Recently randomly read a book that was on the bookshelf at work and subsequently one I picked out of a "FREE BOOKS" box outside a little thrift store about a year ago that had been sitting around the house collecting dust until last week. Hopefully everyone gets to read these reviews before Elizajuice Warren sinks his filthy censorship claws into their flesh.
THE FOUR LEGENDARY KINGDOMS
Didnt dawn on me til about 1/2 way through that this is actually the 5th or 6th book in a series. The story didnt suffer from my jumping into the series cold turkey though. The novel began at a break neck pace and rarely let up.
In short, its about a hero spec ops type that gets kidnapped and forced to participate in a set of ritualistic ancient challenges equally brutal as they are intricate in order to stave off a universal calamity and prove human beings are still worthy of inhabiting their blue and green rock.
The characters are interesting despite being a little bit similar overall. 16 teams comprising of 4 members each (A "champion" and 3 support role players) run the gauntlets with highly trained military phenoms akin to 12er from all over the globe making up all the teams expect the hero Jack's squad, which conversely is made up of his daughter, her friend, the family dog, and Jack's buddy from the service who were all present at the time of his kidnapping.
My favorite character was this twisted little jester dude with tattooed red skin and teeth sharpened into fangs whom wielded a mace-like weapon featuring two hefty spheres at the end which slammed together when swung. There were some deliciously gruesome deaths attributed to this badass imp.
The real star of the book is the immense completely friggin insane challenges that range from a motley car race to a vertical labyrinth to a flooded pyramid climb to one on one armed combat to the death between muscle bound expertly trained killers.
As I previously mentioned the pacing is rabid with barely a handful of pages turned before you dive into yet another over the top action sequence that would make Michael Bay piss his boxer briefs.
Definitely would recommend this to anyone that likes action movies. 5/5 loved it.
PEARLS OF LUTRA
This one is very different and much more light hearted than KINGDOMS. It starts slower with a lot less action and battles. Also instead of humans the book is populated by talking animals including otters, hares, owls, monitor lizards, foxes, rats, seals, and mice that behave more like people in the sense that they can walk, talk, wield melee weapons and bows, sail ships, and construct impressive castle structures.
Once the story really got going it was a fun mix of alternating character development, puzzles, fights, power struggle, and scheming. In short there are 6 pearls hidden throughout the stronghold home of the book's good guys which serveral main characters attempt to hunt down in order to pay a ransom and save one of their own thats been kipnapped by an evil power hungry dictator.
I really loved the clash towards the end of the book that sees the 3 main warring groups (all of them containing different types of animals) converging with eachother to battle it out for supremacy.
While it doesnt have the devilishly descriptive action sequences of KINGDOMS, there is still a lot of enjoyable scraps to be had in LUTRA as well as some interesting strategy and mind games employed by the factions leaders in an attempt to get the upper hand over their enemies.
The puzzles relayed by riddles left behind by a deceased member of the book's benevolent group are all fun and provide a good counterbalance to the battle scenes.
I was delighted by almost the entirety of the book except for the mysterious and powerful rose colored pearls of the books namesake, one of the main focal points of the story, ending up being kind of insignificant once the dust settles after the final battle and never truly being explained in terms of what they were capable of and why the evil hypnotic antagonist was even after them in the first place.
However as they say its about the journey not the destination and I definitely believe that applies to LUTRA as I had fun on a page to page basis reading this book despite the ending being a tad bit anticlimactic.
Would recommend to fans of the adventure fantasy genre and enthusiasts of whimsy that features some feel good moments while still saving room for the occasional decapitation, kidnapping, disfigurement, and death of innocent characters to balance out the more marshmallow moments. 4/5