Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly

Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly The Four Legendary Kingdoms (Jack West Jr, #4) by Matthew Reilly
Published by Pan Macmillan on Australia: 18 October 2016
Genres: Thriller
Pages: 400
Format: Hard Cover
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

A RUTHLESS KIDNAPPINGJack West Jr and his family are living happily on their remote farm... when Jack is brutally kidnapped and he awakes in an underground cell to find a masked attacker with a knife charging at him.
THE GREAT GAMESJack, it seems, has been chosen – along with a dozen other elite soldiers – to compete in a series of deadly challenges designed to fulfill an ancient ritual.
With the fate of the Earth at stake, he will have to traverse diabolical mazes, fight cruel assassins and face unimaginable horrors that will test him like he has never been tested before.
TO HELL AND BACKIn the process, he will discover the mysterious and powerful group of individuals behind it all: The Four Legendary Kingdoms.
He might also discover that he is not the only hero in this place...

I think most people know what they’re getting themselves in for when they pick up one of Matthew Reilly’s books, for good or ill, although he has dabbled outside his home turf of high-paced military thrillers in recent years with The Tournament (quasi-historical fiction) and The Great Zoo of China (his love letter to Jurassic Park). Four Legendary Kingdoms is a return to the Jack West Jr universe, which falls somewhere between Indiana Jones and traditional military thrillers. Four Legendary Kingdoms is the fourth book in the series, and I would not recommend reading this out of order.

It’s been about ten years since the last book, and our erstwhile hero Jack thinks he’s off for a fun day at the local secret military facility when he gets kidnapped by some arseholes who want him to participate in a once-in-a-thousand-years-or-so event to save the world from yet another earth-shattering kaboom.

kaboom

Jack finds himself pitted against 15 other contestants in a mix of The Hunger Games and Reilly’s own Contest, competing in the service of his King, through a series of trials against Minotaurs, guys in period-appropriate armour. As it transpires, the Kings of the different regions of the world have nominated their champions to kill their way to the top, so the kings can save the world from the Disaster-of-the-Day. Some old friends show up (cough Scarecrow and friends) but are largely not given very much to do for most of the book – Mother in particular seems like a shadow of her former self – but I guess this is supposed to be Jack’s story.

I have found that – particularly with the Jack West Jr series – Reilly sometimes struggles to build believable bad guys, to the point where they’re often over the top, psychopathic megalomaniacs. Four Legendary Kingdoms suffers from this, with plenty of wealthy oligarchs who want to rule the world, but not before torturing some lowly peasants for their own enjoyment. The series as a whole requires a heft suspension of one’s disbelief, and a general desire to ‘just go with it’ when it comes to some of the Matt-splanation of the world he has created. I felt more of a connection with the lower-level bad guys in this book, some of whom were acting not out of choice but by necessity, while the upper-level baddies are little more than existential douchebags.

Jack is a bit older, and possibly a little wiser than before. His kids have grown up, he has a poodle, and responsibilities… but I felt like this lacked some of the subtleties of some of the earlier books in this series. Alby was given his time to shine, but both he, Lily and some of the other side characters seemed to disappear off-page for extended periods of time.

Like I said at the beginning, if you’re a fan of Matthew Reilly, and have read any of this series, you will know what you’re getting yourself in for. This is not great literature, and it doesn’t pretend any different. It’s fast-paced, action-packed, pseudo-historical nonsense at its best. For whatever faults he might have, Reilly really does do it better than most others going around.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

four-stars
Rating Report
Plot
four-stars
Characters
four-stars
Writing
five-stars
Pacing
five-stars
Cover
three-half-stars
Overall: four-stars

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