I lost no time reading the third book of the Fourth Realm trilogy by John Twelve Hawks. Now I am asking myself why I read these three books and kept turning the pages. I actually don’t think that the books are that good or that Twelve Hawks is that good a writer.
First, I should note that The Golden City is the first book that I read on my Kindle. For the first time I do not have the satisfaction of placing the book on the top two shelves in my den, the “books already read” shelves. There is nothing to put there. It’s digital only. But that’s another blog post entirely.
Second, if you check my reviews of the first two books, The Traveler and The Dark River, you’ll see how I criticized the writer and rated the books two stars and one star respectively. The Golden City will also be one star.
As I said already after the second book, the author should have combined the three into one. It would have been a more consistent story that stood on its own feet. It would not have required awkward regurgitation of background that the reader of the preceding books already knew. And the more I think about, the less I believe that anyone would pick up The Dark River or The Golden City and make sense of them without first reading The Traveler.
The Golden City was disappointing. Just as the author left things unraveled after the first, and particularly after the second book, he didn’t bother to completely tidy up after the third one.
Spoiler alert — I am giving plot information away and if you are going to read The Golden City, stop reading this review now.
I can’t figure out why he called this The Golden City. Yes, there is a strange ‘city’ of buildings in the Sixth Realm that has golden towers. However, the story about the city is shallow, the description vague, and the entire chapter is uninteresting.
Matthew, the father of the Corrigan brothers, finally appears in the flesh for the first time in the trilogy, but rather than being the sage, the father of all Travelers, he is basically a self-absorbed and possibly senile old man with nothing to say but trite drivel in his first conversation with his son in twenty years. Gabriel’s comments to his father are wooden, silly, juvenile and totally unrealistic. When reading that chapter, the book lost me. There is better prose in Reader’s Digest. That whole scene is about as wholesome and satisfying as a sandwich and fries at Burger King. At the end we find out that Matthew finally died, but we don’t know about the circumstances, and frankly, we don’t care.
The final conflict between Maya and Boone, the cold-blooded killing machine of the brethren, is so vapid that I was almost exasperated. Just before the final battle, we find out why Boone is what he is. He lost a daughter at a shooting at her school some years before. Boone is the man who killed in cold blood innocent people in all three books, the man who killed Maya’s father by having his eyes eaten by ferrett-like animals trained to hurt and kill. Maya has him at gun point and they have to travel out to the desert. She intends to kill him once he takes her there. But at the last minute, just before she pulls the knife, she changes her mind and gives him a handgun. The modicum of characterization that took place in these books focused on Boone, and how he was a completely cold-blooded killer who wanted nothing more than to eradicate the Travelers and Harlequins. And here she gives him a gun and presumably trusts him. RIGHT.
Hollis becomes a Harlequin, which is not much of a surprise. Linden and Maya actually accept him into their brotherhood.
Maya is pregant with Gabriel’s child. This is significant, since they presumably are in deep love. The child is likely to become a Traveler, and with so few left, that should be a really big deal. Yet she never tells him. The story ends before the child is born. Gabriel never knows. In a plot with so many holes and so many shallow side paths, something as significant as a new Traveler does not really make much of a difference.
Alice Chen hangs with the Harlequins and we sense that one day, she too, will be a killing machine like her role model Maya.
Here is the worst. The overriding conflict of the trilogy is the polarization of the Corrigan brothers. Michael joins the dark forces and spreads evil and killing throughout the world. Gabriel is the savior of the world. At the end, it seems like Gabriel makes a signifcant dent into the plans of the Brethren, but he certainly in no way eradicates them or their threat. Like the war on terror, this war can’t be won. But incredibly, we don’t find out what happens to the brothers. Toward the end of the story, they both confront each other and slip into another Realm. We briefly follow them there. At the end of the story, months later, Hollis, Alice, Maya and their friends are all well and happy, and we know that the two Travelers have not come back. What happened? Have they won? Where are they trapped? The conflict is not resolved.
I wonder why I kept reading. I wanted to know what happens next, but nothing much happened next. Somehow John Twelve Hawks, who is an awkward writer at best, kept me reading, and got me to buy all three of his books. I would not do that again if I were starting over. He is a marketing genious.