The Four Legendary Kingdoms

Four Legendary Kingdoms Reilly
Title: The Four Legendary Kingdoms
Author: Matthew Reilly
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Published: 2016
Series: Jack West Jr. – Book 4

I have a love / hate relationship with Matthew Reilly’s novels. When Reilly gets it right, his books are the equivalent of a spectacular Big Screen Blockbuster movie; they are jaw-droppingly exciting and a great deal of fun. When he gets it wrong, they are can be genuinely cringeworthy. Infuriatingly, he can write 499 odd pages that have me hanging on his every word, and then on page 500, ruin everything and lose me in an instant – like his novel Temple – that ending was dreadful.

My favorite cringeworthy moment appeared in Hell Island (2005. Pan Macmillan), where the hero, Scarecrow, and his team take on an army of murderous gorillas. On page 100, readers were treated to this slice of penmanship…

As for the apes, well, they went apeshit.

Well, what may be sewage to a magistrate, is caviar to a psychopath. But that’s enough about the past. It would appear despite my grievances, I still keep coming back for more. Let’s see what The Four Legendary Kingdoms has in store.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms is the fourth book in the Jack West Jr. series, following on from The Seven Ancient Wonders (2005), The Six Sacred Stones (2007), and The Five Greatest Warriors (2009). While the aforementioned titles are archaeological adventures, in an Indiana Jones kind of way, 4LK is a different beast altogether. And although it exists in the same universe, and features the same characters, this is not so much a quest to locate ancient artifacts, but a violent no holds barred contest – a fight to the death between 16 combatants.

As the story begins, Jack West Jr. finds awakens in a cell, with a shaved head and no memory of how he got there. Before the fog in his mind has cleared, the cell door opens and a man with a bull shaped helmet, looking like a minotaur from Greek legend, charges at him with a knife. West kills the minotaur and walks from his cell to find himself in an arena with fifteen other men. West, along with these men, who have also tussled with a minotaur, is addressed by a man calling himself Hades. Hades explains they are the sixteen champions chosen to take part in the Hydra Games – a cross between the Labors of Hercules and The Hunger Games. During the competition, the champions must acquire nine golden spheres which have the power to save the world from an impending cataclysm.

[SPOILER ALERT]

Okay folks, the big surprise in the this story – and it’s been widely reported on the internet, so it’s not that big of a surprise anymore, is that Reilly’s other popular hero, Shane Schofield – AKA: Scarecrow – makes an appearance in 4LK as one of the contestants. I won’t say much more, but as I have already stated, this story is a fight to the death between 16 combatants, and as you can guess, in the story, West and Schofield face off against each other. Who wins? I’m not telling.

The Four Legendary Kingdoms is a bit of a departure for the series, and depending on what you’re after, it could be a good thing or a bad thing. If you want more of the same, it’s a bad thing. If you want things to get mixed up a little, then you may find this to be a breath of fresh air. For me, it didn’t quite work, not quite capturing the globe-trotting exploits of the best of jack West, nor the claustrophobia of the best of Scarecrow. It sort of sits in the middle. But, one thing it does well, is set up the next three books in the series, which I will no doubt read when they hit the shelves. Or maybe I won’t – like I said, I have this love / hate thing with Reilly’s books.

I’d give this one 3 out of 5 stars.

* * * * *

David James Foster writes under the pen name James Hopwood. He is the author of the retro-spy thrillers The Librio Defection, The Danakil Deception, and The Ambrosia Kill. His short fiction has been published by Sempre Vigil Press, Airship 27, Crime Factory and Pro Se Publications.

Writing as Jack Tunney he also scribed King of the Outback, Rumble in the Jungle, and The Iron Fists of Ned Kelly, books in the popular Fight Card series.

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One Comment

  1. I really have to get hold of this guy’s books. I’ve been hearing for years how terrific he is and how exciting his books are. especially HELL ISLAND. Everybody I know who has read that one raves about it.

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