Falling Kingdoms Morgan Rhodes Book Review

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.

Falling Kingdoms Morgan Rhodes Book Cover

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. :D

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.

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April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.
About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. The fact that you mentioned Kushiel’s Dart is almost enough to make me forgive you for not listing The Lies of Locke Lamora….

    someday April, SOMEDAY.

  2. Aww, sorry you didn’t enjoy this more. But I completely agree with Cleo’s character. She made me so angry. Magnus had the best characterization, hands down, but again, he was a total prick. I think what really made me like the book in the end was the ending. I enjoyed that everything ended in chaos and I’m wondering what will happen next. I do think if I don’t see character growth with Cleo in book two, I will be very unhappy.

  3. Oh dear. I’ve also been excited about this book for months because I love fantasy 🙁 I might wait a while instead of buying this immediately then. Thanks for the review! 🙂

  4. “You’ve got your land in agony.” Hah! Awesome review. I have a love-hate relationship with fantasy, and this one doesn’t sound particularly remarkable. And I usually have to be able to connect with the characters on some level, too! Doesn’t sound like the book for me. Thanks for the honest review.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  5. Jac @ For Love and Books says

    I have to be in the right mood to read fantasy, but when I am? I adore it! I love that you say this has enough action to keep it moving quickly.

    The whole crush on his sister who isn’t his sister is a bit out there for me, but otherwise? I think this will go on my list for next time I want a fantasy!

  6. Oh dear, I’ve seen mostly negative reviews for this but a couple of positive, like Steph’s. I have an ARC and I keep thinking I should read it, but ugh the negative reviews make me not want to spend the time right now since I have some review copies I’m super excited about. If the big selling point is that it goes by quickly, I could be reading something better.

  7. Sadly, I’m fighting this issue right now and, as I’m reading your review, I’m nodding along. I’m almost halfway through and it just hasn’t picked up or grown on me. I really, really want to like it — great premise, awesome cover — but I’m afraid it might end up being a meh for me.

  8. That’s a shame. I have a free review copy of this and was excited to read it. I’ll still give it a shot, since it’s free, but I’m not exactly looking forward to it. You were very good at expressing exactly what you didn’t like!

  9. You’re right, it does sound good on the surface, and I’m sad it didn’t pan out!
    It had a really cool cover too.

  10. I am hit or miss with fantasy, and the characters are what make or break it for me. Not making this a priority. Thanks for the review!

  11. I actually really liked the reading experience of this one. Because it was action-packed for the most part it was exciting, and I loved the Game of Thrones feel to it. Yet I also basically agree with everything you said. I loved the story aspect, but I didn’t feel anything for the characters. There was some stuff that really should have been heartbreaking and making me tear up and instead I felt like a distant and cold observer. I would probably read the 2nd book if it came my way, but I can’t say I was wholly impressed.

  12. You put this so well. It had such a cool premise and I should have liked the characters…but really I was mehhhh.

    Except Magnus who I thought was rad, if a little bit of a pansy.

  13. Your review makes me feel so much better! I started this one and just couldn’t get into it. I was pretty bored, but it made me so sad because the cover is so pretty! Fabulous review, April!

  14. This does not at all surprise me, but I am still sort of sad that it’s another one to add to the hack fantasy stack. Since this seems to be the new hit genre in YA, I’m going to guess we’ll be seeing many more of these before it ends, which is going to make me very hesitant to try anything out unless I read trusted reviews first. From this, I feel safe crossing this one off my list–especially since chosen one stories have become a real deal breaker for me. Thanks for the great review, April! Glad you suffered so I don’t have to.

  15. I have to admit, this one has me on the fence. I haven’t even read it yet, but the mixed reviews keep pouring in and I sit here and think, “So this person loved it but this person didn’t…” And there is too little time in life to be forced to deal with that question! I might just end up skipping FALLING KINGDOMS. YA high fantasy has been VERY hit or miss for me. There are quite a few that have ended up in my give away pile and not so many that I have adored.

  16. You have not read The Hero and the Crown?!?! Oh man, one of my all time favorites! Also, ALL THE TAMORA PIERCE BOOKS!!!
    As far as Falling Kingdoms… I can see where you’re coming from. It wasn’t awful but it just didn’t wow me.

  17. Fantasy is kind of my thing, so I don’t think this book would do it for me, but it makes me super excited that you’re getting ready to read the rest of the Alanna series!!!

  18. This is terribly disappointing as I had really high hopes based on the stellar cover art. I mean, it is amazing enough to have in poster form, no? What I’m hearing from everyone reminds me of what I felt about Throne of Glass – which just fell short a bit.