Sunday, February 3, 2013

[Review] Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

(#1, Falling Kingdoms)
Falling Kingdoms | Rebel Spring

Morgan Rhodes (Michelle Rowen)
Publication (dd/mm/yyyy): 03/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin (Australia)
Pages: 412
Source: For review

Violence Sexual ContentProfanity

My Rating:
My thoughts

[Note: this is just my opinion. It seems I'm in the minority with this one, as there are lots of people raving about it but I just didn't buy into it all. If you're looking for more positive reviews, check out the links at the bottom of this post.]

When I first heard about Falling Kingdoms I was so excited. Good high-fantasy is rare in YA so I've always got my high-fantasy radar on. Although Rhodes' debut novel didn't exactly live up to my expectations it was a fast-paced, compulsive read and a solid examination of the consequences of war and greed, love and vengeance.

The land of Mytica is broken up into three kingdoms: Paelsia, Limeros and Auranos. Each kingdom has its own perspective and key characters that drive the story. There are many characters to keep track of so it's nice that a character list is provided up-front. The story begins when a man and a Princess from the privileged Auranos embark on an innocent trip to Paelsia for wine and then promptly leave with a royal knife wedged in the chest of a Paelsian civilian. The tension between kingdoms gradually escalates--ransoms, attacks, treachery, deceit--until war becomes inevitable.

I really like that the chapters are broken up into the perspectives of the different kingdoms' characters. The book is written in third person perspective. The writing itself isn't bad (though some of the dialogue reeked of cheese); the story moves along at a good pace so that you're not stuck at one moment for long and there is plenty of action to keep you interested. Also, there's actually magic in this book (which I wasn't expecting).

Unfortunately I was never able to fully empathise with any of the characters. First off, there are just way too many characters for the author to truly focus on and develop. I just couldn't care less about them and some of them outright annoyed me. I held a deep running hate for Jonas AND Magnus and I even felt like they blended in a little bit, just because their personalities, behaviours and voices are so similar. I couldn't get on board with Magnus' unrequited love woes, mostly because it was a bit squicky (incest), nor could I stop and sympathise with Jonas' loss. Cleo wasn't perfect, but I liked her motivation (as opposed to Jonas' revenge plot).

Also, Falling Kingdoms is set in a place where war is on the horizon, and yet there are just so many romance arcs such that it felt forced. Whenever a character would feel insanely jealous or want to sacrifice oneself for another I admit I just groaned. These 'loves' caused many of the characters to make unforgiveably idiotic choices. (Especially given that many of these people were brought up with the notions of strength, discipline, intelligence and all that they just jump into things without thinking of the consequences.) I would much rather have read more about the world, more world-building, more on the history that led the realms to this point where they feel war is really the only solution.

But I did like that there was exploration of family. In this book most of the characters that are given attention are royalty... Magnus and Lucia. Magnus and King Gaius. Jonas and Tomas. Cleo and Emilia. Cleo and King Corvin. Each familial bond, the dynamics of them, I thought were well done. For several it was these bonds that propel the storyline (for instance, Cleo + Emilia) and so it was nice to know that family does hold significance in these peoples' lives in this place/time.

While Falling Kingdoms wasn't what I was expecting, it was a quick and entertaining read. I would have loved more world-building, which may have given more meaning to the declaration of war between the kingdoms, as well as the implications of what certain characters do during said war. Although I couldn't agree with what these people were doing, I couldn't stop turning the pages, and it is this quality that will compel me to read the next books. If you're a well-seasoned high fantasy reader (possibly looking for "the next Game of Thrones"), however, tread carefully.
"'Some truths aren't so easily seen.'" (125)

"'...I only meant to say that if you really don't want to marry Aron, tell Father. Make him understand that you'll die if you do. And if you fall in love with someone else, you need to spend as much time with him as possible because you never know when he might be taken from you. Follow your heart wherever it leads. Appreciate life, Cleo. It's a gift that can be stolen at any time.'" (131)

"'Lies can make harsh truths less painful. But I believe pain is essential for growth.'" (191)



AUSTRALIA: Angus & RobertsonReadings

Fishpond | Amazon | Book Depository (AbeBooks)

I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Other reviews

Narratively Speaking - "devastatingly good"

Midnight Bloom Reads - "I loved every moment"

Carina's Books - "perfect"


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