A single incident sparks a war between three separate but somewhat interdependent kingdoms. Auranos, Paelsia and Limeros used to be one, according to lore, but war divided them. Ironically, war may also reunite them under one ruler, the King of Blood.
A wine vendor’s son is killed when an exchange of insults becomes heated. Because the princess of Auranos is witness to events, her betrothed directly involved, the incident becomes a symbol of degrading relations between Auranos and Paelsia. The King of Limeros takes advantage of the situation, allying with the Chieftain of Paelsia in a bid to bring the King of Auranos to his knees.
Interwoven with this plot is the story of Cleo, the Princess of Auranos. Named for an evil deity, Cleo is sweet and just shy of innocent. She has spent sixteen years all but ignorant of the disparity between her lifestyle and that of her impoverished neighbours and the brutal incident in the market place serves as significant marker in her life. Afterwards, everything changes. She is betrothed to a man she does not even like, let alone love, and a mysterious ailment befalls her sister. Cleo is not always likeable. Young, she is prone to whims, fancy and temper, but as events unfold, she finds the steel within.
‘Falling Kingdoms’ is Morgan Rhodes’ first fantasy novel. She has published several urban fantasy titles under another name. Her style translates well and her writing is more than competent. Her characters are a little muddied, however. They are all of a similar age, late teens, and sometimes feel as if they mould themselves to the plot for the sake of convenience.
Two did stand out for me: Magnus and Jonas. Magnus is a tortured soul. He is in love with the only person who has ever shown him affection and approval. But when he confesses his feelings, acts on them, he is denied. If I did decide to pick up the second novel in this series, it would be to follow his development, with the hope someone manages to chip the ice forming around his heart. Jonas matures substantially throughout the course of the novel. First, he his motivated by emotion and revenge, but as he learns the truth behind several key players, namely his Chieftain and the King of Limeros, he begins to make up his own mind about events.
‘Falling Kingdoms’ is obviously the first novel in a series and by the end there are more questions than answers. I would have liked a more complete ‘chapter’. In general, the entire novel feels young and somewhat naïve, but will appeal to young adult readers. The more mature themes will not offend or challenge and there is a pervasive feeling that right will remain right, at the end.
(pub: Razorbill. 400 page paperback. Price: $11.98 (US), £ 5.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-59514-584-0
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