John Twelve Hawks delivers a lackluster conclusion to the Fourth Realm trilogy, after the great start with The Traveler, and less impressive The Dark River. In his author’s note, Hawks feels he has explored his world to the fullest and explained everything he needs to, and while some questions are always apparent at the end of a series, The Golden City leaves readers asking a lot of questions and “What abouts?”
Hawks does a good job of clueing in the reader on who’s who, as it’s been a couple of years since the last book. The quick rundown: there are Travelers who are able to travel beyond our world into other realms and have existed for a very long time; the Tabula is a group seeking to kill all Travelers and wipe them out; Harlequins are specially trained people appointed to protect Travelers. The Tabula now seeks to complete the Panopticon, which will allow essentially total control and world domination by the Vast Machine. Gabriel, one of the last Travelers, along with his Harlequin, Maya, must work to put a group together to stop the Tabula and bring down the Vast Machine once and for all.
Hawks addresses and resolves the story of the Vast Machine and the Panopticon, meanwhile the “Golden City” of the title is only briefly visited in one of the realms, while in another is a strange place previously visited in The Dark River better known as Hell, while in yet another realm there exists a strange culture of people who consider themselves gods because they have computers and their own Panopticon in place, while the rest of society are simple peasant folk. With no doubt more realms to be discovered, Hawks provides an entertaining simple story in The Golden City, but leaves a large universe relatively unexplored.
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Originally written on October 6 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.