Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
Publication date: December 11, 2012
Published by: Razorbill
Genre: Fantasy YA
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 know it took me over a month to finish Falling Kingdoms but that has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the book. I was going through some personal stuff, moving overseas, blah blah. But even when I wasn't reading, weirdly enough I always had Falling Kingdoms in the back of mind wandering what happens next. And even after such a long period, when I finally got back to it, I realised that I was still hooked and excited to get into it again. If that's not an indicator of Falling Kingdoms being an amazing book, I don't know what is!
First and foremost I would like to address the George Martin issue. I fully acknowledge and respect the fact that Rhodes (aka Michelle Rowen) has been inspired, if you will, by Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I think it's pretty apparent, no need to deny it. I have come across myriads of books that were really similar to others or that their authors have "borrowed" (by no means stole) bits and pieces from other books. I usually don't like that in a book, because readers in general want to always read original material and not something they have read again and again.
That being said, I have come to eat my words as far as some of these books are concerned, because I ended up liking them and I feel that the real struggle for their authors is not just to utilise similar stories or characters from other books, but to make them their own and give them their own significant voice and style, and eventually produce an amazing result that is, in its own way, unique. I think that's what happened with Falling Kingdoms and I am really really glad I did not take bad reviews into account and decided to read it after all.
I haven't read any books by Michelle Rowen so I didn't know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised by the writing, which was amazing, as I am fully aware how difficult it is to write a fantasy novel. I loved the descriptions of the different kingdoms and in general her edgy and clever style of writing. The story was exciting, kept you on your toes the whole time. There was romance, sword fighting, magic, what's not to like?
What made Falling Kingdoms so special for me were the characters. I notice a lot of readers struggled with the characters and I honestly have no idea why. For instance, I don't think Cleo come across as a selfish brat but for argument's sake, let's say she did. Isn't it understandable? She is the princess of a very wealthy kingdom. She has led a sheltered life with servants at her beg and call so yeah, she may be a little spoiled (which again, I did not get from her). I have seen alleged "heroines" in YA acting way worse than Cleo. The majority of them, actually. So even if she was acting like a brat at the beginning, in the end I think everyone will agree that she grows by leaps and bounds while trying to save herself, the people she loves and her land. I think Cleo is a very misunderstood character and it really upsets me when people bash her. I would have liked to see the romance between her and Theon (thank you Martin for totally ruining that name for me, by the way!) showcased a little bit better. I didn't quite get where all this undying love came from and that made me not care for their romantic relationship as much as I would have wanted to. Now Magnus I fell in love with. He was my ultimate favorite. Jonas was right there with him at some point, but Magnus won in the end. I loved everything about Magnus. He was the most well written character in my opinion. I liked how his mind worked, how he had so many issues it's not even funny, how he alternated between having a superiority complex and an inferiority complex at the same time, how he was so emotionally confused, how he was a total wreck. What can I say? I love a tortured soul! And especially one that doesn't have or even deserve a happy ending, one that not only didn't learn from his mistakes but drowned in them, put simply, a fantastically flawed, freaking awesome character! I just loved every word coming out of his mouth and I just couldn't wait for a Limeros chapter just so that I could read about Magnus.
What I would have liked though was maybe Lucia appearing more in the book. Rhodes made us believe she is a very important character who plays a crucial part in the story, only to keep her in hiding, so to speak. Hopefully we get to see more of her in the sequel.
Jonas was great also, with an amazing back story: who doesn't like a scorned poor guy seeking revenge? Again though, it is not that simple with Rhodes. Jonas is not the great guy who has been treated unfairly and wants to right the wrongs done to him. Well on paper he does, but he is going at it the wrong way, even making him the bad guy at some point, destroying every hero stereotype along the way. That's what makes Rhodes' characters so intriguing and different, in my opinion: their twisted sense of right and wrong.
All in all, Falling Kingdoms hit it out of the park for me. It was dark and captivating-just the way I like them. Some say that a lot of the stuff in there are inappropriate for Young Adults. I can't argue with that, to each its own. I read Stephen King when I was a Young Adult so I wouldn't mind reading Falling Kingdoms at that age. Also, it's a fantasy novel, so let's just take it down a notch with the overreacting, shall we?
Bottom line is this: Falling Kingdoms is awesome, go buy it! That's all you need to know!
Book 2 in the series "Rebel Spring" coming out 2013. Sign me up!
*This book has been given to me by Penguin Australia via NetGalley