I won The Lord of the Void by James Lovegrove on the cool Five Lords of Pain website...
As you can see it is the second in the Five Lords of Pain series (the first is The Lord of the Mountain). I usually like to read a series in order, but seeing as this arrived through my letter box I plunged straight in. There is a nice recap, and the story is easy to pick up. I didn't feel to out-of-touch by going straight to book two.
The hero of the series is Tom Yamada, he must fight the demon Lords of Pain in a series of duels. The future of the world world is at stake. Other characters, his mum, friend and tutor, lend support, but Tom is very much on his own. The other characters felt a little stereotyped. Dragon is a wise, old Japanese mentor, just like the Karate Kid's Mr Miyagi, but Tom is well described, he is pretty funny despite his predicament and has the same girl troubles as most 15 year old boys.
For a book based around a big fight, the action took quite a while to come, more than half-way through the story. But there was a nice balance between Tom's day-to-day life and the dramatic battle. The Lord of the Void is a great baddie with black morphing armour and piercing red eyes, he can teleport with a 'Schwoop' noise. Both combatants use tricks and cunning to out-do each other. There is a good amount of gorey detail, which I felt helped add to the excitement.
A central theme is Tom's isolation from the rest of the world, and how he deals with his ordeals on his own. Different characters he encounters effect his morale in good and bad ways.
The Five Lords of Pain feel like a departure for Barrington Stoke, perhaps an attempt to reach a new audience. It is longer than most of the Barrington Stoke books (112 pages and no illustrations), it uses challenging Japanese words (with a glossary to help), there is a taster for the next book that I have seen in other publishers' series, and there is that the stand-alone website. The series' structure and cliff-hanger ending of The Lord of the Void make it clear all the books in the story combine to build a more significant story. This is fine, it's nice to have something new to seek out, and read over a period. But I do worry about the cost, each books cover price is £5.99, so the whole story will set you back nearly £30. This is a lot, I guess you could try and win them like I did!