The book follows three kingdoms, and as I said, four main characters (plus one if you include the two or three very short chapters from the point of view of a "Watcher," which is a being that is connected to the main world but not fully part of it). Magnus and Lucia, who is his sister, are the royal offspring in the cold kingdom of Limeros; Cleo, the younger of two princesses in Auranos, a rich and prosperous nation; and Jonas, younger brother of a peasant who is carelessly murdered by one of Cleo's friends early on and seeks vengeance for his family and his people of the land of Paelsia. The events surrounding these four characters are what make Falling Kingdoms a worthy read at points. Towards the end of the book, I found myself unable to stop reading because I NEEDED to know what happened. This story has promise, and hopefully the characters will really carry the storyline along in books to come, rather than the other way around. There are ugly, terrible villains that need to (and oh, do you want them to) die NOW, and quite lovable characters that you want to preserve (although some of them are killed off in the course of the book--darn it!).
At first, I found myself really liking Magnus, despite his forbidden love for his sister, Lucia. I knew that she most likely was not his real sister, which wouldn't do much for his love interest, but would at least eventually ease his mind when the secret came out. But over time, as I viewed him from Lucia's perspective and saw more of his actual behavior, I ended up liking him less and less. He despises his father, but then chooses to follow in his footsteps. I appreciate the human battle within, between good and evil, but when his character chose to dive into the cesspool of bloodlust his father adores, I lost my interest. There were moments when his inner torment deeply moved me, and it is my hope that in the next books the battle will be won within him by good.
In the meantime, Cleo is trying to develop her character through a series of tragic events and losses in her life. She barely made it into my 'I like you' category by the end of the story, but at least she got kicked out of her affluent bubble in time for that to happen. The dominant outsider perspective of her is repetitive (she was so "beautiful" and strong-willed), but in the end I found her resolve in the face of adversity to be the most attractive thing about her. She is another character who will hold more promise, I believe, in future books.
Lucia, Magnus' sister, is 'blessed' (or cursed) with special powers, but is unalbe to handle it by the time it is revealed. If her character had been explored more fully, I think she would have been the one I ended up loving. She exhibits some great traits--she is suspicious of the seriously messed up people; she is not arrogant about her abilities or beauty; she unconditionally loves Magnus. But when her powers come into force, she doesn't stand up to the one person who is the most obviously evil of the bunch--her father. This disconnect and the fact that there are only a few chapters dedicated to her POV caused her character to fall flat for me over the course of the book.
Jonas, as well, was not someone I was a big fan of. I cared about what he cared about, but he develops a serious hatred for Cleo that doesn't make sense, and pursues her based on that hatred for almost the entire book. When you're able to be inside Cleo's head, who was there when Jonas's brother was murdered, and see that she felt terrible and feels terrible about what happened, it makes it hard to believe that Jonas saw what he believes he saw: a 'smirk' on her face as his brother died right in front of her. There are several other confusing divisions like this between what we see in a character's head and what others on the outside are seeing--what I mean is, just inconsistencies that don't make sense (of course people outside a character cannot read that character's mind). These instances of confusion and the strangely immediate changes in feelings and sudden development of deep 'love' coupled with characters who obviously have very interesting histories that should have been explored further led to make me frustrated with the end result. However, it did keep me turning the pages, and for those new to high-fantasy, this may be a good book to jump into the genre and see what it's all about.