Do you have a guilty pleasure?
What even is a guilty pleasure? If we enjoy something… why should we feel guilty about it?
It was the phrase guilty pleasure that came to me when I started reading The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly.
It is the fourth in a series of books that started with Seven Ancient Wonders back in 2005. They follow the adventures of Captain Jack West who dashes around the world solving riddles and uncovering the earth’s greatest secrets.
It was followed by The Six Sacred Stones in 2007 and The Five Greatest Warriors in 2009. Seven years later, and we’re finally halfway through the series.
They are thrillers in every sense of the word, they follow the traditional short chapters and lack of exposition and description. But Four Legendary Kingdoms deals with all that by only giving is what is necessary for the plot.
The plot is king. There is little time for feeling or for the characters to naval gaze. They are the complete opposite to the books I normally enjoy which focus more on character than plot, which I guess is why I describe them as a guilty pleasure.
But despite them being everything I normally don’t enjoy… I love these books. They are actually incredibly creative, taking myths and legends and historical facts that already exist and building a what-if world around them.
It takes a lot of skill to do that, and while they might be easy reads, they can’t be easy to write.
It’s hard to tell you what The Four Legendary Kingdoms is actually about without revealing too much, but West wakes to find himself, kidnapped, cut off of from his friends, in a cell, facing a minotaur. He escapes only to find himself in an arena with fifteen other men, all of them competing in deadly challenges.
The series of books are best described as Dan Brown-esque. I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code along with the rest of the world, but I found I enjoyed Matthew Reilly’s work more.
I called The Four Legendary Kingdoms a guilty pleasure but now I feel guilty for saying that. They are wonderful books that I thoroughly enjoy. They are fun romps that make you completely engage with all the characters, even with the limited exploration of their inner selves.
I can’t wait for the next book, but with eight years between the last two, I might have to wait a while.
At this rate, GRR Martin will have finished his Song of Ice and Fire series before we get to the last in the Jack West series (presumably entitled …And A Partridge in a Pear Tree).