Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
Page Count: 412
Notable Notables: A large cast of characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of fantasy and anyone looking for a kiddie Game of Thrones experience
This review was originally posted on my Goodreads account.
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes would have made a five star rating from me, if it weren’t for a couple of things, but overall, I really enjoyed this one, and look forward to the series as a whole.
The differences of the three kingdoms and the politics involved in each are really what grabbed me first, and they’re interesting to see through the eyes of all the different characters. First, there’s Auranos, a land of sunshine and decadence; Limeros, an icy kingdom of piety and a king who rules with an iron fist; and between them is Paelsia, a land that’s said to be cursed, slowly dying for years as its neighbors do nothing to help them. When a noble from Auronos kills a peasant in Paelsia out of pride, that’s the tipping point that brings these three lands to war.
What was hard to swallow about the situation, though, was that so many Paelsians were fooled by Chief Basilius being a so-called sorcerer for so long. He was taxing them for ages while they all lived in squalor and didn’t demonstrate his magic once, and somehow nobody did anything about it–and yet they can all go to war with Auranos at his command with no problems or second-guessing? Basilius was made a further joke of a character by having no clue that King Gaius was going to betray him when it was so obviously the outcome. I mean, really? You didn’t suspect the King of Blood was going to betray you? Alright, alright, okay, dumb characters are dumb.
Outside of these mortal conflicts, there’s this legend surrounding the Watchers and the Kindred interspersed throughout the book. The Kindred are said to hold immense power and represent the four elements: fire, earth, water, and air. And they’ve been missing for quite sometime, causing the Sanctuary where the Watchers dwell to slowly fade and the mortal realm along with it. They’ve been waiting for a true sorceress to be born who can find the Kindred and wield their power, bringing both realms into balance again.
Signs point that the Watchers have got their wish. But they’re not the only ones looking for the Kindred or the sorceress.
The story is told from the third-person perspectives of four characters: Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus. Cleo is the second princess of Auranos, and I love her to death. She’s my girl. Spoiled? Absolutely. Headstrong? Of course. But boy, does she grow throughout this book. I definitely enjoyed her journey the most.
However, I was really annoyed that her relationship with her bodyguard, Theon, went the way it did. I was so excited to read a slow burn Princess/Guard romance (it’s why I bought the book originally after skimming through), but then I got insta-love between them instead uuuugggh and Theon was killed off??? Awful. Awful, awful writing. And lazy. What was even the point beyond furthering another character’s story arc? Ugh.
As for Jonas, my verdict for him is flip-flopping between “I’m cool with you” to “eeeeehh??” Jonas is the brother of the peasant who is killed, so he’s got quite a revenge story on his hands, and I love revenge stories. However, instead of focusing his revenge on the noble who actually killed his brother, he focuses instead on Cleo, who was a bystander at the time of the murder. And the things he thinks about her are honestly pretty uncomfortable. Most of them involve violently murdering her in turn. And I mean, it’s clear that his perception of her is twisted (he fully believes that she enjoyed watching his brother die, when in truth it’s her deepest regret that she didn’t stop it when she had the power to), and that’s what’s fueling his revenge fantasies, but still. He does cool off a bit when he finally meets her and starts to understand her a bit better, so I’m holding out hope that we’re done with the gross murder fantasies.
Lucia is the princess of Limeros (and she has a dangerous secret). I enjoyed her character as well. At first, I thought she was going to be the “sickeningly sweet princess sister” trope that so many people like to put women in, but even though she is kind, she definitely has some steel behind her, too. Easily manipulated, though, but then it’s easy to be manipulated when it’s your family doing it. We’ll see if that changes as the series goes on. I hope to read more from her perspective in Rebel Spring than what I got to read here.
And then there’s Magnus. Oh, Magnus, Magnus. Typically, I would go for his character 100%–if it weren’t for the fact that he has a romantic/sexual desire for his sister, Lucia. Now, he does get some points for knowing that it’s wrong. And–pretty obvious from the get-go–Lucia isn’t really his biological sister but adopted. However, he and Lucia don’t know that AND they were raised as brother and sister, so eeeehhhh it’s really yikes. Just yikes. But it also doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere, and if the series leaves this weird incest thing far behind it, I’ll be happy. And I’ll actually be able to appreciate Magnus’ character the way it needs to be appreciated, because he does have a lot of things going for him. A Slytherin if there ever was one, for real.
Otherwise, the book is fast-paced, driven by both politics and characters, and has promising world-building that’s only going to expand, especially as the Watchers get more and more involved. I will be starting Rebel Spring immediately.