4 out of 5 deadly stars
This is the 2nd installment in the Falling Kingdoms series, and it was better than the first. I was in love with the first 200 pages of Falling Kingdoms but then it moved forward at a breakneck pace that felt like what was happening was a list of things the author was checking off, rather than a story. I think I figured out that the first book was more like 3 books crammed into one. An entire war took place in one chapter. Things were just moving way too fast. This one begins much slower, and the character development and things that happened felt more organic…for the first half of the book. I’m sensing a trend.
When we left book 1, Auranos has fallen to the King of Blood from Limeros. He’s also turned on the Paelsians, his allies, and those who refuse to bow to him flee, including Jonas. Princess Cleo has been captured by Magnus and is now a virtual prisoner in her own home. Lucia is still unconscious after an explosive use of her power to overwhelm the doors of the castle keep. So, whew, have we got a lot going on.
But right away, we meet a new characters in Paelsia, Lysandra and her brother, Gregor. The king offers their village work on a road he wants to build. The people, not trusting, decide not to accept the offer. So the next day, the king’s men come and destroy the village, enslave anyone they capture and force them to work on the road. Gregor goes to fight, but Lysandra has to run. He tells her to go and find the rebels and take back their country. A skilled hunter and natural fighter, Lysandra manages to find Jonas’s group and tells him what is going on with the road. He gets more than he bargains for in this tough, opinionated woman. She’s not impressed with his focus on the king, not to mention Princess Cleo. She wants them to focus on the road and freeing their people. I see her addition as a big plus to the series. The stuff going on with the rebels is a strong part of the book – there is lots of derring do and action.
I continue to find Magnus and Cleo my favorite characters. Cleo is in constant peril – her home has become a wasp’s nest with enemies everywhere, that little shit Aron following her around and making her life difficult, and she has to mind her p’s and q’s. This is not something she normally would do… but if she doesn’t watch it, she knows she’ll be executed. I literally have to clench my fists along with her, as she smiles and does what he wants. Oh, it’s maddening! She and the king are after the same thing – the mystery of the Kindred. She knows the answer to her regaining her throne, and her country getting its freedom, lies in magic. But she’s gotta get it before the king, and not get killed. Magnus is still struggling with his relationships – with his desire to finally get his father’s approval and his sister’s love, and to convince himself that he can be the hard-ass he needs to be. Inside, he has a good heart, I think, and no matter what he does, I still find him sympathetic. But you never know what side of him is going to emerge. He’s so manipulated by his father, and he knows it. He’s smart enough, most of the time, to realize it, but he’s still a damaged young man. He goes back and forth between just floating on the tide and surviving his father’s reign without doing anything too horrible… and fighting against what his father wants of him.
Through Lucia, we see more of what is going on with the magical side of things. She’s been in a coma ever since she helped her father storm the castle. A mysterious boy named Alexius is visiting her in her dreams, but he is irritatingly vague. I really wish we got more than hints and promises in those scenes, because they didn’t reveal much.
I think the plot in this book is executed so much better than the last. However, the romances are total shit. I will give the author props for not being predictable. We don’t get romance where we think it would show up…. but then it shows up after absolutely no build up at all. It’s like, oh, you’re there and you’re hot. I think I’ll kiss you. No one has any chemistry. I’m afraid that romance is not Rhodes strong suit… which is weird, because she also writes paranormal romance under a pen name….
And lastly…. death. The deaths come fast and hard. I felt they had more impact in this, at first, but then there are one or two where it almost seems like that character was just developed to be knocked off at the time it would hurt one of our main characters when they needed it least. So, again, sometimes this feels contrived.
I still respect the breadth and scope of this story, I like the characters and I am already 100 pages into the third installment. The world building and the magic is really interesting, and I want to know what the heck is going on with these Kindred. It’s developing into a really well-developed world, so I am giving her some big passes over the things I don’t like.