Monday, 28 May 2018

'Falling Kingdoms', by Morgan Rhodes

Title: Falling Kingdoms (Falling Kingdoms #1)
Author(s): Morgan Rhodes
Release Date: 11th December 2012
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Bought

Treacherous betrayals, secret alliances, unforeseen murders, and forbidden love—
The world of Mytica will hold you captive:

AURANOS - Privileged Princess Cleo is forced to confront violence for the first time in her life when a shocking murder sets her kingdom on a path to collapse.

LIMEROS - The king’s son, Magnus, must plan each footstep with shrewd, sharp guile if he is to earn his powerful father’s trust, while his sister, Lucia, discovers a terrifying secret about her heritage that will change everything.

PAELSIA - Rebellious Jonas lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.

Witches, if found, are put to death, and Watchers, immortal beings who take the shape of hawks to visit the human world, have been almost entirely forgotten. A vicious power struggle quickly escalates to war, and these four young people collide against each other and the rise of elementia, the magic that can topple kingdoms and crown a ruler in the same day.


Having not had the chance to read for pleasure in months, I was slightly reticent about picking up a fantasy series. I've been known to have a terrible memory for names, and reading expansive novels with multiple points of view takes a little adjusting for me, especially if I've been out of it for a while. Luckily, 'Falling Kingdoms' was so engrossing that by the time I started thinking about these problems, I was already halfway through the book!

First, I really have to mention the care that was taken so that a great reading experience could be had with this book. I'm surely not the only person that struggles with large casts of characters spread through different settings, but I was glad to see that, at the beginning of the book, there was not only the almost-mandatory-in-fantasy map, but also an extensive list of all the characters that appear in the novel, and which kingdom they belong to. This was invaluable to me during the first few chapters, as so many people are mentioned that I would have become lost at points were it not for that list. Maybe this is not so much an issue for other people, but I found it a great detail to include and that I do not see that often, so if you're like me in this regard, you have a very handy helper to guide you!

As for the story, I was hooked from the first page. Rhodes has a fantastic writing style, where each character appears almost fully formed in your head from the moment they first speak. They all had very distinct personalities, demeanors, and even ways of speaking. This was yet another way for me to really feel like I understood what was going on and who was who from the very beginning, allowing me to dedicate all my attention to the plot.

Even though there are three different kingdoms in this story, each with their own characters and events going on, I never felt as if they were disconnected, and several stories were happening at once. Obviously, there are sub-plots within each one, but they fed into the character development that was so important for the main story. Occasionally, I will feel as if I can skip certain scenes or chapters in books because they feel unnecessary, but with 'Falling Kingdoms' every moment was important.

I didn't, however, feel as if there were many surprises in the story. A good plot twist goes a long way if done well, but while reading this book I more or less expected everything that happened. There is only one particular thing (which I will not spoil, in the event it does become important in following books) that I was waiting for (and was very much set up by the author to do so), and it never came through. That was my only disappointment with this novel, as that chance would have made for a good plot twist (even if I was expecting it), and for one of the characters to develop quite positively.

Regarding the characters, I wasn't particularly in love with Cleo, as she did not seem to grow much throughout the story. She starts as a spoiled, privileged princess, and does not end far from that. I understand this is a series (a long one, at that), and the final chapters of the book do prepare the ground for her to put some distance between herself and the sequined gowns and jewels, but my enjoyment of the following books will depend on this actually happening or not. Magnus, the heir to the throne in another kingdom, on the other hand, went through quite a transformation. The reason why he does so, however, might not please some readers. Again, keeping this spoiler free, a lot of people are against a women being use to develop a man's characterization (and I am amongst them, in certain cases), which, in a way, is what happens to Magnus. I will let you be the judge here, but again, I'm hoping the following installments will further establish him, away from any potentially problematic events.

As a first installment in a series, I was very pleased with this book. The world building provides an eagle-eyed view (pun intended, which you will understand from reading the synopsis) of the setting for what promises to be a very fast-paced, engrossing, and page-turner of a series. Morgan Rhodes definitely does not disappoint in this one!

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