Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was a very pleasant surprise. I heard great things about it but after reading the Game of Thrones series recently, an epic tale with a similar “falling kingdoms” theme with a lot more sex, violence and bloodshed, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to connect with a toned-down YA version. However, I found it delightful (and in no way close to Game of Thrones).
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?
This story begins with a murder which quickly unravels the three kingdoms, a little too quickly which you’ll see my reasoning below. I found this story refreshing, covering a wide range of issues both emotional and physical in young people’s lives. The story was incredibly unique and I quickly lost myself in this character-driven saga.
The characters really make this book what it is. I could argue that there was a lack of world-building but the characters were all so interesting and unique that I could care less about the world around them. From the royals to the lowest peasants, the broad spectrum of characters really drove the plot from diverse perspectives. The best (and perhaps cruelest) thing the author has done is make them all likeable and relatable with the exception of a few of course (*cough* Magnus’s Dad *cough*). I feel as if Cleo got the short end of the stick; you’ll see what I mean when you read it, but Magnus had his own issues and heartbreak to deal with. Theon was a favorite of mine and I couldn’t help but love Lucia. I can’t wait to see how each of these characters, whom I all love, will make it out alive as war permeates the three kingdoms. A few didn’t make it and I found myself in tears despite the lack of build-up. The injustice was heartbreaking. I couldn’t figure out who to root for because I wanted all of them to live!
My biggest complaint was I wanted more. The story jumped from plot point to plot point without much in the mix. I wanted the scenes between lovers, sisters and friends drawn-out to give each character its due. It was almost rushed leaving a disconnect between the reader and the character, but I can imagine when it was published there was an editor along the way cutting out scenes left and right because they weren’t “necessary.” I can only hope for more character development in the next book. I anticipate the growth of these young characters as they grow into their destinies.
I really enjoyed this book but I’m looking forward to the next because I feel it will be ten times better. Now that the world has been set up and the characters properly introduced, the next book can take off into whatever craziness the authors would like to take us. The next book, Rebel Spring, will be released on December 3, 2013.
STARS: 4 out of 5