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Book Review

The Returning by Rachelle Dekker has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. It is the third book in the “Seer” series.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

The year is 2278. Twenty years ago in Authority City, baby Elise Brant was kidnapped. Her parents, Carrington and Remko, fled with a group called the Seers during a rebellion. They never got over having to leave without their daughter and never stopped searching for a way to bring her home.

Authority City’s leaders, including a scientist named Dr. Roth Reynard, vowed to usher in an era of peace following the rebellion. Reynard injected most of the city’s residents with his Genesis Serum, which left them without memories or emotions.

Now, Reynard is seeing visions of a man named Aaron who lives among the Seers in the well-guarded sanctuary of Trylin City. Reynard senses the Seers are planning to invade Authority City. While their numbers are small compared to his anesthetized citizens, he fears Aaron’s prophesy that the girl named Elise will call Authority City residents out of their darkness.

Reynard decides it is time to put an end to Elise for good. Elise has spent years under the care of Authority City President Jesse Cropper. Jesse has even fallen in love with her. But when Reynard insists she must be executed, Jesse knows her fate is out of his hands.

Meanwhile, in Trylin City, a monumental day has arrived. Seven young people who have received a calling are sent off on their mission to save Elise and call the Authority City residents home. Aaron reminds the gathering of citizens that those in Authority City are their brothers and sisters. They are all children of the same Father, but they have forgotten who they are. It is up to The Seven to open the eyes blinded by Reynard’s Genesis Serum.

Guards lead Elise to her execution. She has spent her life hidden in the Capitol because, unlike the others in Authority City, she does not respond to the Genesis Serum. She believes her parents abandoned her years earlier because she was somehow broken. She sometimes experiences memories that aren’t her own and has strange dreams.

In recent dreams, she’s been seeing a young man named Willis. Willis, one of the Seven, has been seeing her in his dreams as well. When Reynard tries to execute Elise, she lights up with an electric power and somehow reverses the Genesis Serum’s effects on the nearby guards. Reynard is desperate to know how to harness this energy for himself.

The Seven infiltrate Authority City through underground tunnels. Willis finds Elise, and they try to escape. Reynard’s guards capture them, and the scientist starts to inject Willis with the Genesis Serum. Once again, Elise uses her newly discovered, supernatural light and energy to take down the guards and weaken Reynard. Willis breaks out of his restraints and injects Reynard with the Serum.

Willis takes Elise back to the camp where The Seven are hiding. Aaron urges her to remember the voices she’s often heard in her mind, telling her she is a daughter, chosen and called. Elise’s younger sister is one of The Seven, and the girls meet for the first time. They learn an Authority City leader named Nicolas has attacked Trylin City and captured all of the citizens.

This action pushes the group to persevere in their mission, and they begin to bring the light to different groups of people throughout the city using Elise’s power. The power of her light doesn’t just reverse the effects of the Genesis Serum and restore people’s memories; it also helps heal people’s physical bodies. But as Jesse learns what’s happening, he re-injects everyone he can, including most of the Trylin citizens in captivity.

Jesse eventually captures Elise. He still loves her, but the voice of darkness in his head tells him he must destroy her. Jesse meets with Elise, and she shows him the power of the light radiating out of her. This surge of light and memories she emits sends him into an intense moral battle. He initially tells Elise he will free her and her people, but the darkness causes him to change his mind and try to kill her.

After another intense emotional battle rages in Jesse’s mind, he remembers his deceased mother’s words about the light and about who he really is in the eyes of the Father. He allows the light to take over his life. The darkness moves on to Nicolas, causing him to try and kill Jesse.

Elise steps in front of Nicolas’ knife, receiving a mortal wound in Jesse’s place. Jesse shoots and kills Nicolas. Elise experiences miraculous healing and reunites with her parents as the Trylin citizens are freed. In an epilogue, Elise and Willis marry in a joyful celebration, as people of both cities learn to live in the aftermath of the Genesis Serum and embrace their true identities.

Christian Beliefs

While the names of God and Jesus are never mentioned, the citizens of Trylin City often speak of the Father, their identity in Him and the light that He gives. They acknowledge their belief in Him and their responsibility to take His truth throughout the world. They believe the people of Authority City have forgotten their true identities and are blinded to their own salvation. Their mission is to rescue those in Authority City from the darkness and to remind them who they really are.

A Trylin City leader named Aaron appears to Reynard and Elise in visions, prophesying The Returning of the people of Authority City to their true home. The Seven have been chosen by the Father to accomplish this mission. In a moment of stress, Remko finds comfort in the words from the hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”

When the citizens of Trylin find themselves under attack, they decide not to run, fight or fear but to surrender in faith. Elise often hears inner voices of the Father, telling her that she is a daughter, that she is stronger than she knows and that she must remember who she is. He urges her to walk in His truth, use His power and not be afraid. Jesse, who has long been influenced by the darkness, feels the power of light in Elise. Eventually, he embraces the light as well.

There are biblical, allegorical qualities to this story, such as the serum and the battle between light and darkness.

Other Belief Systems

Reynard believes he is bringing forth the next level of evolution with his Genesis Serum. The Serum takes away emotion and memory. It renders the citizens mild and compliant. After nearly all citizens are injected, the Council begins to disband religion and disregard gender differences. Reynard has allowed dark energy to overpower him. The darkness also speaks to Jesse and Nicolas, urging them to kill and destroy.

The characters stuck in darkness aren't transformed because someone shared the Gospel with them; they are changed because all this supernatural light or energy is flying around reversing the effects of the Serum they were given. Along with this, the good guys repeatedly state that those living in darkness are only doing so because they have forgotten their true identities. The main character even contends there never really was a war to fight because everyone already has the light living inside them — if they would just remember it.

Authority Roles

Aaron shows people the truth and urges them to rejoice in the light. Roth has been overpowered by the darkness. He uses his position to control the people of Authority City. Jesse, who has not been injected with the Serum, struggles with the complexities of right and wrong. Jesse’s father was a drunk who physically abused him. The voices of both darkness and light speak to people frequently. The voices give instructions and try to influence the hearers’ opinions of themselves.


Roth kills two council members who defy the darkness. Nicolas slaps and kicks Carrington. He accidentally stabs Elise when he means to stab Jesse, and he shoots a Trylin citizen in the head. Jesse and other scientists inject unwilling people with various serums on a number of occasions. One woman is depicted arching her back and twitching in pain and horror during an injection. Jesse slits Roth’s throat and shoots Nicolas.


Elise and Willis kiss a few times.

Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

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Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

18 and up


Rachelle Dekker






Record Label



Tyndale House Publishers


On Video

Year Published





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