Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

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4 out of 5 mythical stars

I have many feelings.. I was so enthusiastic about the first 200 pages of this book… but let me back up and explain. Or at least, let me sum up.

Falling Kingdoms takes place in the land of Mytica, a continent split into three Kingdoms. Limeros is the northernmost, and though previously more prosperous, times are getting tough. The winter is lengthening and the nights are always freezing. Paelsia, in the center of the continent, has been in freefall for a long time. Much of their land is barren and grey, and what little land does produce is mostly grapes for wine. They were supposed to plant and make wine to be sold to Auranos, the southernmost country on Mytica, still green and prosperous. However, the rich folks see no reason to pay more than they want for the wine, while keeping food prices high and putting a strain on Paelsia.

Some people believe that the lands are fading because of the lost Kindred. Now Kindred is a weird word to use for magical crystals that hold elemental magic – or elementia. There is some magic left done by witches, but it requires blood sacrifice. There is a prophesy that a sorceress (which is different from a witch) will be (or has she been??) born who will be able to touch all 4 powers of elemental magic, find the missing Kindred and bring back magic.

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You know it’s good when there’s a map!

This is a fairly complicated world with a ton of characters. I was really surprised at how well the author began the story and introduced the characters. Despite how quickly new places and people are introduced, I was able to connect with the characters, and keep them and their countries straight. That can be so hard with fantasy, especially epic or high fantasy, where the names and countries come thick and fast. The short chapters probably helped. I admit, I kept pretty detailed notes, but it was easy to do. I was definitely grabbed by the characters and their plights, and there are two GASP! SHOCK! OHMAIGAWD! moments in the first two chapters. I was impressed, because to get me to react sharply to INCITING INCIDENTS so quickly told me I was invested.

In the very beginning, there is a shocking incident that unbalances the relationship between the three Kingdoms. It involves Princess Cleo of Auranos herself, giving King Gaius of Limeros a reason to start a struggle for power. I really liked that some of these characters were not immediately likable. I am always ready to go along with my main characters, always ready to be on their side. At first, Cleo seems a little spoiled, which you’d expect of a princess, but when I saw her from Jonas’s POV, she seemed cold and self-absorbed. Jonas was on the other side of the inciting incident – he’s the son of a poor wine maker of Limeros, but he’s not a real joy either. He’s very vengeful and has a big chip on his shoulder. We see more of Cleo, and though spoiled and headstrong, she’s also tough and single-minded when she has to be. She loves her family – which is a big theme in this. She’s also brave and stands up to people and won’t be brushed aside.

There is also Sanctuary – a mythical/magical/land/heaven. That was a lot of slashes. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but there are immortals there, and it was their job to watch over the Kindred and magic. Since the loss of the crystals, even Sanctuary is in danger. But I can’t get a bead on these beings. Are they going to get involved? Are they just watching? Are they good? Are they evil? What up, magical creature-dudes? (Yes, I went full Bill and Ted there for a minute.)

My favorite character is Magnus, the prince of Limeros. He’s truly got a lot of layers. His father, King Gaius, is a bloodthirsty jerk, and Magnus hates him. At the same time, he knows he has to toe the family line, or he might find himself removed from the line of succession to the throne. Bitter and sarcastic, he knows better than to really be close to his father. You get the idea he’s always looking at what he’s told to do or what his father is about to do, and seeing if it is in his best interests, or how he should position himself to either stay out of his dad’s way, or to react to what is going to go down. He knows he has to do what his father wants, but how enthusiastically is up to him. He goes through a lot of stuff – he fails and has to face the consequences, he succeeds and wishes he hadn’t done what he did. He plays his games with his father’s attentions and grapples with himself for it. He’s also not entirely likable, but I can’t hate him either. The only person he really loves is his sister Lucia…. and it’s obvious this love is…not… appropriate. They say this is like Game of Thrones! Isn’t there sister-diddling in that? I don’t know. I haven’t read it. I’m probably being very problematic right now. But regardless. Lucia also has a secret she’s keeping from everyone. This is sort of where some things started to fall apart for me.

About halfway through the book, things started getting really convenient. Everything happened too quickly and Lucia is the crux of this. There’s an almost comical scene in Magnus’s room where person after person shows up, and secret after secret is revealed, and then oh my gosh, someone else is in the doorway. I mean it was like a video game on fast-forward where the bosses show up one after another…. I really have to stop watching PewDiePie videos. Things continue in the same vein throughout the book from that point. There are flip-flopping of opinions that happen too fast. I mean, people can change after an incident, but those changes take time to process, and this went too fast. Everything seemed to happen really fast or are summed up/resolved very quickly and easily. Like I said, a videogame on fast forward. I’m hoping the next book takes a bit of a chill pill and things happen a little more organically.

I still really enjoyed this and wish I’d started this series earlier. Unless things totally fall apart, I will be marathoning this series and reviewing all of them. As a matter of fact, that will be happening a lot this year. So, prepare yourself.

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