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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

MICHELLE'S REVIEW: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Title: Falling Kingdoms
Author: Morgan Rhodes (Michelle Rowen)
Format Acquired: Hardcover
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Publishing House: Razorbill
ISBN: 9781595145840
Source of Copy: Purchased from Fully Booked


It's the eve of war... Choose your side.

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long extinct.

Rebel: Jonas, enrages at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into a royal family, discovers the truth about her past - and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword...

(Image and information courtesy of Goodreads; Summary lifted from actual book)


If there's anything my history professor had taught me, it was that history was a matter of perspective. That was the first thing that popped into my mind as I waded through all the controversies and lies that these three kingdoms were weaving as they served to fulfill their own motives. Hey, all's fair in love and war, right? Falling Kingdoms only seeks to prove that statement correct.

The story starts with Cleo, princess of Auranos, going on a wine expedition to Paelsia with  Aron, who can only be the most conceited drunkard ever I have ever encountered. When the transaction goes awry, Cleo finds herself in a compromising position, thus setting off a series of political explosions that then ultimately serves as the tipping point for the kingdoms to wage war against Auranos. When Cleo learns of the tale of the Watchers, mythical birds that could supposedly turn into humans and how they can possibly save her sister's life, she turns her back on her safety and enters into enemy territory, all the while knowing the possible consequences that may change her life forever.

When his brother dies in front of his very eyes on his sister's wedding day, to say that Jonas is livid would be an understatement. Since then, every thing he does has been motivated by revenge. He'd like nothing more than Aron's head on a platter where he could spit on it, although the pretty little head of the princess of Auranos wouldn't be so bad either. The kingdom of Paelsia is languishing, and its people are dying of hunger. It's a fact that's pretty hard to digest when Auranos, one of the neighboring kingdoms, is supposedly flourishing with food. Jonas is out for blood, and Chief Basilius, the "leader" of Paelsia, may be able to help him with that.

Lucia thinks that she's just a princess of Limeros, but she's obviously much more than that. Stolen from her rightful birthmother, Lucia had been installed in the palace as a baby by the king's mistress as an unexpected weapon against the other kingdoms. But Limeros isn't the only place that needs her. The Watchers need her to save them too. While it may be against her will, Lucia knows that in order to save them all, she must sacrifice innocent lives.

Magnus keeps a tight leash on himself. In fact, he only keeps it tighter to the point of suffocation, especially since he's madly in love with Lucia. Raised in an unforgiving environment with a ruthless father and emotionally absent mother, it's not really surprising that he harbors feelings for the only one who manages to see through his being a "disappointment", even if she is his sister. But when feelings cannot be contained and could only spiral out of control, Magnus learns that he must harden his heart to be able to salvage what's left of it. You can't hurt when you can't feel after all. Armed with a new resolve, Magnus then turns to the one thing he deems that can reclaim his standing with his father: the war with Auranos. This may prove that Magnus is the son of the King of Blood after all.

I'd like to think that one of the reasons I didn't get confused with the many POVs was because I actually paid attention to the character list beforehand. I usually ignore character lists and get my butt handed to me when I start my foray into the book. Nn case, you are like me, I would advise you to skim a few names and be a little familiar with them. It's not that the book is super confusing - the author actually does a good job in making the characters distinct; it's just that it will save you time and energy having to flip back every time to the first few pages every time a character is introduced.

I wasn't really expecting to be sucked in by this book. As much as I love historical fiction (and believe me when I say that I am), multiple alternating POVs have this tendency to put me off, especially when it is explicitly indicated in the summary. Needless to say, I "took one for the team", but boy, am I glad to have had taken it. 

The multiple POVs weren't hard to follow at all, as the characters' voices were very different from each other. I found myself becoming more and more intrigued as the pages flew past. Rhodes' approach to such a story is actually quite fascinating, and let me tell you that it's very, very fitting! If my history books were told in such a fashion (because if it isn't obvious, I hate research), I probably would have had stellar grades in the subject. The reason why it works is because the book takes on such a historical feel, and the shifts in perception with regards to the turn and flow of events implore the reader to make for himself/herself the *Truth, given the many truths that are present in the story. This almost makes me feel sorry that we aren't able to tackle actual history with such clarity. 

I don't have any favorite characters at all, because as it turns out, it is possible to empathize with all of the main protagonists, another first for me. Others may find one or two annoying, but during the entirety of the book, I did not treat them as characters who just existed within the confines of the paper. Any good characteristics of them I loved, and any flaws they had, I loved all the more. I could taste Cleo's desperation, Jonas' anger, Magnus' conflicting resolve, and Lucia's hesitation, without exerting much effort on my part. While there were some issues that not a lot of people will agree with, I did find myself being able to commiserate with their intentions, which were mostly well-meaning. Falling Kingdoms also attempts to remove that intrinsic human need to segregate the "good" guys along with the "bad" guys. Like humans, these characters are not supposed to be labeled like soup cans. However gratifying their intentions, these are living, breathing characters who have to fend for themselves as well.

I also imagine that there's a bit of controversy with regards to Magnus' feelings for his "sister". I'm not condoning incest, but I think people are making too big of a deal out of it. Magnus did behave himself when he believed that she was still his blood relative. If he had acted on his feelings before he discovered that Lucia wasn't his sister, then we could have had said that it was incest. Anyway, I think Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments has played with that taboo theme far more than this book (Even if they didn't turn out to be siblings after all, I had to drop that series. It bothered me to no end.) 

The world-building of Falling Kingdoms was well-done and easy to imagine, which is a plus for most readers who want to be able to immerse themselves in the fullness of the text. Falling Kingdoms is exciting in all its deceptive and dangerous allure. 

You can safely bet that even with all the new books and the sequels coming out, I will simply have to devour book two of Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring, without holding back. 

Rebel Spring will be published sometime in 2013.


*Not all facts are Truth, but they may be truth. The difference with Truth and truth is that Truth is the absolute truth and cannot be further disputed, whereas truth may appear to be the Truth now, the fact that it may prove to be otherwise sometime may not be discounted either.

P.S. I do apologize for this being the longest review this blog has ever had so far, but I just wanted to convince you why this book is exceptional, and why it's a definite must-read for me.


  1. Oh wow, I am really really intrigued by this book, I absolutely adore history and kingdoms and such so this is fascinating. It's kinda got a Final Fantasy feel to it? haha. I think I'll check this out when I can :) Great review!

    1. Thanks, I hope you enjoy! I've never played Final Fantasy (I'm lame. Boo.), so I can't say anything about that.