Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.
Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished--and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.
Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past--and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword...
The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?
Released: December 11th 2012 Pages: 412
Publisher: Razorbill Source: Library
Setting: ***** The author did a great job making the distinctions between the three kingdoms. Right away, I got a good sense of each kingdom and their cultures, and I had no trouble with mixing up the kingdoms. It's so hard to write a high fantasy setting that stands out in the readers mind, because anyone who is a frequent high fantasy reader has read so many of these same settings that they all start to blur together. While this book didn't have a setting that made me go "Wow!", it's memorable enough.
Characters: ***** Let's start with who I didn't like: Cleo. She came off, to me, as whiny and spoiled. Some character faults are easier for me to forgive than others, and I have a hard time forgiving whiny characters. She got a guy killed, for goodness' sake, because she couldn't bear to not have her own way. I didn't care for Lucia much, either, but that was more because I hardly got to know her.
So then, why have I given this category four stars? One word: Magnus. Magnus was a fabulously written character. Everything about him felt real. He may not have been the most admirable character at times, but he was portrayed as a very human character, and that made me feel for him. Even with his attraction for Lucia (Jaime Lannister, anyone?), which was more than slightly creepy. Well, actually, not as creepy as you'd first think, but still weird. I really felt for him, and I wanted to see him succeed. His heartbreak came through so clearly through the writing.
Other characters were interesting, too. Like Jonas. I loved his story. Theon was getting to the point of being interesting, but we never got to know him very well. To be honest, I kept expecting him to turn into a huge jerk and try to take over the world or something. Because his name is Theon. Did the author expect us to miss that one?
Plot: ***** I love it when an author has several point of view characters that are completely against each other. It raises the stakes exponentially. It's like that horrible and awesome moment in The Scorpio Races when you realize that you want Puck to win, and you also want Sean to win at the same time. Falling Kingdoms got me relatively close to that point. Maybe not to the point of tSR, but pretty close.
Other than that, it was a tad slow at the beginning, but it picked up. Especially at the end. I was super happy that this is one high fantasy that spent more time on major, kingdom-wide problems that romance.
Uniqueness: ***** There's enough about this to make it unique, though it wasn't a huge standout. (Then again, I have an unusually high tolerance for epic fantasy archetypes.)
Writing: ***** To tell you the truth...I finished this book a few days ago, and I'm completely blanking on what the writing was like.
Contrary to what you might think, this is a good thing. It means that while the writing wasn't jaw-dropping amazing, it did a good enough job telling the story that I forgot it was there. And that is a wonderful feat for any novel (except the kind that are written so beautifully that you want to savor every single word).
Likes: Nothing not already mentioned above.
Not-so-great: This actually isn't a dislike. It's just something that deserves mention. Morgan Rhodes has proved that she is not afraid of killing off major characters, George R. R. Martin style. Seriously. It's like Hamlet or something. This makes me concerned for my favorites. I want them to survive!
Also, SWORDS ARE NOT HEAVY. How many times do I need to say this?
Overall: I very much enjoyed this. It's a high fantasy book with a solid plot that pits the point of view characters against one another. While some characters got on my nerves (Cleo), others were compelling and made me feel for them (Magnus!). I will definitely be getting my hands on the sequel when it comes out.
Similar Books: It has a high fantasy setting and features princesses like those of The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Bitterblue. It has some magic to it, like Grave Mercy or Shadow and Bone. It pits multiple point of view characters against each other like Fall of a Kingdom and A Game of Thrones. It actually has many things in common with aGoT. Namely, an author who isn't afraid to kill major characters.