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The Five Trials

Written by: Mike Truk
Narrated by: Leo Barnabas
Length: 16 hrs and 34 mins

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Publisher's Summary

My name's Noah Kilmartin. I'm from Ruddock, Ohio, and I'm absolutely, 100 percent unqualified to save the universe from the slavering demonic hordes of the super evil b---h queen Lilith. Too bad nobody asked my opinion.

All I've got to do is pass five lethal trials that'll prove I'm the universe's last chance at salvation. To do so, I'll have to lean hard on those three years of Okinawan jiu-jutsu classes I took in high school, learn to wield my new magic sword, and, oh yeah - select five women to flesh out my team, bonding with each one for arcane purposes and desperately trying to stay alive in the process.

Piece of cake. Right?

Warning and minor spoilers: The Five Trials is a book intended for mature listeners age 18 years and older. It contains graphic sex, medieval violence, and nudity. People curse, piss their pants, hack off heads, get a little dizzy and tortured, seduce each other, try to seduce each other, and get scared witless by horrors from the darkest dimensions. Most importantly, you'll meet gorgeous, powerful women, some capable for hurling lightning, others of swinging battle-axes, and one that's Noah's unrequited crush from high school. All of them are willing to enter unconventional, polyamorous harem relationships if it means saving the universe, and luckily for Noah, this time it actually does.

©2018 Mike Truk (P)2018 Audible, Inc.

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  • OB
  • 17-06-19

6 Stars

I've re-read this in time for the release of its sequel. Re-reading books is something I seldom do purely because my reading/listening backlog is massive. However, I had to make an exception for The Five Trials.

Harem fantasy in 2019 is in a bit of a hard place, almost always absurd wish fulfilment, shallow characters and weak world building. Sure, it's okay for a bit of escapism, but rarely can to engage and take it seriously.

The Five Trials has blown open this paradigm. A first-person story, a battle harem, but with the finest features and traditions of Progression Fantasy (Will Wight, Andrew Rowe, etc.). It features a protagonist who you're introduced to at his lowest moment. Even in the second read, the feelings of "Oh honey..." I got a sucked me into this improbable, but a vivid, tangible, believable tale - is a testament to Mike Truk's ability.
As the story unfolds, you're introduced to characters with depth, complexity and their development that, with great detail provided by the stories pacing, provides people you care about just as much as the MC, despite the first-person POV.

In terms of the fantasy aspect, the unique, and often at times confusing kabbalah inspired lore, helps you empathise with an MC who's seriously out of his depth. Magical abilities seem consistent, although at first, it might seem like it falls under the "New Powers as the Plot Demands" trope.

Although so much is happening all the time, inside and around these trials, the world building is interesting enough to hold the framework of the situation, and described with such clarity, that days or weeks after reading this the first time, I still imagined the tower, the portal doors, the chambers, and the trials.

And let's talk about sex. Never have I've seen erotic content integrated so well into books overall storytelling. Sure, on the surface, the main conceit of this story may seem ridiculous, but in actuality, all of these sexual encounters feel earnt. Which is a big reason why it all works. Also, not only are Noah's ambitions affected by these scenes in an honest, endearing and satisfying way. The way these instances change the interactions with his companions is done in a wonderful, complicated, unpredictable way.
And holy shit, Imogen is hot.

Basically, this book is unique, I'm desperately waiting for the next one, and you should probably give it a try.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 15-05-19

Teenage fantasy novel.

I really struggled to finish this and then just gave up. At times it seemed like it was actually going somewhere and gaining a level of maturity, then it just fell into drama, drama, drama, drama,......

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  • John
  • 07-03-19

The Five Trials

I was surprised that I enjoyed this book from start to finish. The author Mike Truk shows real talent. And the narrator Leo Barnabas show real emotion in his voice acting of the characters 12/10 stars ☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆....

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  • Paul Lowe
  • 07-01-19

Great read/listen great performance

I new early on that this was going to be a great book. For me I like authors who arent afraid to use curse words or desribe sex scenes in detail, I mean would you want to skip the details in your own sex life? With this book its more than that ,great dialogue and tension between some characters , the story moves along well without skipping the depth and the author doesnt let you off the hook in the fight scenes either lots of tension there too. Also thought Leo Barnabas did a fantastic job bringing the characters to life. Loved it thanks Mike great work.