Home > Big Brother, Book, contemporary, dystopian, Genre, Review, scifi, Society, thriller > Book Review: Fourth Realm Trilogy By John Twelve Hawks

Book Review: Fourth Realm Trilogy By John Twelve Hawks

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Summary:
John Twelve Hawks presents us with a near-future dystopia in the Fourth Realm TrilogyThe Traveler, The Dark River, and The Golden City.  In this vision of the world Earth as we know it is actually just one of six realms of parallel universes.  Travelers are the only ones who can move between these parallel universes.  Saints with visions of heaven and hell and motivating, compassionate people such as Buddha are examples of past travelers.  They seek to keep people aware of their “Light” aka soul.  An evil organization called The Brotherhood has been seeking for generations to wipe out travelers, as they believe they cause dissent.  Working against The Brotherhood are Harlequins–people raised from birth to defend travelers at all costs.  The Brotherhood thought they had succeeded and have started building a panopticon–a virtual prison in which everyone is constantly under surveillance for “their own protection.”  However, two brothers–Michael and Gabriel–are actually travelers.  Michael sides with The Brotherhood in an effort to ensnare humanity, while Gabriel teams up with Maya, a Harlequin.   The two brothers thus are pit against each other in an effort to enslave or save humanity.

Review:
The Fourth Realm Trilogy is decidedly a series with a message and an agenda.  “John Twelve Hawks” is actually a pen-name, and the publisher claims that he does try to live off the grid out of a concern about loss of freedom via invasion of privacy with new technology.  There is skepticism as to whether this is true or a marketing hype.  Regardless, whoever the author is, his main concern is definitely loss of privacy to technology, and this is abundantly evident in the trilogy.

This is a plot-driven trilogy.  It reads like an action film in the feel of The Matrix.  Further it is exciting because the world the characters live in looks exactly like our own, right down to the surveillance cameras in London.  The only difference is these parallel universes, which is a feature I enjoyed a lot.  Dystopian novels are usually either completely bound in our world or take place in an entirely different one.  This trilogy utilizes both approaches, and this kept it from feeling like an updated version of 1984.

There are many characters.  Thankfully, they are distinct enough that keeping track of them is relatively easy, but sometimes Twelve Hawks does not pay enough attention to character development.  Particularly toward the end of the trilogy, characters will suddenly make a decision or behave in a manner that comes out of nowhere and is completely out of character.  These moments are jarring and distract from the plot.

The plot itself is a good, complex one.  It takes place all over this world and journeys to every single realm.  Two plot sequences I particularly enjoyed were one in an off-the-grid commune in the south-west US and another in Japan.  Twelve Hawks must have travelled extensively, because the descriptions scream “I’ve been there. I know what it’s really like.”  There was one plot hole in The Dark River that still bothers me.  I think what probably happened is there’s an explanation for the action, but Twelve Hawks neglected to write it in.  However, the ending makes up for the plot hole as I was unable to predict it.  I absolutely love unpredictable endings that keep me page-turning right up until the end.

Another enjoyable element of the trilogy is the violence.  It is chock-full of creative deaths, and even characters who don’t die get beat up a lot–in all realms.  An example of the level of violence is a scene where three characters’ limbs are simultaneously wripped off in front of an audience.  However, most of the violence is more of the ninja type, due to the presence of the sword and martial-arts trained Harlequins.  Twelve Hawks’s strength is writing action sequences, so these are great fun to read.

A mark against the trilogy is periodic character speeches that are obviously Twelve Hawks voicing his opinion.  This a typical short-coming of dystopian novels though.  Authors with a dark vision of the future can’t seem to help proselytizing in an attempt to save it.  I don’t hold this against the novels, but other readers might find it more annoying.  There’s essentially one speech a book.

If you enjoy Quentin Tarantino movies or want a more grown-up, spiritual version of The Hunger Games, definitely give the Fourth Realm Trilogy a chance.  I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Bought The Traveller, borrowed The Dark River and The Golden City from the library

Buy The Traveller
Buy The Dark River
Buy The Golden City

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  1. jessicabookworm
    October 12, 2009 at 6:38 am

    I’m sure I’ve seen these book before but haven’t stopped to check them out, I think I will have to now!

    • October 13, 2009 at 8:42 am

      Jessica–Yay! I love garnering attention for under-noticed books.

  2. jessicabookworm
    October 13, 2009 at 8:49 am

    I’m the same, part of the fun of reading is to find a hidden gem and pass it on.

    • October 13, 2009 at 8:52 am

      Absolutely! It’s even better if you can discuss it with the person later.

  3. October 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    Hello! My name is Amanda, and I work for Regal Literary (John Twelve Hawks’s agent). I am writing to inform you of a special offer we are running for bloggers who review THE GOLDEN CITY. We are giving away five autographed copies of this book, as well as the exclusive opportunity to do a phone interview with John Twelve Hawks himself.

    If you are interested, please send an e-mail to goldencity@regal-literary.com to learn more about this offer.

    -Amanda
    goldencity@regal-literary.com

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