Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes is billed as a young adult, or YA, novel. So, when picking up this book, we naturally expected a traditional YA fantasy novel. So we were surprised, and dare we say thrilled, when we sat down with it and discovered that it was so much more than that label describes.
Yes, most of the major characters are in their teens, and to a certain extent they act like typical teenagers. That’s all good and well. But the plot is extraordinary. You can tell Rhodes was heavily influenced by George R. R. Martin, and that’s not a bad thing. She kills off major characters right and left, and isn’t afraid to take huge risks with her storytelling. The result is a finely crafted fantasy novel that adults and teens alike will enjoy.
The story takes place on a very large island (think Britain) with three different nations inhabiting it: Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros. Auranos is a bountiful, beautiful country, but Paelsia and Limeros are failing. The disappearance of elemental magic from these kingdoms has slowly led to their barrenness. What’s more, the few fertile areas of Paelsia have been devoted to vineyards for wine that Auranos buys. In return, Auranos supplies Paelsia with food—at arbitrary, unfair prices. You can imagine the resentment that’s been building for years.
The novel opens with the princess of Auranos, Cleo, at a Paelsian shop buying wine. There’s an altercation when an Auranian noble tries to buy wine at a ridiculously unfair price, and the noble murders a Paelsian boy. Uproar and chaos ensure, of course. This sets the stage for this epic novel where no one is safe.
There are so many characters in this book, and it’s amazing how distinct Rhodes made each and every one of them. After all, most of the characters are around similar ages. But not once will the reader confuse Lucia, the princess of Limeros with Cleo, or Magnus, prince of Limeros, with Tomas, brother of the murdered Paelsian. It’s incredibly well told and Rhodes juggles these multiple storylines as only an expert would. As we mentioned earlier, the book does revolve around teenagers, and there are some sweet romances (and some gross ones—see the next paragraph) but what’s really incredible is how the characters grow and change over the novel. They’re so realistic and each has surprising depth.
There’s definitely some weirdness in Falling Kingdoms. A brother in love with his sister (ew), gods called Watchers that are searching for the same magic that the three kingdoms are, the daughter of a leader who dances with snakes… just a taste of what you’ll find in this book. It’s really great fun to read, especially with the shocking twists and turns around every corner. Readers will soon discover that no one in this book is safe, and their favorite character could very well be cut down on the next page. It’s impressive and fun, and really what more can we say? If you like fantasy, find this book. Read it. Then you can join us in salivating at the thought of the next in the series to come.
What's your favorite fantasy novel of 2013 so far?