WhenI first saw the cover of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes, I got immediately excited, because it contains things that I love — a bird, a castle, a hooded figure and awwww yeah DAGGERS! I was so pumped up because I absolutely love a good high fantasy story and with the whole Game Of Thrones popularity, it seems like that trend is reflecting in YA and I could not be more thrilled. Alas, it was not meant to be between me and Falling Kingdoms. Most of the time reading the book kind of felt like a chore I just had to get through, as I am not one to DNF, plus I kept hoping it would get more enthralling or better.
The plot of Falling Kingdoms is one that I really like on the surface — it just sounds cool you know. Okay, so there is this land that is divided into three kingdoms. The three kingdoms largely live in a tenuous sort of peace. However, one kingdom is rolling in the riches, another is doing fine for itself but kind of zealous and the final kingdom is poor and starving. So there’s a tiny current of unrest that soon bursts into roaring unrest. Further complicating the mix is magic.
You see, the kingdoms have forgotten about MAGIC, but then some of it starts to bubble to the surface. And there’s like four main players in this book — Cleo who is a princess in the rich kingdom, Jonas who is a rebel in the poor country I mentioned, Lucia who has been adopted into the royal family because she has these magical powers, and finally Magnus who is actually royal and Lucia’s adoptive brother and he’s pretty much a fighting machine. The four players have lives that become tangled.
Honestly, I thought the characterization in Falling Kingdoms was kind of weak. It was hard for me to muster up real concern or passion on behalf of the characters — they were hard to empathize with or even like. And you all know how much I dislike the arms’-length distance sort of characters. So there’s Cleo, and she’s a rich princess and spunky and by all means I should have liked her. Only she’s stubborn and she makes some pigheaded decisions that put other people at risk. Plus, she’s so callous about a death early on in the book and shows no real concern over what happened. Her inaction really irritated me. As someone who loves a good revolution, I also should have really sympathized with Jonas, especially because of what a family member suffers. However, I thought Jonas was very single-minded and didn’t seem to really consider the bigger picture. Also, I disliked the way he treated women, especially a certain chieftain’s daughter.
Lucia is pretty much your paint by number chosen one. She has all these mysterious magical powers that require her to be angry to use. Plus she’s super whiny, like oh wah wah Magnus is being weird wah wah. I have powers wah wah. Ugh. She’s so bland, like I cannot even remember very many of her characteristics and it wasn’t that long ago that I read this book. Finally, Magnus is someone I really could have felt for, because he has a crush on his sister who isn’t really his sister (not a spoiler, you learn this in his first POV chapter) and he has to fight it. Plus he has all this pressure to step up to the plate and emulate his violent king of a father. But, well, he turns out to be a huge douchebag and again, I had a hard time truly mustering concern for Magnus.
With any fantasy, the setting and world building are integral elements and can make or break a story. Unfortunately, the world in Falling Kingdoms is nothing I haven’t seen before. You’ve got your land in agony. You have unrest. You have players waiting to make a power grab. You have a mysterious sort of magic that manifests in a chosen one and uses the elements. Yawn. Like, I’ve read all of this before in other books and I just felt like this didn’t add anything new to the genre. Plus, I feel like usually I am okay with the familiar if there are other elements to make up for it — like strong characterization, interesting action, or the book presents a larger ideal that makes me think.
Luckily, one thing I actually liked and enjoyed about Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was the pacing. The book goes by rather quickly and is divided into short chapters by character. There are four separate plot lines which means that there is a lot of action to drive the story. However, because the book is barely over 400 pages, this means there are barely 100 pages to develop each character’s plot arc and I think that does this book a disservice and really contributed to my dislike. Yet, I will say the action does help to drive the pace and I did whip through Falling Kingdoms in a day which is kind of excellent for a 400 page book.
I suppose if you have not read very many fantasy books and it’s not your genre of choice, you might dig Falling Kingdoms, a lot of what you read might be new to you. However, if you are like me and have read a lot of what the genre has to offer you probably will find this book to be a bit of a snooze. Unfortunately, I will not be back to find out what happens to the characters in the next book but luckily there’s still a few fantasy reads I haven’t dug into yet — Kushiel’s Dart, Touch Of Power, the rest of the Alanna series, The Hero And The Crown to name a few that I will be reading instead.
Disclosure: Won as part of the Breathless Reads slipcase from a signing at Oblong Books.
Other reviews of Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes:
Cuddlebuggery – “With Falling Kingdoms I had conspiracies, action, war… blood. ”
Christina Reads YA – “This book and I did not get along.”
Sparkles And Lightning – “Falling Kingdoms was, if I has to sum it up in one word, awesome.”