Review: Four Emperors (and a slut)

Four EmperorsFour Emperors by Evan Allen

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
So I chose this book without reading the summary because the publisher sent an intriguing inquiry for me to review it. I liked the email so I gave the book a shot. I’m glad I did because it’s rather entertaining and decently written. This is definitely a series I’d continue with, if I can remember it whenever the sequel gets released. The story is fun, energetic and whimsical with enough supernatural danger to keep things interesting. The only complaints I have are that in keeping the story light and easy, despite ancient Chinese history and supernatural powers, the characters come across very one dimensional and flat. The entire story reads superficially without a lot of depth and complexity. It’s an undemanding story to read with a quirky kind of humor, but definitely did not leave much of a lasting impression and I wanted some more depth and nuance to the various characters. That’s not going to happen with this book or series in general so I’d recommend this for readers who want an easy, fun read with an unusual supernatural backdrop.

Alex is a young private detective, orphaned in his teens and still struggling to find his footing. He enjoys his job as a detective and has decently good instincts. He works with an older, much more experienced detective but does most of the undercover work for their two man company. When someone comes asking for their help finding his missing boyfriend, Alex gets deeply involved in the case. He soon finds himself falling for the main suspect, club owner Daniel. Daniel, however, has serious secrets of his own. His unwilling attraction to Alex could land both of them in a lot of trouble with dangerous people and forces.

The plot is nicely set up and progresses throughout the story. I didn’t realize it was a supernatural story until part way in and was pretty disappointed at that point, though it was my own fault for not realizing. However I say that only to highlight how unique and clever the supernatural component is because it totally won me over and had me cheering. The link to an ancient Chinese myth, or history, is well done and allows for the only real depth and complexity in the story. It’s a little predictable, and I guessed the other players pretty easily considering there are literally no other options, however that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Mostly this is due to the main character and first person narrator, Alex.

Alex is both the story’s strength and weakness. On the one hand he’s entertaining, intelligent, quick witted, and engaging. On the other, he’s immature, slow to make obvious connections, and sometimes baffling. I couldn’t always predict Alex’s reactions to information and situations mostly because he feels underdeveloped and not fully characterized. He feels very two-dimensional and not realized; almost like the author is creating and refining the character ad-hoc as the story progresses. I thoroughly appreciated that a young, unattached guy in his early twenties would sleep around and I found his exploits not only hot but enjoyable to read. He calls himself a slut, which is a bit harsh when he’s simply having safe fun. However, he and the entire cast feel flat and shallow. The characterization is very superficial at best and often feels neglected. There is a lot of space devoted to developing the connection of the supernatural aspects and very little left for the actual characters themselves.

That said I enjoyed this one and read it very quickly. Due to the lack of real depth, I found it an incredibly easy story to read. It had the potential to be a fantastic story with the unique elements but the lack of real characterization kept this superficial. For those readers that are looking for something different and easy, this would fit that. I think it’s better written than a lot of supernatural fluff in the genre for sure. I hesitate to call it fluff, more so light reading, but that’s not a compliant. It’s a story I would easily recommend and I hope to read the sequel. It has a lot of room to grow.

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