Falling Kingdoms follows the story of four young people from different kingdoms whose destinies become intertwined during the strain of peace between the lands. We have Cleo, a princess of Auranos; Jonas, a peasant from Paelsia; and Lucia & Magnus from Limeros. At first I was a little overwhelmed with remembering who was who, because besides the main characters, there are also quite a few important secondary characters to keep track of. Thankfully, the plot picks up rather quickly and kept me interested long enough to focus. Since Falling Kingdoms essentially has four storylines built into one and is very character driven, it's probably easier to review by analyzing the book by each character.
I struggled to like Cleo and most of the characters involved in her story arc. Much of the time I generally found her to be incredibly frustrating and immature. She's also spoiled, stubborn and selfish. But she does have a good amount of character growth by the end of the novel. The sad part is that it comes at a really high price for her. I also disliked most of her storyline. The entirety of the events in Falling Kingdoms begins with her friend Aron murdering a Paelsian peasant after trying to cheat the family out of money for wine. Then somewhere along the way there is a bit of insta-love between her and another character that I didn't particularly care for. In fact, I thought that whole love story was poorly executed given the novel's fast pace. However, even given those dislikes, I feel like I will enjoy her character much more in book two.
Jonas is the brother of the murdered peasant and through his thirst for vengeance, a revolution begins. He helps rally his people and forms and alliance with the King of Limeros to siege Auranos. I enjoyed his story arc much more than Cleo's because he is clearly the under dog of the four. But I do feel he received the least amount of page time than the other main characters. However, based on the ending, it looks like he will play a much larger role in the next book.
Lucia and Magnus:
Ah, those two. Let's just call them Luke and Leia for now, minus actually being blood relatives. Or better yet Clary and Jace from The Mortal Instruments series. This was the storyline that really drove this novel since the prologue is about Lucia's past. Their arc had the most plot twists and turns along with shocking revelations. Or perhaps, not so shocking if you have read similar character situations. Magnus hides his feelings from Lucia and with their story I sat on the edge of my seat just waiting for when the secret was bound to come out. All the while, war on Auranos approaches. What's interesting is that even though it's clear (at least, right now) Limeros is the bad guy, they don't seem to be bad characters. But considering how they had large roles in the conquering of Auranos, it'll be interesting to see how their characters, especially Magnus, redeems their selves.
I really think Rhodes applied the right amount of anticipation throughout the novel. I never felt bored and at times I stayed up late into the night reading. And while each main character did seem to incite moments of great frustration, I liked them because they are all so flawed and do a lot of growing. It's one thing to be plagued with an annoying character for the duration of the novel, but to see genuine progress really makes the difference. These characters are young and virtually "play things of the gods" used as pawns for bigger purposes unbeknownst to them. Rhodes pushes her characters to make really difficult decisions, causing them to step up to the plate and face their fates or destinies. I have to commend her for taking their individual arcs and weaving them together so flawlessly as if it were always ment to be that way.
The biggest thing that felt off to me was the pacing. Time passes very swiftly from one PoV change to the next and the reader is just told how much time has passed in the beginning of the chapter. This didn't work too much for me because I didn't necessarily feel or see the change myself. This led to small incidents of confusion like with the above insta-love I mentioned.
Final Verdict: Though despite my small issues, that are just that, small, I really enjoyed Falling Kingdoms. So much so that I found myself thinking about the story long after I finished. It looks like the next book is shaping up to be even better than it's processor and I can't wait! If you are still on the fence, you could try checking out a sample of the first few chapters on the Breathless Reads Facebook page. But those few, short chapters doesn't even come close to doing the book justice.