THE FOUR LEGENDARY KINGDOMS
ORION BOOKS UK
Sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Book Info: Action/Thriller, Hardback, 448pp
Audience: Readers looking for a non-stop action packed/adrenaline fuelled novel that is drenched in mythology and graphic imagery.
Summed up in a few words: Larger. Than. Life. Very. Intense. Cheesy
First Impressions: The Four Legendary Kingdoms is my first Matthew Reilly experience and now I am fully addicted. The book is not perfect and at times it is rather cheesy but overall it is pretty much an amalgamation of everything I enjoy about fiction. Huge world. Varied Characters. Depth of content. Jokes and humour. Badassery. Awesomeness. Doesn't overdo it on the seriousness. Matthew Reilly's writing is larger than life, everything is slightly over the top and a touch cheesy but it is so focused, intense and inspired that you can't help but enjoy yourself.
Book Synopsis: There are sixteen contestants, but only one will survive. Jack West Jr is back. The last thing he remembers is arriving for a meeting at a top-secret military base with his family in tow.
Now he awakes to find himself in a hellish scenario. Jack has been selected to take part in the Games, a series of deadly challenges designed to fulfil an ancient ritual. If he chooses not to compete, both he and his daughter will be killed.
With the fate of the Earth at stake. Jack will have to traverse diabolical mazes, fight ruthless assassins and face unimaginable horrors that will test him to the limit. In the process, he will discover the mysterious and powerful group of individuals behind it all: the four legendary kingdoms.
My Thoughts: Matthew Reilly is a new author to me and he made a fantastic first impression. The Four Legendary Kingdoms throws the reader into the story on the first page, Jack Jr is taken against his will and thrown in a cell. Upon awakening he is attacked almost instantly by a huge hulking Minotaur with a knife. After managed to best the beast, Jack finds his way to an Arena where other contestants are awaiting to begin The Great Games Of Hydra.
15 other contestants are included in the games, all representatives of the four kingdoms that secretly govern the world from the shadows. All participants are forced into complying with two significant threats, the deaths of the hostages that the organisers are holding, and a small explosive device implanted in their head to ensure maximum involvement. Jack Jr is immediately thrown into a series of unbelievable 'games' against competitors who have been training their entire lives for this opportunity. The purpose of the games are revealed over the course of the book and the motives/actions of the characters seem to line up with the rest of the book series. (I won't touch to much on the deeper story as it is easy to spoil and readers must enjoy it for themselves).
This book is big and bold! It is extremely fast paced, Jack Jr barely gets a chance to breath as he is thrown into the most mind bending and life threatening challenges. They have his friends. his daughter and a device that could end his life at any point so failure is not an option. Jack has none of his resources, he only has his fighting ability and his knowledge and senses to keep him from being killed by the endless threats present in the games. There is a lot to love in this book, from the characters, to the writing style, to the message and the little extra details that make it shine.
All the characters are fully established, having had 3 books before this one, and Jack Jr is a true hero, he has smarts, skills, knowledge, insights, a titanium left hand, a falcon called Horus and a bunch of solid friends that he can count on. Though as soon as he enters the games, he is the underdog, everyone else belongs in the games and he is just a last minute substitute. There are so many significant cast members present, and each of them has their own presence and purpose, I could talk about them all day but fans will get plenty of the regular cast with lots of new, interesting and mythological people added as well as another key Matthew Reilly character making an appearance.
The writing style is the element that I am most on the fence about. I loved the fact that MR is over-the-top with his writing, everyone is awesome, there is so much poignant mythology and it is all larger than life. Jack Jr is the worlds fifth greatest warrior, he has a titanium left hand, he has saved the world many times, he flies in a Russian prototype plane and his wife is researching a lost language that only his 'Oracle' daughter can understand. It is far fetched but it is definitely amazing. My problem with MR's writing style is that it can be over explained/simplified which seems a tad condescending at times. The writing can be very cheesy at times but overall it is more charming and awesome than your everyday action over-the-top novel.
The themes in this book are tricky because it has two sides to it, it has such a readable, reliable and honest tone that puts it in line with a family friendly action adventure piece but it has gets quite dark at times, with lots of brutal deaths, foul language and graphic imagery. So I do recommend it to the general action/thriller audience but be warned as it can cross the line quite a lot. My two favourite things about this book are the mythological content (though I am a mythology addict) which is as wide as it is deep and I loved every minute of it. I also love the books format, having plenty of images, pictures and drawings to aid the comprehension of the huge labyrinthine contest that Jack is worming his way through, it definitely adds an extra dimension to the action as there is so much going on, readers would struggle to comprehend both the layout of the arena and who/what Jack is going up against at the same time.
The Underworld setting is truly inspired. I hope that The Four Legendary Kingdoms will be made into either a movie or at least a graphic novel. The trials that Jack faces are huge, with mind bending puzzles, fast paced races, platforming, beasts and brutes and the other contestants all fighting for their lives, their family and their country. I am now addicted to Matthew Reilly's work and I hope to read more of his work in the immediate future. If your looking for thrills, adrenaline, a solid series of books and a bold cast of characters and events then this book is for you. If your looking for more concentrated depth and detail with subjective themes then I would pass on this but please try China Meiville instead.
Overall, I was on the edge of my seat for this whole book, I couldn't believe that Matthew Reilly grabbed me from the first page and didn't let me go until 400 pages later. I was caught of guard as this book is really a collection of all my favourite elements of fiction that I have enjoyed since I started reading as a child. I had a lot of fun with this book but for those looking for a more challenging read then this won't really test your mind, it is an action piece that takes control and blows the mind.
About the Author: Matthew Reilly is the internationally bestselling author of eleven novels which have been published in over twenty languages and sold over seven-and-a-half million copies worldwide. In addition, Walt Disney Pictures have optioned the movie rights to his children's book Hover Car Racer, and the Jack West Jr series was recently optioned by Fox. (See more about Matthew Reilly at his website www.matthewreilly.com/)