January 16, 2014

Falling Kingdoms

by Morgan Rhodes
Razorbill
978-1-59514-584-0
412 pp.
Ages 12+
2012

Map of Mytica (1)
The kingdoms of Auranos, Paelsia and Limeros were once united but now the three are distinctly advantaged or disadvantaged, though they live in a state of relative tolerance.  Auranos is a rich land of beautiful landscapes whose hedonistic inhabitants enjoy excessive living with luxurious homes, food and all amenities.  In the golden palace lives King Corvin Bellos with his two daughters, Emilia, his heir, and Cleiona, 16.  Auranos' neighbour, Paelsia, is considered by the Auranians as an impoverished land with savages whose only worth is in their lone commodity, wine.  Lead by their Chief Basilius, the people are ever hopeful that the magic will return and improve their lives.  The cold, frozen land of Limeros is ruled by King Gaius Damora, called the King of Blood for his penchant for killing those who challenge or disappoint him, using fear and violence to keep his subjects in line.  Surprisingly, King Gaius insists that his Queen Althea, two children, Magnus, almost 18, and Lucia, 16, and all the people of Limeros abide by the virtues of strength, faith (in the goddess Valoria) and wisdom.

When Princess Cleiona and her friend Mira accompany the arrogant Lord Aron Lagaris to Paelsia to purchase its highly intoxicating wine, the drunken Aron stabs a young man, Tomas Agallon, in front of his father, sister and younger brother, Jonas.  That single incident has Jonas and his friend Brion Radenos searching out Chief Bacilius to demand that Paelsia rise against its oppressor, Auranos, and avenge Tomas' death. Chief Bacilius and King Gaius have already agreed to approach King Corvin to demand the lands of Auranos be divided between their own two kingdoms.  If he refuses, they will take Auranos by force.  With Princess Cleiona taken hostage and her life threatened, and Jonas desperate for revenge and Magnus desperate to prove himself worthy of being his father's heir, the fall of the Auranian throne would seem imminent.

In true high fantasy style, Falling Kingdoms is a dense weave of subplots, each based within the kingdoms, between kingdoms and even in a world beyond the kingdoms, notably Sanctuary, the realm of the Watchers.  I haven't even mentioned the magic; the race to locate the Kindred; the romantic interests of Cleiona, Jonas, and Magnus; the kidnapping of a child sixteen years earlier; the prophecy; exiled Watchers; Emilia's devastating illness; and the deceptive leader of the Paelsians.  And readers will never predict in which direction the tale could turn. At 412 pages, Falling Kingdoms may appear to be a big read but there is no way that Morgan Rhodes could have managed to squeeze everything in that she did in fewer pages.  After all, it took George R. R. Martin over 800 pages to tell the story of A Game of Thrones (Bantam, 1996), a book to which Falling Kingdoms is regularly compared (though I personally find Falling Kingdoms a much more approachable read, never trying to impress the reader with its epic proportions).  As such, Morgan Rhodes effectively packs a lot into her text, without being verbose or excessive.  If she hadn't, I wouldn't have been so eager to jump directly into the sequel to Falling Kingdoms, Rebel Spring (Razorbill, 2013), which I will review in my next post.

(1) Map of Mytica: Retrieved from http://www.fallingkingdoms.com/extras.html on January 16, 2014.

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If you haven't enjoyed Morgan Rhodes' Falling Kingdoms yet, and my review here is insufficient to grab your attention, perhaps visiting the website for the series at http://www.fallingkingdoms.com/ or its Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/FallingKingdoms will spark your interest.

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