Book Review: The Traveler, John Twelve Hawks

Hardcover: 464 pages

I gave this book three stars for the premise, the forward momentum, and the potential for Orwellian discussion afterwords.  
The time is roughly the present, and the U.S. is part of the Vast Machine, a society overseen by the Tabula, a secret organization bent on establishing a perfectly controlled populace. Allied against the Tabula are the Travelers and their sword-carrying protectors, the Harlequins. The Travelers, now almost extinct, can project their spirit into other worlds where they receive wisdom to bring back to earth—wisdom that threatens the Tabula's power. Maya, a reluctant Harlequin, finds herself compelled to protect two naïve Travelers, Michael and Gabriel Corrigan. Michael dabbles in shady real estate deals, while Gabriel prefers to live "off the Grid," eschewing any documentation—credit cards, bank accounts—that the Vast Machine could use to track him. Because the Tabula has engineered a way to use the Travelers for its own purposes, Maya must not only keep the brothers alive, but out of the hands of these evil puppet-masters. She succeeds, but she also fails, and therein lies the tale. By the end of this exciting volume, the first in a trilogy, the stage is set for a world-rending clash between good and evil.  [Publishers Weekly]
Twelve Hawks (another pseudonymous author) has created an intriguing story of good vs. evil that revolves around Maya, the reluctant Harlequin (who is, by far, the most interesting character) and the two brothers whom she has sworn to protect. The story line itself is somewhat mechanical, relying on, sometimes absurd, action sequences to propel it forward. In fact, the writing style and story structure are very reminiscent of Dan Brown's earlier writings. (This book could be a toned down Digital Fortress with Sci-Fi/Fantasy overtones). Many of the action sequences, while exciting, are on the side of ridiculous. And most of the characters lack dimension, sometimes feeling like well rehearsed place holders whose job is to tell us exactly what we need to know when we need to know it. That said, the story itself is interesting and serves to entertain. Another characteristic that Twelve Hawks shares with Dan Brown is that, above all else, he is a good story teller.

From Bookmarks Magazine:
First in a projected trilogy called The Fourth Realm, The Traveler impressed all critics. Twelve Hawks presents big ideas about free will and determinism, good versus evil, social control, and alternate dimensions, all while impressing with knowledge ranging from the New Testament to string theory. Although reviewers compared the novel to the films Kill Bill, Star Wars, and The Matrix—with echoes of authors Dan Brown, Stephen King, George Orwell, and Michael Crichton thrown in—they called it wholly original. Given its complexity, the author (a mysterious entity living "off the Grid" who’s unknown even to his agent and editor) could have fumbled anywhere. But he didn’t, from the sophisticated plot to the compelling heroine. If you’re "happy with the status quo, you’d probably regard the novel as hippie/trippy New Age Nonsense," notes theWashington Post. For everyone else, the "novel’s a stunner."
The idea of the Traveler series was somewhat promising until the second and third books were released. The second book, The Dark River, takes us into another realm, with overtones of Dante, where the characters (and the story) get stuck. It felt like a stop gap until the next in the series could be written and published. In the third book, The Golden City, the story line (& interest) took a hairpin and fell off sharply, leaving us in an abandoned realm with no guidance, no rescuers, and no answers. It was so anti-climactic that it left some critics wondering if the trilogy would lead to a fourth book.

Amazon readers gave it: 3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Goodreads readers gave it: 3.77 stars (out of 5)

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