing what evil wizards do. Several years later, Sasha sneaks into Jaan on a simple mission of buying seeds. While there, she winds up killing the evil wizard and then returning home.
Unbeknownst to her, that act has made her a hero among the general populace of Jaan, although it opened the way for the evil wizard's even more evil brother to step in and take his place. One year later, Sasha must return to Jaan for more seeds, but on the way her plans are altered and instead she decides to assist a group of rebels seeking to rid Jaan of the wizard.
There are dragons, demons, and plenty of sword fights to make a fantasy reader happy, but in the end it's still too much work to get past the stilted writing and abrupt scene changes. In addition, the author's attempts at humor are incongruous and uncomfortable. Take this exchange on pages 25-26:
"I—" Her fear and confusion increased when she finally recognized her captor as Wuhrlock's brother, Tay-lii. She had seen him once, during their journey to the Tarran Isles. He was sitting on his horse, surrounded by his soldiers and staring at the exiles. But now he stood right in front of her. "Why don't you kill him?" she finally asked.
Men can't kill sorcerers. I learned that fact years ago. It must be a woman, and she must have been born within the territory that the sorcerer has claimed. Women are naturally rooted in the powers of Theln's ground, because the ground absorbed Erran's powers when she fell into it and became the first human."