This is the second book of the Fourth Realm Trilogy. The first one was The Traveler.
The story carries on where The Traveler left off, but the way the author maintains the continuity struck me as awkward. It’s a trilogy, I get that. Each book is some 400 pages long. When the author tells about a character that we should know from the first book, he has to reintroduce the character in the second book, and then give some background, so any reader who did not read the first one has a chance of understanding the story. That’s okay for characters, but for concepts it gets tedious.
After reading the first book I knew what a Traveler was, and a Harlequin, and the Tabula, and the Brethren. I knew the mechanics of the various Realms and how to travel back and forth between them, the possibilities and the limitations. It simply struck me as awkward to have to hear about it all again.
Also, the end of the first book, I remember, was abrupt. The end of The Dark River was not just abrupt, it was jarring. Gabriel, the main protagonist, stepped back from the First Realm (think of our vision of hell) into his current body, lying in a shabby room in London. Maya, the main Harlequin, was trapped in the First Realm with seemingly no way out, in the middle of a sword fight, surrounded by a whole group of very bad guys with clubs and knives. Her Roman friend Lumbroso, who helped her get to the First Realm, was left in Ethiopia, waiting for Maya to return. Hollis Wilson was left in the middle of a battle with Tabula mercenaries in which Mother Blessing was killed. The book stopped mid-action, without all the major conflicts resolved.
The third book is titled “The Golden City.” I need to get it and read it. It’s out in hardcopy but won’t be released in paperback until July.
I was not satisfied with the ending and resolution of the second book. The author wanted to make it stand-alone, and he went overboard in the beginning to do that, and he didn’t tidy up at all at then end. The Dark River makes little sense without reading The Traveler first. If anyone were to pick it up without knowing The Traveler, they simply would not get enough out of it. The way the author left it, I need to read the third book to tidy things up.
I think Twelve Hawks would have done better if he had simply strung the three books together into a 1,200 page Stephen King-esque story and sold it as one book. He could have left the awkward stuff out, and he could have focused on telling the story.
To give him credit though, I kept reading. And I will buy The Golden City, but not as a hard-cover. That would be too much of an investment.