4 out of 5 epic stars
This is the 4th book in the Falling Kingdom series – so beware, there be spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the previous three books.
When we last left our bands of heroes and villains, the Kindred had been awakened by Lucia, but through treachery, guile, and plain bad luck, they are spread among the groups, except for the fire Kindred, who had been released from his crystal prison (I don’t know how that happened, he just walked out like Macklemore in that video). So, yeah, the Kindred, which is a name I always hated for a group of crystals is actually a group of BEINGS, thusly, a family, and thusly, it makes more sense now.
Lucia has been swallowed up by vengeance and the darkness that using elementia causes. She was so sweet and kind in the beginning, and she’s pulled a complete 180. In my notes I wrote “the most humane character has lost her humanity.” I keep finding stumbling blocks along the way in this series. I like the characters and feel they were well developed when we met them, but they switch direction so easily and I blame that entirely on the pace. It’s too fast. Too much happens too quickly. Lucia is helping Kyan, the freed fire elemental, who wants to punish the watchers for his imprisonment and free his sibling elementals so they can be a family. He even offers to help Lucia find her real family. The coincidences of relation continue to the same ridiculous vein, with us having known her father all along. Sigh. Still, I was intrigued by what was going on, and I didn’t trust Kyan at all.
Cleo and Magnus continue to wrangle. And wrangle. And wrangle. IT’S LIKE KISS ALREADY! There is another wedge between them in the form of a dandy aristocrat named Kurtis. But let me back up a bit. Our favorite couple with an unconsummated marriage are on the run from King Gaius, with Magnus having saved Cleo from the dungeons and basically committed treason by disobeying his father (again). But this time… it’s personal. They have fled to Limeros, on the trail of the other Kindred, hoping to catch up with Lucia and Alexius. They find Kurtis, the son of one of the King’s cronies and an old enemy of Magnus. He was left in charge as Kingsleige, and has really enjoyed his time there. Now that Magnus is in charge, Kurtis is trying to poison everyone on the council and Cleo, against Magnus, saying he’s a spoiled brat and not fit to rule. Magnus says, “Lo, behold the meadow in which I grow my fucks and see that it is barren.” I would have liked more time with them, but a lot of this story was about what was going on in Kraeshia.
In the wake of his kids leaving town and his own brush with mortality, not to mention Melenia’s silence (if you remember, Lucia killed her near the end of the last book, so she daid) King Gaius has high-tailed it to Kraeshia. He knows that Amara and Ashur were up to something, but he doesn’t know Amara managed to escape with one of the Kindred. I’m guessing if he knew, he wouldn’t have rolled up and told everyone in Kraeshia he has found all 4 Kindred. (NOT!) Amara has more up her sleeve than just one of the Kindred. She is a SNAKE. We get more insight into Kraeshia, which is even more beautiful than Auranos, with a king even more ruthless than Gaius. Kraeshians also have a real shit attitude toward women, which is a huge part of what is stuck in Amara’s craw. She will never trust a man or let one have power over her. I respect her for that but her methods are abhorrent.
We’ve also got Jonas and Lysandra running around. The wound Felix gave him is not healing and his life is in serious danger. A lot of their parts felt like stage direction. I wasn’t at the point where I wanted to skip them, but they were definitely like Cleo’s gophers. One minute Cleo and all them are going to work with Magnus and then it all falls apart, and then they get sent off on another job for Cleo.
No one ever says “this book should be longer!” Especially not of YA books because YA as a market is not about that life (which is what YA is… it is a market, NOT a genre). But for reals. These books should be longer. Things happen way too fast, with hardly any time to process them. There was yet another ridiculous chapter where a character did a HUGE AMAZING thing only to have it negated within a few paragraphs BY ANOTHER EXACTLY OPPOSITE AMAZING THING. I mean, it’s almost comical how fast these things happen. Characters also die at the drop of a hat and for no reason other than to cause anguish for the remaining characters. I finished this and immediately picked up another book, also fantasy, also epic in scale. I’m only a few chapters in but it reminded me what good fantasy is written like. It draws you in and wraps you up in the story, whereas Falling Kingdoms hurtles along, buffeting your emotions and hardly gives you a chance to absorb one thing before another one is happening. It’s as if the author has a list of things that have to happen and then she strings them together. If these books were 600 pages instead of 400 this would be a true epic worthy of Wheel of Timesian comparisons. HOWEVER, I have rated each one 4 stars….because the story is too good to mark it any less. There is more than one villain, more than one threat, a good mix of characters between male and female, and they are complex, fully fleshed beings that are easily recognizable as such and great worldbuilding. Each book has gotten better, and this one was the most enjoyable, with the pace and the characters slowing down a little bit, at least enough to gather my breath. I still wish I had that extra 200 pages, though….