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The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book One: Theory

(The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming #1)

4.29  ·  Rating details ·  215 ratings  ·  75 reviews

“Life is transformation. You change or you die.”

Ashamed of his past and overwhelmed by his future, Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani feels too small for his own name. After a graceless exit from his homeland in the Acharrioni desert, his anxiety has sabotaged every attempt a
Kindle Edition, 448 pages
Published April 25th 2018 by Molewhale Press
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cats Yes, part 2 comes out in a few months in 2022.

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I think I just found one of my most favorite books of all time.

Even if the novel didn't remind me of Cat Valente's best writing, with all its poetry couched in prose, the way the stories within stories kinda blows me away.

But you know what really speaks to me the most?

This novel is about awe. Hope. Regaining spirit, driving forward your dreams, fighting anxiety, and finding wonder.

Quite aside from that, the novel has a truly delicious and deep worldbuilding that is matched or perhaps overmatch
Avi Silver
It feels a little like cheating to review this book, so I'll make it brief: I married her so she would be contractually obligated to show me all of her drafts for book two. ...more
Para (wanderer)
"You think I'm going to tell you now when we're this close? Half the appeal of having you tag along is the fact that you dissolve into a puddle of unintelligible enthusiasm every time we come across something remotely interesting. [...] It's a real treat, watching you fall in love with the things I love."
Heretic's Guide is a paradox. I want to shout its praises from the rooftops because how come that I've never heard of it before Lynn recommended it to me when it's so good and so relatable?
Heidi The Reader
The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming is a fantasy journey in which Ronoah, an introverted and anxious main character, discovers a strength inside himself that he didn't know he had and, along the way, learns about the world outside of the regimented and ill-fitting expectations of his hometown.

It is not a simple adventure because Ronoah, with all of his hang ups, is a very unlikely hero.

"... Ronoah was not one tenth the rebel she needed him to be. Inertia had him by the throat, and its consequence
May 26, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Wow, that was one of the most difficult reads I’ve had in ages. In the end, and it was only towards the end that I finally decided, I think it was a ‘good, interesting difficult’ and not a ‘disappointing, depressing difficult’! Not a tale for many I know on GR though.

This is a slow paced world building fantasy. A niche that I enjoy, where developed characters interact well, lots of conversations reveal the mystery of this strange world, one now not particularly driven by conflict. The map at the
C.E. Clayton
On the base surface, “A Heretics Guide to Homecoming” is about a young scholar who decides that he wants to experience the world first hand rather than learn about it from books in a library. He wants his difficult questions answered, and he can’t do that from his home country where words have literal weight, and some things are too dangerous to speak aloud. Ronoah embarks on a journey that takes him across the world and expands his horizons, all while he battles an all too real and crippling an ...more
Wade Greiten
Sep 16, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really like the cover art. And I have immense respect for anyone who finishes a project like this. The afterword says it took 1800+ days. And the cover art. Love it. But man oh man, I really disliked this book. There were some bits of prose I enjoyed. Oh, and a couple of the interlude stories were quite nice. I detested both of the central characters. I... I honestly am so exhausted mentally and spiritually from cranking through this book that I can't bring myself to tear it apart. And it woul ...more
May 15, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorite-books
Easy 5.
Uh, WHY has < 200 people read this book? I’m scratching my head on this one.

I already bought a physical copy for my shelves because I want to reread it and share it with loved ones.

Coming out (fingers crossed!?) of the pandemic this is the pep talk we might need to hear. It’s feels therapeutic but make it fantastical. I also love the level of debate in this book. I feel like if you have a journalism/broadcasting/storytelling background - you’ll find yourself nodding along with amusemen
Oct 07, 2019 added it
At risk of waxing philosophical: this kind of book is the hardest kind of book to rate/review on here, and really calls into question the futility of assigning a rating at all. But, this exists to help people find books that they would like, so here we go.

The difficulty in reviewing this comes in the fact that this kind of story is simply not my cup of tea, but there's nothing inherently wrong with that. So, how to rate it? How subjective is a subjective rating?

If your ideal fantasy story is som
Cass Meehan
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is absolutely fantastic in every way. It was the first book I picked up in a long while, having fallen a bit out of my love of reading due to school, work, and life in general, and it revived my passion for reading in the most magical way. This is largely because this world Sienna has built reaches beyond the bound pages here and into the stories and world-building of The Shale Project, but also working your way into your own brain, asking yourself deeper questions, and wanting more fr ...more
Reader Views
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reviewed by Keshia Mcclantoc for Reader Views (1/19)

“The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming” is the first in what proves to be a promising series for Sienna Tristen. This story follows the boy, whose name seems larger than life, Ronoah Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani, as he leaves him home and looks for a path of redemption. From there, he meets the adventurous Reilin and together they take a journey full of magic, challenges, and strange and wonderful creatures amuck. As Ronoah recounts the epic j
Lucia ★
"It is the unexpected things that impact us the most."

every now and then, you unexpectedly stumble upon a book that just... feels like a part of you, like you have found in it a fragment of your soul. it draws you in like the comfort of sunlight filtering through trees, of waves lapping against the shore, of hushed conversations around a campfire, of home. this is not an exciting book, it is slow, introspective, character-driven, and it is not for everyone. personally, i was spellbound. i was en
Spenser Chicoine
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming: Theory” is a marvelous journey that left me the reader feeling, much like the story’s main character, privileged to have been allowed along as part of it. The story begins with our main character Ronoah alone far from home; unsure of both where he is going next, and everything that has brought him this far. Conversation with an enchantingly mysterious stranger escalates to an invitation on a journey across the continent to the holy Pilgrim State. The narrativ ...more
Cameron Currie
Jul 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
First off, let me say that if you're looking for a typical first-attempt-of-the-author book, this ain't it. I was constantly surprised, pleasantly, with the philosophical insight, complex use of language and depth of character development. Fantasy normally lurks in the action hack-and-slash area, and in fairness, when you've read about one seven-foot tall barbarian with a broadsword, you've read about them all. Tristen goes to great lengths to throw the bedrock of the genre out the window in fav ...more
Jun 13, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"I shall give them a name for themselves, a way to distinguish from place and parentage and godling, for it is by this distinguishment that they will grow into their reason for being. I shall give them a name for themselves, that they may feel the spark of their own unbridled individuality and know themselves important, no matter the forces which may seek to persuade them otherwise.
Make it so, exclaimed the gods.
With pleasure, said grinning Genoveffa. Behold: from language, life."

(4.5 stars) t
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I received an advance copy of The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming in exchange for an honest review.

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.
Sep 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written but dense, long, and overly descriptive for my impatience.
Meeni Levi
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
This book didn't have to tick all of my boxes and yet, somehow, it did. Cultural clashes, mythologies, soul-searching journeys, a hero with /extremely/ relatable anxiety issues (didn't help that I was reading this was going through an anxiety-inducing soul-searching adventure of my own), and very importantly: people being nerds about languages. This book has it all!
The plot is interesting, and the style beautiful enough that you don't mind its at time sedate pace. You do see some of the "twists"
Jack Duff
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Simply beautiful and relevant prose about unexpectedly close-to-the-heart topics. Empathetic humanistic fantasy, you’ve met your next champion! Sit down with a mug of tea for the spellbinding story and characters you wish you could talk to in real life - keep reading long after the tea is gone for the spellbinding stories those characters tell, and the characters THEY wish they could talk to in real life.
Dec 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: spec-fic, perma-shelf
A beautiful world with a story I want to tattoo to myself in hopes that it might sink into who I am.
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this one enough that I think I'm going to give it a reread in the near future. I'll aim to give it a proper review then! ...more
This was a weird book. Set in a rich world of Shale, a scholar finds himself on a quest to... self!

This was a character-heavy, internal kind of book. There was no plot, and no stakes except those inside our anxious protagonist. I had trouble connecting to our protagonist(s), but there were moments of profound insight I appreciated, as well ad handling of anxiety in book form. Also, stories within stories are something I enjoy very much.

All in all, this book took me a loong time to finish.
Carisa Catherine
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I think I have to finally resign myself to the fact that I will never be able to be as eloquent as Tristen, and just write my review of this book honestly, regardless of the outcome, so here goes.

This book has got to be one of my favourite books of all time. All. Time.

Heretic's Guide To Homecoming: Book One starts off as a slow burn but has quite the payoff. By the time the reader is coming into the story, our main protagonist Ronoah (Genoveffa Elizzi-denna Pilanovani -- trust me these names ar
~adventure to remake yourself
~creating new myths
~curiosity is a virtue
~find your voice
~perfect!book is perfect

What on Earth are you supposed to say in response to one of the most beautiful books you’ve ever read?

And how do I convince you all that you need to read it???

The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming (Book One – the final instalment, Book Two: Practice, is forthcoming in just a few months!) is the kind of convention-defying, genre-fluid, unshelvable book that self- and indie-publishin
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I will start this review by clarifying one thing. If a book is in a series that has not been completed, I will not read it until the series has been completed (and then I will usually binge read the series). Having said this, I have read this book at LEAST twice in the past few months.

I'm not usually a fan of heavy exposition or lore in my novels - my preferred type of book splashes character emotional and development arcs in short sharp prose ( I have a very short attention span). However, I de
Feb 07, 2022 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could not relate to Ronoah or Reilin as characters, which basically dooms the reading experience as the book is the former’s “life journey” and the latter’s role in that journey. The world-building is wonderful, almost overwhelmingly so (and interestingly a real-world collaborative effort called Shale), but it feels too often like an info-dump and not a story with enough cohesiveness (or interesting-relatable characters, for me). Ronoah is desperately anxiety-ridden and this made his story ann ...more
May 20, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
This is not a bad book. It is a very well done book, by someone who has a great grasp on the English language and a good knack for worldbuilding. It's also a travelogue with very minimal stakes and quite a lot of internal monologues. I'd say it's akin to a Doctor Who story, with Reilin as the Doctor and Ronoah, the protagonist, as the companion, if the companion had crippling anxiety and more self-doubt than me and all of my friends combined, and if the evil aliens had all died a few centuries b ...more
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book is so very near and dear to my heart. The writing is so clear, so vivid and poignant, flush with emotional depth and psychological insight. I’ve never felt so in touch with a protagonist before. Ronoah invites the reader into his head and his heart, and we’re all the better for it.
Sarah O'Malley
A very sweet and sad story, and I liked the lyrical emotional manipulation of the main character. The narrative crept along so slowly and I wanted more movement.
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, queer-lit
I received an Advanced Reader's Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming is a stunning debut novel by Sienna Tristen that sets a high bar for the Shale project, and promises that the expectations will be met in later instalments. With masterful prose, Tristen weaves a rich universe that filled me with the same yearning for new experiences that the main character, Ronoah, struggles to realize through the course of the story. For such a slow burn – painf
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Sienna Tristen is an author, poet, and literary organizer living in Treaty 3 territory who explores queer platonic partnership, the nonhuman world, and mythmaking in their work. Their award-winning fantasy novel The Heretic’s Guide to Homecoming came out from indie arts collective The Shale Project in 2018; you can find their poetry in Augur Magazine and Plenitude, and their chapbook hortus animar ...more

Other books in the series

The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming (2 books)
  • The Heretic's Guide to Homecoming: Book Two: Practice

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“Be clever. Be brave. Rebel against inertia.” 1 likes
“Right," Reilin said, and Ronoah looked up at him because his voice had changed again and suddenly it sounded clear and young, hushed with breathless anticipation. It made his own heart kick in a way that made him more excited than nauseous. The man rolled his broad shoulders in their sockets, gathering the reins in his hands. He was staring intent at the horizon, the blue canvas of the eastern sky, the rip and rupture of the sun. His face was unreadable, sort of like a question and sort of like an answer and sort of like a challenge and yet none of those things at all. "Off we go, into the glorious unknown.” 1 likes
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