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The Five Trials

By: Mike Truk
Narrated by: Leo Barnabas
Series: Tsun-Tsun Tzimtzum, Book 1
Length: 16 hrs and 34 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (56 ratings)

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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 bitch 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.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Ok but Meh

I write this after getting through to the middle of book 2.
So, the premise of the story is great, the overall plot is ok, the main body of the story is fine but the protagonist is a whiny, annoying piece of crap that you want to die.

What the hell was Mike Truk thinking of when he thought this character would be good.
Noah is just such a turd, he has 4 beautiful women but he still plays away and then wonders why one of them is hurt by this and bemoans his lot as if it isn't his fault. In every fight, it is, "I can't do anything here, I'm too weak and useless" and then, of course, does do whatever it is that needs doing.

Now don't get me wrong, in book one that is fine, it is a progress of a character, the caterpillar turning into the butterfly, but this guy, he is going to be a maggot forever, at least it seems that way, he just doesn't grow, yes he grows physically and gains powers but mentally he is a soggy biscuit that really needs to dry out.

This all said, everything else about the story is good, strong female characters, although I do want to knock some sense into Brielle, and as I said, the actual story is good. I do want to finish the series, so even though I hate the MC, something is keeping me holding out to see what happens, maybe he'll fail and die a slow death, I live in hope.

As for the performance, it is quite possible that my hatred of the MC stems from Leo Barnabas' portrayal of Noah, as he adds to the whiny gimp boy's annoyingness. Noah almost sounds like he is drunk, slurring his words and as 90% of story is his dialogue, be it internal or external, the guy is on one hell of a bender.

I am not suggesting that Leo Barnabas was indeed drunk whilst recording this, as this issue is only with MC and he does an admirable job with the other characters, not a slur in sight, but it does add to the hatred of Noah the sulky little pussy. I've tried to imagine the story and the dialogue if the narrator had given Noah a more manly voice, with no slurring and more positivity to the way things are said, I mean, the words could be, "I think I'm going to die, but I'll do my best" if Noah says that, it would be in the tone of the condemned man, but had it been said in a more upbeat voice, as if challenging the act to kill him, would I like Noah more, probably.

Overall tho, I am enjoying the story and equally Irate at Noah. I am hoping that in book 3 he A) Grows a pair. B) Realises that all actions have consequences, and finally C) Gives up drinking(just say no Noah!)

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Intriguing

I thought I'd made a significant mistake with this. Bought the whole series in a deal having failed to do my normal due diligence of reading/comparing reviews and, crucially here, the expanded blurb. I just saw the basic premise and 4+ on the whole series at Goodreads and missed the 18+ warning...

And then, once our hero was safely ensconced in his trial world came the bonding premise - not really my cup of tea, but having invested in the whole series I decided to carry on and was mostly rewarded.

I get that people complain about an underpowered and whiny MC, but it's part of what I like about it - Noah does grow (albeit only slightly) through the novel and the supporting cast do appear to have a bit of a back story so I might actually enjoy these based on that.

Oh, and Leo Barnabas does an excellent job - the only thing stopping me giving him 5 stars is the occasional bit of over-excitement when the situation doesn't really merit it.

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  • Michael
  • 06-02-20

I was warned

First I need to give a mea culpa. I was warned. I read other reviews that told me how bad this was. But (as has happened before) I read the synopsis and thought, "okay surely it won't be that bad".

It is that bad. The reader isn't too bad I mean he's got the words to read. But the book. The main character is so far beyond annoying that that had this been a physical print book I'd have hurled it out the nearest window. I'd have taken the advice attributed to either Dorothy Parker or Sid Ziff, "This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force."

The main character is the saddest dweebyist excuse for a protagonist it has ever been my displeasure to "meet". Not only that but he never changes or grows, he never even learns to fake it. He is in short pathetic, and I don't mean good or sympathetic pathetic. I mean "Oh good grief how dense can you be I can't take it any more" pathetic.

The book has a lot of gratuitous sex. I don't look for that, but it's not a deal breaker. At worst I can FF through it if it gets to all consuming. Here it's possibly the only reason anyone might stay with the book. This idiot is very aware no girl would ever want him, but he's in love with the girl he's known all his life. Still this doesn't keep him from lusting over every female in the book. ALSO EVERY female we meet here is incomparably beautiful...

Look, my recommendation? Save the credit and use it on something worth listening to.

14 people found this helpful

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  • Erik
  • 10-12-18

Cringe

if I could post a "nice guy" meme I would. The MC totally rubbed me the wrong way. He is a spineless nobody that pines after his childhood crush even after she rejects him to his face and then builds a harem but still pines after her all while the universe is ending. That's pretty much the story with the addition of a few obligatory action scenes. It's like clockwork. MC finds hot chick, They fight through a trial, Sex scene, MC finds hot chick, they fight through a trial, sex scene, and so on. I called it quites after the second trial BC I realized that the "5 trials" mentioned in the title is most likely the whole book and I was wasting my time if what I'm looking for is any character development or plot building. Narration was great! He totally nailed the whining

38 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Decon Rev22
  • 09-08-19

a bit over-sexualized for me but I great action

I'm a recent newcomer to books like this. this light RPG hair masks style. I didn't think I'd enjoy this book but it was recommended by a friend and also recommended by Amazon. I tried my best not to judge a book by it's cover I thought it was just going to be one of those sex harem style novels. but I enjoyed the story so much that I went ahead and ordered book 2 and book 3. The voice actor did an awesome job of conveying the emotions of each of the characters. I think this is well worth the price I paid for. The book was 6 bucks in the audiobook was $2. I think it was a great price for that. I hope you guys enjoy too. definitely very sexualized. so if you're a type of individual who enjoys the nerdy geeky guy becoming a hero and making love to beautiful women then this is a book for you. reader beware some of the sexual offense get a bit intense. it's not just romantic love it's a full-on hardcore p*** fest at times. 😅if they were to give this book a rating in a movie it definitely be on HBO again to a game of thrones except without so much incest LOL

3 people found this helpful

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  • Chris Sheridan
  • 04-12-18

Troubling

I don’t know why this is but the last few books of this nature that I’ve read as well as this one. The MC seems to be mentally unable to cope with the things going on and to him/her that the story suffers to the point of me not wanting to finish or caring how the book ends. It’s frustrating. They don’t have to be superheroes right off the bat but to continually piss yourself or doubt yourself from start to finish makes for a horrible MC.

23 people found this helpful

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  • GABRIEL PEREZ
  • 29-12-18

Worst MC ever..

I’m sorry but this mc was painful to listen to.. constantly whining, crying, and just plain pathetic.. he has a few moments where he steps up but for every 1 minute of him stepping up you have to put up with several hours of whining and just anxiety causing insecurities.

I wanted to give this a chance despite the other reviews.. but they were right. Too much whining.

12 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Cthaeh
  • 30-11-18

horrible whiny MC

The MC is awful. This book is 16 hours of a whining crying 12 year old beta male running from conflict. He has no redeeming characteristics he pisses himself constantly both literally and figuratively. When he isnt hiding under the bed from scary vaginas throwing themselves at him he is pining for the one girl who doesnt want him. He has zero agency no agenda no plan hes not a char he is furniture that hates itself.

34 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • David
  • 21-12-18

Not my cup of tea.

This is a sex fantasy novel no doubt about it. However the emphasis on the sex over the creativity of the rest of the story is off puting. This story is so generic and bland I can't bring myself to finish it. On top of that the sexual encounters are not romantic at all but just dirty and casual. If that is your thing then enjoy.

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jared Brockway
  • 06-01-19

It was alright

I liked the story, it’s interesting, and it’s very engaging. The narrator kind of killed it for me though, I’m not sure if it’s the way he talks or what but for me it took a lot from the book.

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Michael T. Warren
  • 04-03-20

Juvenile language grates on my nerves

From the first page, this book grated on my nerves with it's high school language and idiotic main character. I couldn't get past 4 chapters.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Magnus
  • 22-07-19

Good story but...

Sex in a novel is fine. Never had a problem with it. Even graphic, thoroughly described sex. But good grief some of the sex in this book just doesn't feel necessary, at least the amount of it that's written.

Aside from that, it's a highly entertaining story, seems well thought out with some decent world building. The characters are fun and distinctive, and Leo does a great job of giving each individual their own voice.

I'll be picking up the next book and I'll rather my final judgment on everything until I'm through that one.

1 person found this helpful