Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms #1
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Reading Level: Young Adult (14+)
Pages: 416 (ARC)
In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:
Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.
Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.
Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword...
The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?
HOLY. COW. I cannot properly wrap my head around the sheer genius that is FALLING KINGDOMS. Full of intrigue, secrets, action, magic, mythology, and deceit, I could not get enough of this wonderfully twisted and convoluted world on the brink of war in times of great desperation. Through the eyes of four unique and incredibly different heroines that are somehow connected by weird twists of fate, we follow the journey that led to the destruction the falling kingdoms.
The plot had me flipping pages at a nearly lightning fast speed, so much so that my fingers were already itching to turn the page before I could read all the words in the final paragraph. I couldn’t put this down! Unexpected plot twists are plentiful in this one and its constant ability to keep me on my toes made the story even more enjoyable. The fate of three kingdoms are somehow entwined together and we quickly discover many hidden secrets and ulterior motives surrounding them all as our web of intrigue slowly unravels thanks to our four main characters. Each kingdom is experiencing some sort of a problem, and each kingdom wants more power, but no king will relinquish control willingly. In the end, there must be a war—something that the magical and fantastical elements in this story makes equal parts intriguing, enjoyable, and bloody. However, such awesome plot points were wrapped up too quickly in the end. My main problem with the book, I wish the ended was elongated and given more detail. It felt incredibly rushed to me after such a huge climax and so much intrigue and betrayal. I didn’t want it to end, and the ending came too soon.
But what really made the story for me was the characterization. Though the story is told in an amazingly written third-person style that paves the way for immense attention to detail, the story focuses on four heroes and heroines: Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus. All somehow connected, none are alike. Cleo is the youngest princess of the prospering southern kingdom of Auranos. Her status made way for a very demanding and somewhat whiny character, but her heart of gold made up for her incredible faults and made it easy to eventually warm up to her as I got to know her a little better. Jonas is from the dying middle kingdom of Paelsia. A poor boy that is relentless in his bloodthirsty pursuit to avenge his brother’s wrongful death finds himself as the face of a rebellion that can tear the kingdoms apart. Lucia is the first sorceress to come along in a time where those who possess magic were prosecuted. Filled with a deep love for her brother, Magnus, she would do anything for her family and father. And lastly, there’s Magnus. Though he has the biggest heart when it comes for his sister, he is, without a doubt, the darkest and arguably the cruelest out of all of our heroes. But in all honesty, Magnus is my favorite character and I often got excited to read about him. The heir to the northern kingdom’s throne, he will rule Limeros with an iron-fist just like his father, the King of Blood, does. He is wonderfully twisted and deliciously intoxicating because of this. His feelings do nothing but cause him pain, so he quickly becomes a man of no feelings, allowing his father’s cruelty and wicked desire to draw blood seep into him until he finds pleasure in other people’s pain. It’s only his younger sister, Lucia, who can thaw out his heart. The characterization was strong throughout the entire novel and Rhodes did not allow her large cast and wide array of attitudes to become overwhelming and hard to distinguish from one another.
My other small issue with this novel is the romance. There isn’t much, but it was an important aspect of the story and it is evident that there will be more of it in the next installment in the series. I have to say that I really enjoyed the character’s internal struggles and odd romantic entanglements. They were unique and provided a very solid back-plot to the story. However, I must say that there is a serious case of insta-love between Cleo and her chosen love interest. While I felt such strong emotions for him because Cleo’s emotions were described so beautifully, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated with characters that were throwing around proclamations of love much too quickly. The rest of the novel was paced so perfectly and I wish this one aspect could be adjusted to flow at a believable pace as well. With that being said, it is not enough to deter from the overall plot, it is simply a personal pet peeve of mine when reading. Regardless, the emotions ran wild throughout this one. While there were moments I smiled, there were many more that I was tearing up or glued to the page with curiosity while speculating about what was going to happen next. This is certainly a novel that will make you feel.
The intensity, the intrigue, and the imagination exhibited in this tale is breathtaking. Full of amazing characterization and unique magical twists, this book comes in high recommendation to my fellow fantasy lovers with huge encouragement for non-fantasy readers to give it a chance. An unforgettable series that proves to be a beautiful gem among young adult high fantasy, this book is not one to be missed. The release of book two, REBEL SPRING, cannot come fast enough because I simply must know that happens with Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus next.
Warning: Contains the b-word a few times, as well as many deaths and a considerable amount of violence. Not recommended for younger children.