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Eleven years ago, Phineas T. Pimiscule rescued his nephew Sky Weathers in the town of Exile. Since then, Sky studied traps, puzzles, science, and the secret lore of the Hunters of Legend, believing it all a game, while his parent and uncle sacrificed to hide him. On the eve of Sky's twelfth birthday and his family's return to Exile, Phineas disappears.

To find him, Sky joins ragtag teen monster hunters whose weapons are made out of garbage and know even less than he does. If Sky can't solve the riddles his uncle left for him within two days, Exile will burn. Who is Sky and why does everyone want to kill him?

512 pages, Hardcover

First published September 6, 2011

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About the author

E.J. Patten

3 books83 followers
In April 1974, a beautiful baby boy was born at a small hospital in Mesa, Arizona. E. J. Patten (“Eric James”) was in the next crib over.

The first story he ever wrote involved a strange ad, a Laundromat, and a bowl of chili; thankfully, it was never published.

He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Arts, and a Masters in Business Administration from Brigham Young University. He currently resides with his wife and three children in Utah.

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5 stars
359 (37%)
4 stars
309 (32%)
3 stars
191 (19%)
2 stars
71 (7%)
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30 (3%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 128 reviews
Profile Image for D.J. Butler.
Author 76 books212 followers
June 23, 2011
(Full disclosure: I am a friend of the author, and have read this book in draft and in ARC form)

** Kids fight evil monsters using weapons made of garbage, save the world. **

A lot of books don't get any better than their high concept. This one does. Patten is funny, in a way that appeals to both kids and adults. He writes great action. He plots against deep and interesting backstory. He concocts elaborate and funny riddles. He crafts vivid, believable characters, even when those characters are monsters. His monsters are all original, too, bizarre and creaky and fun and gross and fascinating and evil... or are they evil, after all?

Is your kid any of...

- smart
- funny
- curious
- precocious
- fantasy-loving
- action oriented
- a puzzle solver
- looking for the next Percy Jackson- or Harry Potter-style adventure?

Get your kid this book.
Profile Image for Joe Lunievicz.
17 reviews
July 9, 2011
What came to mind for me immediately as I began this book was how unique and different the world that Patten built is. It is part Lovecraft with dark, dark, frightening monsters who are shapeshifters and tentacled, and razor sharp toothed with mouths on their heads and caps to cover them - part Solomon Kane from Robert E. Howard (the author of Conan), and all bizarre. Man these monsters with names like Whisper, Gnomen, Wargarou, Shadow Wargs, are creepy and imaginative and scary and they surround the main character, Sky Weathers, who is likeable and always one step behind the plot which is one giant puzzle/trap. His mentor, Phineas T Pimiscule, is a wonderful creation and worthy of a book all by himself. The theme of puzzles and traps is fascinating and one of the things that intrigued my son about the book and also intrigued me. I was constantly trying to figure out what would happen next and was always surprised by the shifting landscape and characters. This is a world of shapeshifters and darkness.

Check out the opening line - always a key element in book selection for me:

Phineas T. Pimiscule was not what you'd call an "attractive" man.

This is a line that begs you to read on.

And this is a book you must also pay attention to. Half the fun was trying to guess what the solutions to the puzzles were just as Sky was. I especially appreciated the world-building done by Patten - epic in scope, logical and consistent in tone, and thought-provoking. I enjoyed having characters that were evil and good, monsters that were sometimes both at the same time, and good guys who could also be bad. Sky's world is not made of simple black and white.

Do I have complaints about the book? Patten's use of simile was a bit much with less, for me as a reader, being more. But this is a small thing compared to the success of the larger scope of the book and the craft of world-building he has demonstrated. The ending is just beautiful. I won't spoil it but I will tell you it reads like the perfect ending to a pulp serial - ominous, dark, and bookended by razor-sharp tooth and suction cupped tentacle.
Profile Image for Platte Clark.
Author 5 books55 followers
October 12, 2012
I was able to obtain an advance reader's copy of this book from the publisher. That being said, Return to Exile is an epic adventure, perfectly balanced between a fantastical world of monsters, traps, weapons, and a precocious boy named Sky Weathers. Full of action, humor, and an incredible cast of characters, this is the kind of book that will not only appeal to young readers, but their older siblings and parents as well. With so many fantasy derivatives out there, I found Return to Exile to be a wholly unique work, inventing a mythology and milieu that is as intriguing as it is satisfying. If you enjoy the genre, consider this one a “must read” for 2011.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,377 reviews15 followers
April 19, 2019
Appropriate for: age 12+

I really liked this book. I found the main character very relate-able. There was an air of mystery to it that was intriguing. While this book is middle grade, I would recommend it for tweens and up because of how creepy it is.
Profile Image for Jessie.
287 reviews9 followers
October 4, 2012
This book had a slow start. Had I not been reading it for a book club, I probably wouldn't have continued. But it does pick up and start to grab you about 200 pages in. By then I wasn't reading because I had to, I was actually looking for stolen moments to read. There were plenty of twists and battles to keep you going through the second half of the book. As far as mood/feel goes it was like a hybrid of A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter, though not as well written as either of those.

One of the real problems with this book is its audience confusion. It doesn't know and/or understand its demographic. The story was most appropriate for middle grade readers, maybe 4-8 grade, (for example, one of the major villains was a pumpkin patch) but the vocabulary was definitely young adult as was the complexity of the world he created. The trouble with fantasy is that authors must walk a fine line between having enough original content to make their world engaging and fun and not overwhelming the reader with a world too foreign and too full of things to learn. There are SO MANY monsters, and characters, and groups in this book that I grew annoyed with trying to remember it all. I'm not sure many middle grade readers would be able to keep it all straight very successfully. And I'm not sure it's really worth the effort for a book so frivolous and thematically weak.
Profile Image for Caren.
1,287 reviews
September 25, 2011
My notes:
Phineas: old man; Sky's uncle. Lives on huge estate, Pimiscule Manor. Gone often. A book salesman. Never shows up for Sky's birthday. Missing.

Sky: main character; is 12 in the 2nd chapter. He is the "one". Has a mark on his hand (2 crescent moons running vertically on his palm, from fingers to wrist, with the moons pressed together like a giant eye. Another mark is pale and sits within the dark eye with 2 horizontal moons. The birthmark is hot the smaller one inside. the "trix" shifts and is cold and brittle. His mark is believed to be "The Hunters Mark". He lives with his family. Parents always moving. Has lots of nightmares.

They are moving again. This time to a place called "Exile", near the estate of Phineas.
When Phineas doesn't show up, Sky's dad leaves to search for him. Warns his wife to run if he doesn't come back.
Hannah: his 16 year old, blond, cheer leader, popular sister.
Beau: one of Phineas's students

Bottom line: Too much to keep track of too quickly. Some funny parts for sure. Don't think many 10 year old kids could keep up with the barrage of characters, terms, worlds etc..

The Hunters of Legend: a group. They rejected Phineas.

Piebalds: large black and white crows.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
32 reviews8 followers
July 6, 2011
I didn't actually finish this book, so it is not a "full bodied" review - more like a first impression.

This book is way overly burdened with metaphor and simile. I wished I had a red pen when I was reading it. "Traces of fading sunlight slipped through the canopy above, moving across the earth like matadors with threadbare capes teasing and taunting the night onward." You think? Another example - "The glass wall surrounded the Pimiscule manor like the arms of a street urchin clutching a loaf of bread" then goes on to say that the manor was several football fields within the wall. The simile is bad enough, but also confusing. Is it being clutched by the wall or is it several football fields inside? p. 45. I put it down. No wonder it is almost 500 pages.
Profile Image for Kate.
309 reviews7 followers
September 9, 2011
I wanted to like this book a lot more than I did - I think the idea was better than the execution.

All of the characters, apart from Sky, were stock, stereotype characters: annoying sister, quirky uncle, mean teacher, etc and thus largely forgettable. Nearly every character also had multiple names, which made figuring out who was whom quite confusing.

The set-up for the story itself was also less than stellar. Instead of building any real suspense, the first two hundred pages are a confusing jumble. After that, the action does pick up and redeems the book slightly but it's not a series I'll continue with.
Profile Image for Tulgey Wood.
113 reviews
September 29, 2013
The plot: Sky is a little boy who is being chased by monsters and by monster hunters. His family teaches him very little about monsters. They teach him very little about monster hunters. And they teach him nothing about fighting. Then they move him to a town that's known for having a lot of monsters and monster hunters. Bad stuff happens.

The characters: There were a ton of characters in this book. Way more than there needed to be. And at least half of them have nicknames, as if there weren't already enough names to keep track of. There were so many characters that even in roughly 500 pages, it was difficult to get to know any of them. Since I never felt like I got to know any of them, I didn't really care about any of them or what happened to them.

The dialogue: The dialogue was downright bizarre. It felt like the author wanted the characters to come across as funny and witty. But when the characters were constantly cracking tired and forced jokes, all their interactions just felt goofy.

The bad guys: Even the bad guys felt kind of goofy and cartoony. And a lot of important plot details were unveiled not as they happened, not by Sky or his friends figuring them out, but by the bad guys just randomly telling Sky about them. It came across as very, "Ha, I caught you! Now let me tell you about the time when I....." like an evil old grandfather catching kids to force them to listen to his "when I was your age" stories.

In short, this book was goofy. And I don't mean in a good, lighthearted, fun, funny, Roald Dahl kind of way. I mean in a bad, ridiculous, this was almost painful to read, I don't recommend this to anyone of any age group kind of way.
Profile Image for Melysah Bunting.
210 reviews5 followers
August 10, 2011
I got to read "Return to Exile" (The Hunter Chronicles #1) by E.J. Patten courtesy of Simon and Schuster via Shelf Awareness. It's a young adult novel that is reminiscent of the author's literary interests. There is a lot of monsters and action. Let your imagination run wild!

Sky Weathers is a boy who loves puzzles and studies with his uncle, Phineas T. Pimiscule, about the Hunters of Legend, botany and all sorts of strange things. Sky and his family return to the city of Exile and uncover many secrets. Phineas T. Pimiscule has protected Sky many years from enemies. Now it's Sky's turn to protect not only his uncle but his family, town, and the legacy of the Hunters.

Wow. This novel is profound. You have to pay attention, or you'll drift into utter confusion (similar to Stephen King's Dark Tower series). Although, at the end of the book I noticed there was a cheat sheet of all the monsters, or you can visit the website. So if you do happen to get confused, don't fret. As a YA novel, it contains enough monsters and twists to keep the mind working for all 500 plus pages. I haven't been excited about a book since I read James Dashner's "The Maze Runner" series.

I love the website!
Profile Image for Steven.
35 reviews5 followers
January 2, 2014
I did enjoy this book thats why i hate that i can't rate it a 3.5 cause yeah it's just like his parents well they are over protective and everyone lies to him and doesn't tell him stuff and all the riddles like no one can give a straight answer even crystal is still keeping secrets and i wish he was stronger yeah he has the hunters mark and can talk to any monster and learn secrets but i don't think he's the type to do it :/ he's just kinda pitiful at the moment even with the hunters mark and the trix i wish he would get a beef up i was looking forward to these books so much too and now i'm just like i wanna read the next one but i'm also kinda put off cause i'm pretty sure it's just gonna be some more of the same :/ and not sure if thats worth it i mean i'm all for keeping secrets but this is just retarded everything EVERYTHING IS A SECRET IN THIS BOOK.. plus i'm having a hard time finding the other book :/ i would have to order them online
32 reviews3 followers
January 30, 2017
I liked this book especially because it has fantasy. However, this book did have some flaws. For one thing, I think it would have been better if Sky was an orphan. Most good fantasy books, including Harry Potter, have the protagonist grow up in harsh conditions, including bad parent or school bullies, and then they find out that they are much more than just an average person. The gear that the monster hunters had were pretty cool though. This is a book I would definitely recommend to other people.
Profile Image for Geneva.
15 reviews
October 11, 2011
This book is way cool. It is very confusing, jumping from topic to topic. A warning for every one: if you don't like potty words, don't read this book. (cause in the book, people use pee to kill monsters and sometimes by accident, drink it or eat it in the crackers they have. )
Profile Image for Samantha.
22 reviews
September 27, 2013
At first when you start reading this book it's intriguing, with all of the cool creatures and Sky's fun uncle. But then when you reach the middle of the book suddenly it's like "WHAT THE HECK!" And you can't put it down! This is a really cool book by a guy from Utah. 4 1/2 stars! :)
Profile Image for Aberrant.
41 reviews
November 20, 2011
Eh it was just alright. A great example of why books can be categorized as juvenile fiction. If you know what I mean.
7 reviews
April 4, 2019
For the month of March I read the book, Return to Exile, by E.J. Patten. I loved this book because it was so action packed that it made me happy in a way i guess. There was constantly a puzzle being solved or someone fighting something. My favorite character is Sky because I can relate to him in a way. I don’t always fit in with other people, and i’m fine with that. My favorite qoute is, “The watch said ENOF OD NABA BAN DO FONE.” If your wondering why I love that qoute it’s bec ause it’s the same reading it normal and backwards, but if you read it from the middle out it says ‘A band of one.’ A band of one means that Sky, and his group of friends need to stick by eachother no matter what happens. My least favorite character has got to be Solomon Rose. Solomon Rose is probably the most famous hunter of legend, but since he wanted to be the most powerful he gave his hunter’s mark away for an eye of legend. The only problem was for him to get teh eye of legend he became the Arkhon the most feared monster other then Bedlam.
Profile Image for Ellen Manaford.
28 reviews1 follower
January 20, 2020
It was the cover that pulled me into this book. It is fantastic and very well designed. When I read the synopsis I wasn't completely convinced because I thought it would be action and fighting only. But it turned out to be something different. The plot turned out to be very original and engaging and there was not too much fighting going on. It kept me reading to the very end. Now I am curious to see what the second book has in store.
5 reviews
August 2, 2020
This book was very confusing at the beginning but as I got further into the book it became great. I liked this book because of all the mysteries and action when they fought monsters. Return to Exile could've been a five star rating from me if the beginning wasn't so confusing, but overall this book was pretty good.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kyle Teter.
27 reviews
December 1, 2018
Great book

I loved reading this book. I couldn’t wait till the second book in the series came out. I know this review is very late, but it’s here.
Profile Image for  Delilah P..
7 reviews
February 14, 2022
If you like mysteries then you will defintaly like this book
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for An Abundance of Books.
192 reviews144 followers
August 30, 2011
Featured at An Abundance of Books

eturn to Exile was an excellent mix of characters, tension, monsters, mayhem, and humor. While I didn't find it to be "scary" per se and some things were a bit predictable, it was a well paced read that I could not put down and read it in one sitting. Seriously, I stayed up until 3:oo a.m. to finish this book, I had to know how it ended.

Sky was a great kid, so full of heart even though the world seems to work against him. He is rescued by classmates who have taken it upon themselves to protect the town from monsters. These four mini MacGyvers have cobbled together body armor and effective weapons from garbage. They really don't know what they're fighting and are pretty much flying by the seat of their pants. One character, Hands, is turned onto vampire romance novels by his grandfather as a source of monster fighting techniques. (As a vampire romance reader myself, I found these bits very funny.) Sky has an older sister who just seems horrible at first, but you get to like her. (Loved Hannah and Tick in the final battle.) There are adults, who unfortunately work at Sky's school, that hate him. They're not deliciously evil teachers like Snape, they are vile and you want to beat them over the head with a chair. (Really, the more Miss Hagfish talked, the more I gasped in outrage.) Sky's monster books and bestiaries are a bit absurd but add some fun. The fight scenes in Return to Exile are great and some of the funniest I have ever read. Patten has created some great monsters and Rocco's small illustrations were a nice touch. It was at times a bit predictable, but never so much so that it ruined the story.

There were some things that could be negatives. There was a bizarre bit with the janitor and I hope it's explained in the next book, otherwise it's totally pointless and weird. Also, some of the technical talk about plasma and force fields was a bit too much for me. My brain generally turns off in those situations, but it's something I would mention to a student. Basically you could skim those few bits and be ok.

The Return to Exile is a great middle grades book and a good fit for the age group. (I'm not sure how much adult readers will like it, but the majority middle and high school audience should enjoy it.) It had some of the best fight scenes ever and I loved the mix of seriousness and humor. I would recommend this book to readers who liked the Percy Jackson or Alex Rider series. I'm looking forward to the sequel. I give it 5 out of 6 stars.

Read full review HERE
203 reviews7 followers
August 28, 2011
All Sky's life, his family has been moving from place to place, never staying long enough for him to make real friends. So, his best friend is his monocle-wearing uncle Phineas, who has taught him to solve puzzles and set and elude traps, and attempted to teach him botany. He has also taught Sky more esoteric knowledge--of monsters, and how to hunt or avoid them.

Sky's parents have always insisted that monsters aren't real. Now that they are moving back to Exile, where his parents lived before he was born, Sky will discover just how real monsters are, and some secrets about himself, as well. Pity that the worst monster of all the Arkhon, will be released on the world in just three days, unless Sky can find a way to stop it.

Return to Exile by E. J. Patten is a middle-grade fantasy novel, the first book in The Hunter Chronicles. It's filled with fantastical monsters and exciting adventure, and characters with plenty of secrets of their own. With his uncle missing, Sky must decide who to trust and solve the riddles his uncle left for him, if he's to find Phineas and prevent the Arkhon from escaping its prison.

Patten is a bit wordy, initially. The first few chapters read like he was trying a bit too hard to make an impression, rendering the first few dozen pages something of a chore. Once the story picks up, though, you'll find it hard to put the book down. There are mysteries and problems to solve right up until the end, and there's always enough going on to keep you interested.

The world of Return to Exile is very well-realized, with a variety of monsters, plants (some monstrous), and monster hunters, forming a coherent world and history. If anything, Patten has created a world that's too interesting--I found myself wishing that I could read some of the in-universe books like The Evil Echo of Solomon Rose, so as to learn more about the history of the world. Hopefully, we can look forward to more details in future entries in the series.

Return to Exile is a great middle-grade fantasy book. It goes on sale September 6, 2011 in both hardcover and electronic formats.

Disclosure: This review is based on a free advance reader's copy.
Profile Image for Heidi.
2,637 reviews52 followers
April 6, 2012
Sky doesn't belong anywhere, not at home and not at school, and he has no idea why. Long nights wandering spent looking for something he cannot name have left his parents sensitive to the slightest abnormal behavior. Sky can't explain his behavior except for the 'little monster' he has in his head and the marks on his hands. But when his family returns to Exile without his Uncle Phineas and the black mark on his hand bleeds black blood, Sky knows something is very wrong, and he starts to realize that what he always assumed were made-up stories about monsters may very well be real. With the reluctant help of some teenage monster hunters, Sky sets out to find his Uncle Phineas and the answers he has been searching for his whole life, which may in the end, cost him his life.

Boy, once this story started moving, it moving rapidly. There is plenty of excitement and the underlying mystery of Sky's identity and what happened to him that makes so many people want him dead pervades the book from page one. The only real problem I had was with some of the explanations of how the world worked, I found them somewhat confusing. But this did not detract from the exciting events or the development of the characters. Sky is a really sympathetic character as he struggles to control his 'little monster' and then his struggles once he discovers some answers. This aspect of the story I found unique in that it adds some uncertainty about Sky and his past and his future. This will clearly be explored throughout the series.

I have to say that I'm not really a monster person. And this book has many monsters in it, despite that fact I found the book compelling and the different monsters intriguing. I also appreciated the fact that the monsters were not all evil as they are often portrayed. Some of these monsters, as Sky learns, aren't all bad, and even play an important role in Sky's search. I recommend the book for those who appreciate longer more detailed fantasies with great characters and an intricate plot that twists and turns. The numerous traps and puzzles make for a nice touch. I definitely will be reading the sequel.
Profile Image for Jessica Bronder.
2,014 reviews22 followers
October 27, 2011
I originally received this book from Simon & Schuster’s Galley Grab but it expired before I could finish reading it. I had posted a review then got a copy of it from the Amazon Vine Program. Here is my updated review after having finished the book.

It is Sky’s twelfth birthday but it is the worst birthday ever. His uncle Phineas goes missing and he has to move to Exile. Now he feels like something is wrong. When he follows his father onto Phineas’ property, he is attacked by creatures that he though were just stories in books that Phineas gave him years ago. A shifter and three cloaked people save Sky from these creatures.

The next day, Sky learns that kids his age are the ones that saved him and they have no knowledge of what they are fighting. They have created their weapons from the trash dumped in caves below Phineas’ property. Sky is a great asset to them since he knows about the creatures that they are fighting.

The hunters that Sky grew up learning about are no longer around. Now the kids are going to have to work together to keep the prison from being unlocked and deal with the disappearances of local children all the while relying on Sky and his stories. Sky also has to work with Errand, a boy that can help him talk to the monsters with his hunters mark but Sky is the only on that can see him. But Errand abandon’s Sky when Sky needs him that most.

I loved this story. All the hunters that are supposed to keep the regular people safe have disappeared and left the kids to use trash to make tools in their fight against the monsters. Sky gets his eyes opened about what defines a Monster. And the ending leaves it open for several more books to come.

I got sucked into the book and couldn’t put it down. This is geared to younger teens but any one of any age will enjoy it. I recommend this to anyone that enjoys fantasy and young adult books.

1,321 reviews15 followers
December 31, 2014
Sky Weathers has always liked his eccentric uncle Phineas. It was Phineas that taught Sky how to build traps and solve puzzles, and talks to him about a variety of weird creatures only Phineas seems to know about. And Phineas is generally reliable about showing up for Sky's birthday, even if he is flaky. Which is why Sky worries when Phineas doesn't show up for Sky's twelfth birthday party. Nor does he reappear later. Sky knows something bad has happened, but he has no idea how serious the problem is---or that Sky himself is at the heart of it.

The story blossoms from its quiet beginning to a complex web of puzzles, lies, and mysteries. What are the two marks on Sky's hand, and why are they so important? Who was Phineas---the man that everyone has met but no one really knows? Exile holds more questions than answers. The monsters Phineas always talked about are not only real, but here. Which people are people and which might be one of the many monster shifters assuming the form of a person?

The intriguing world of monsters unfolds slowly and richly. Patten eschews the more traditional vampires and werewolves (with a few amusing nods to them anyway) for a menagerie of monstrosities more menacing still. The sheer number of shifters was impressive, both for the range and variety in their skills and the way impersonation played such a big role in the plot. Then there are monsters like the Jack, whose size and fury pose a threat to man and monster alike.

Overall, though it took a little while to grab me, the story turned into a roller coaster of action and suspense. Sky solved a few mysteries and made a few friends, but some of the larger puzzles are still waiting for a sequel. Either way, enough of it wraps up that the ending does feel like an end. I rate this book Recommended.
70 reviews3 followers
September 14, 2011
I must say that I am glad I stuck with this past the first painful 100 pages as the story is quite good. Sky makes for an engaging main character and I think the story shows a lot of promise.

I received an ARC of this through Goodreads First Reads program, so I am hoping someone stepped in to rid the author of his tendency towards atrocious metaphors and similes. And please--let's hope someone take away this guy's thesaurus already!

A few painful samples--note that I'm using examples from later in the story as others have already mentioned some from early chapters.

Regarding piles of books: "Many of the stacks leaned precariously, like a skinny man bending over to pick up a penny" (page 268)

followed immediately--and I mean IMMEDIATELY-- by: "He slipped though the stacks of books, a rabbit in a forest of foxes"

Invasive, aggressive vines anyone? "He could almost feel the vines' tantric vibrations swarming over him like bees at a picnic." (page 338)

"Her eyes locked on Phineas as if he were a heckler at a funeral." (page 358)

"....replaced instead by a lurching hesitancy--like a boy after a first date, waiting for a kiss." (page 391)

"...the darkness crept in like a widow approaching her husband's casket, wondering what tomorrow would bring." (page 479)

The bad writing was such a big distraction from what would otherwise have been an enjoyable story. I found myself plowing ahead in part to keep collecting these samples! (like a farmer at harvest time, enjoying the fruits of his labor?)

I do hope the author can find a good editor before moving forward with the series.
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