Series: Falling Kingdoms #1
Published by: Razorbill on December 11, 2012
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Magic, Romance, Young Adult
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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?
I was terrified going into Falling Kingdoms. It’s marketed as being great for fans of George R.R. Martin. Unfortunately, I don’t like Martin’s books. I know what you’re thinking: “You don’t like A Song of Ice and Fire???” I’m afraid not, folks. I love the overall story of that series, but the books themselves put me to sleep and there are way too many characters that I didn’t give a shit about. So naturally, Falling Kingdoms scared me.
I think my problem with books like this is that character development tends to suffer when there are so many. If I have to keep track of a million characters, I get people and places mixed up, it’s hard to keep track, and I don’t have enough time to get truly invested in the characters. To some extent, this was still a little bit of a problem in Falling Kingdoms, but nowhere near the extent that I was anticipating! I did get off to a bit of a rocky start with this book, but it only improved as time went on, until finally, I was completely hooked!
So if it wasn’t clear already, Falling Kingdoms is told from the point of view of three different kingdoms—with different characters in each. Luckily, Morgan Rhodes takes baby steps to help us get used to the characters. They all have distinct voices and stories and it’s easy to get interested in all of them! My affections and investment for each character grew as the story progressed! At first I was a little unsure that I’d grow to care about them, but by the end, I really grew to appreciate the differences between the characters!
And the fantasy in this book… IT WAS AWESOME! The fantasy and lore is really what drew me in. Around the end of the beginning of the book, I thought I was pretty convinced that it would end up with a 3 star rating. At that point, I wasn’t sold on the characters and although there was a cute romance developing, it developed way too soon and my concerns about character development being too quick and fleeting were starting to show. But at that same point, the fantasy in the book took a major leap forward and re-hooked my interest in the story! We have magic, goddesses, sorceresses, witches, prophecies, and more! And everyone—all three kingdoms—are fighting to take pieces of it. Everyone wants the power and the magic for themselves. As they struggle to obtain it, there are plenty of brutal murders, betrayals, backstabbings, heartbreaks, acts of revenge, and wars! It’s intense, it’s thrilling, and there are plenty of unexpected turns that will have you ripping through pages! And the battles in this book feel real. There is none of that nonsense where all of the ‘good’ people miraculously survive, or all the family members stick together and happen to make it through to the end. Nope. There is real, tragic death and unexpected (or expected) losses. Characters you love will die. It’s sad, and it’s awful, but it also makes this book stand out.
There is one thing about Falling Kingdoms that I loved, but for some people this could be the reason why they don’t like the book. It’s clearly written for young adults. That may be obvious, given that it’s classified as a young adult book, but I really grew to appreciate this. I find that with more ‘adult’ fantasy books, the writing style just distances me from any kind of emotion or investment in the characters. This was a big problem for me with A Song of Ice and Fire. But Falling Kingdoms has that epic fantasy feel with a lighter and more ‘friendly’ writing style that makes the book very smooth and easy to read.
Kind of building on that point, one complaint from other reviewers is that the language isn’t written like historical language would be. Instead, it feels modern. I actually liked that aspect because I can’t help but think, “This is so cheesy” when I read books with older, more proper language (like “How art thou this evening, m’lady?”). It’s just a personal preference I guess.
Falling Kingdoms was a really pleasant surprise for me because I went in not expecting to like it that much. Let me just say that I was pissed when it ended! I wanted more. I desperately want to know how this story will turn out! It left in a really fabulous place where things got wrapped up (even if it wasn’t quite a happy ending), but I’m still hungry for more.