Orion | 2016 (3 November) | 448p | Review copy | Buy the book
Several years of calm have passed for Jack West and his family on their farm in Australia. Jack is now married to Zoe and their adopted daughter Lily, the magnet for so much deadly adventure in the past, is twenty years old, at college putting her knowledge of ancient languages to good use, and dating. But the peace is about to be shattered.
While Zoe is working abroad, Jack, Lily, Lily’s friend Alby, Monster Spy (Jack’s old friend and pilot), and even Jack’s two dogs, are kidnapped. When Jack comes to, he finds himself in a situation that is all too familiar – he has to fight for his life in some bizarre, ancient Games, alongside and against fifteen other elite warriors. They must compete in a series of challenges. Failure means death. But if the Games themselves fail then the result will be nothing less than catastrophic. The stakes couldn’t be higher and if he is to win – or just survive – Jack West must quickly recover the old form that won him the title of Fifth Greatest Warrior.
The Four Legendary Kingdoms is the fourth Jack West thriller and by now we should have a good idea of what to expect and Matthew Reilly most definitely delivers. In fact, I think that this is my favourite of the series, with the possible exception of the first. It does have its issues, though, and so I’ll get those out of the way.
You expect to have to believe the unbelievable with a thriller like this and I have no problem with that at all. I’m very good at it. But even I had trouble with parts of this. I could go into it more but we’d be getting into spoiler territory so I won’t but I had to make a conscious decision not to let this bother me. And this did work. Secondly, women don’t do well in this novel. All sixteen warriors are men and Lily doesn’t get much of a role while Zoe gets none at all. There are other women here who’ll remain nameless who also were hugely underused. Lastly, there’s a change of attitude towards one of the characters that I simply could not cope with. I can’t say any more about that either!
With all that said and done, I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much every minute of reading The Four Legendary Kingdoms. During the two days that I read it, I couldn’t wait for those moments when I could pick it up again. It provided the perfect tonic to a stressful time at work and I loved it. The action is second to none. It never lets up and the challenges are so ingenious and clever. I also enjoyed the slave race that we encounter here. Again, you’ll have to find out about them for yourself. And there are surprises!
Jack West is the perfect action hero and he is also extremely likeable, with some gentle edges. Not too many warriors would go through an adventure wearing a Homer Simpson ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ t-shirt and he’s the better man for it. You don’t need to have read the other books first – the last one was published a few years ago – and so you could use this novel to get a taste for the others.
It’s so good to see Matthew Reilly returning to what he does best, and to one of his much loved series. I didn’t particularly get on with The Tournament, a historical thriller that took Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) off to Constantinople to take part in a chess tournament, and, for all its fun, The Great Zoo of China was Jurassic Park with dragons. But, with The Four Legendary Kingdoms, Matthew Reilly gives me all that I love about his thrillers and he definitely knows how to do it – he is a master of the genre. Ice Station is still my favourite thriller of all time, with Temple not far behind it. And I adore the Scarecrow series. The Four Legendary Kingdoms reminded me a little of Matthew Reilly’s early thriller Contest (which I really loved), but it reminded me of it in such a good way.
The Four Legendary Kingdoms is such a fun thriller and I was really sorry to finish it. Reading it did me such a lot of good.