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The Golden City: A Fourth Realm Novel    by John Twelve Hawks order for
Golden City
by John Twelve Hawks
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2009 (2009)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

The battle that began between brothers Michael and Gabriel Corrigan in The Traveler, book one of this thought provoking series, continues to rage. Gabriel is determined to protect the legacy of their father's struggle to gain freedom from the Vast Machine that manipulates people's lives by various means, while Michael remains intent on stopping his brother's quest. Allied with the enemy and determined to topple Nathan Boone as leader of the Brethren, Michael is now well on his way to taking control and turning the tide of the future.

Even Maya, the Harlequin warrior bound to Michael - not only as his sworn protector, but as his lover - cannot intervene after she's trapped in a city from which she might never escape. Now named an enemy of the state by the Tabula - a powerful organization that has access to unlimited technology and uses it to spy on citizens - Gabriel is running for his life, yet still determined to expose their lies. Will he persevere or will Michael win the day and turn society into virtual slaves?

It's clear that the intent of this trilogy was to blend leftist-type politics, religion and the notion of choosing one's destined path into the continuing plot line. The first and second instalments of this series followed and expanded on these themes. Readers were also introduced to the fantastical higher realms that only Travelers like Gabriel and Michael might enter.

With The Golden City however, the author drops the ball in various ways: disjointed plotting, slow pacing, too many fortuitous twists, and failure to tie up important loose ends that were integral to what occurred in the previous two books. There is a degree of character growth, particularly in icy assassin Maya, but Michael and Gabriel's adversarial relationship, their final confrontation, and the story's conclusion fall rather flat.

Despite these flaws, though, The Golden City remains an involving and imaginative story - more so because of its themes than anything else - a cautionary 1984-esque tale that will give readers pause as they reflect on how modern democracies are changing and perhaps leaning a bit too much toward a big brother is watching you scenario.

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