Be aware: this one contains major spoilers!!!
During the Turkish Siege 1529 Andrej Delany and his immortal friend Abu Dun live in Vienna. They fight for the Austrians, and made themselves quite a name. Even the Chief of Defence, Count Niklas of Salm, has heard of them and wants them to stop the war by assassinating the Sultan. As a reward, he will help them in their search for the scientist Breiteneck, who is rumored to know the secrets of immortality.
As they approach through the catacombs, the two heros encounter demonic creatures – Ghuls – and a familiar face: Frederic! Now being much older, he is able to defeat his formerly father/ master/ friend Andrej with a poisened blade, that even could kill immortals. Andrej is brought to Breiteneck, who heals him, but can’t give deliberate answers to Andrej’s questions.
Breiteneck is later killed by Frederic the impaler, but Von Salm – who turns out to be Breitenecks brother, still wants them to save the town. So Andrej and Abu Dun once again climb down the catacombs, to the final (?) showdown with Frederic, the Ghuls, and the Turkish. But Frederic still has a dangerous ace in his sleeve, which he cunningly reveals to Abu Dun…
The Return (which is undoubtly meant to be Frederic) is the fifth book in the series, and it’s one of the best! Taking place around fifty years after the events of “The Downfall”, it has almost everything in it: Action, suspense, comedic relieve, answers, and some nostalgic moments. It kinda continues the storyline after the end of “The Vampyre”, with Frederic being half himself, half Vlad Tepes.
Frederic + Vlad Tepes = Badass Villain
The reader also encounters new monstrous villains: The Ghuls/ Zombies, somehow produced by Frederic. We will encounter those terrifying creatures in later books (to some extend at least).
The book is totally stolen away by Frederic, every moment with him is so intense, he is the leading man in every scene he appears. But also the quiet scenes between Andrej and Abu Dun are great, especially the one at the “sickbed”, where you get to know Abu Duns origin.
Some new story-elements appear, such as the poisen that kills immortals (which sororly isn’t picked up in sequels), Vampyres making themselves “invisible” (ok, that one already appeared in Volume III and IV, but here it is defined), as well as the answer that immortality is a disease (well, we will never know for sure, trust me). The only downside of the book is its forced love interest. Seriously, Kathie appears in the last quarter of the book, has no real relationship to Andrej (and there is also no chemistry between them), all she does is lead the way to Frederic. But she is treated in a way that makes her look important. A mysterious woman with a dark past. But despite leading the way, she is completely useless. Here only excuse for existence is to have a woman in the book (seriously, there are no other women in the book, but you don’t miss them either)
Now to the ending: Boy, this is one awesome ending. It has the best cliffhanger in the entire series (although Volume XI’s is almost as good in my opinion, although it is obvious Hohlbein has tried to make it as good as this one). It’s not only the last sentence, but also the way this sentence is prepared and presented to the reader:
MAJOR SPOILER ALERT
Frederic whispers into Abu Dun’s ear, a triumphant smile on his face. Abu Dun is very concerned, but leaves with Andrej without a word, leaving Frederic to the avenging Turkish soldiers. When they are out of earshot, Abu Dun says: “Du hättest ihn töten sollen.” Andrej simply nods and says nothing. After a pause Abu Dun continues: ” Er hat mir gesagt wo wir Maria finden”.
I´m sorry to post it in German, but, it is too awesome to be translated. For all the English readers: Abu Dun acknowledges that Andrej should have better killed Frederic, instead of letting him live, and then continues by saying that Frederic has told him (Abu Dun) the Whereabouts of Maria, Andrej’s love of his life.
SPOILER ALERT ENDS
Holy God this is awesome. After reading these lines I was like: “OMG OMG OMG! How does it continue?”. Gladly, the day I have bought this book was also the day Volume VI has arrived. So the next day I went to the shop and bought it.
“The Return” is definitly one of the best books in the series, being as good as Volume I (and Volume XI). It has some flaws I admit, especially in continuity to the previous books, but it doesn’t matter all that much.