December 03, 2014

Gathering Darkness: Falling Kingdoms, Book 3

by Morgan Rhodes
Razorbill
978-1-59514-705-9
432 pp.
Ages 12+
For release December 9, 2014

(1) Map of Mytica
I am so glad that Falling Kingdoms is not a trilogy, for three books would not be sufficient to house the complexity of the relationships within and between the three kingdoms of Mytica–Auranos, Limeros and Paelsia– and their people, given the richness and depth that Morgan Rhodes has woven into the plot.

When Falling Kingdoms, Book 1 (Razorbill, 2012) ended, King Gaius of Limeros had violently and successfully seized the castle and throne of Auranos, with some magical help from his daughter Lucia who is a powerful, albeit novice, sorceress.  Princess Cleiona, the only remaining Auranian royal, is determined to regain her family's rightful place, perhaps with the help of Jonas Agallon, the rebel who wants to take down the King of Blood.

But, in the second book of the series, Rebel Spring, (Razorbill, 2013), the rebels and Cleo have accomplished seemingly little to halt King Gaius’s plans.  Gaius is having a road constructed to link the three kingdoms of Mytica, through the Wildlands and Forbidden Mountains, destroying much of Paelsia while enslaving its people.  He has also arranged for the marriage of his son, Magnus, to Cleiona, which takes place regardless of an attack arranged by Cleo and Jonas to prevent it.

Now Gathering Darkness returns the story to Auranos where King Gaius continues to rule with fear, hopeful of securing the Kindred, the four crystals that hold the elemental magic: amber for fire, moonstone for air, aquamarine for water, and obsidian for earth.  But the Kindred is a very desirable commodity, and not everyone understands its significance or danger.

In addition to Magnus and Cleo, who have returned from their wedding tour, more perplexed about their feelings for each other, there are others who have appeared in Auranos whose motives are probably linked to securing the Kindred for themselves.  Alexius, the immortal Watcher from Sanctuary who had discovered Lucia’s power as a sorceress, has been banished to the mortal realm, ostensibly to be with Lucia, but claiming the Kindred must be returned to Sanctuary to help save the world from destruction.  And Prince Ashur and his sister Princess Amara from the far-off kingdom of Kraeshia have maneuvered themselves into honoured guests of King Gaius, easily manipulating everyone to their wishes, inevitably to garner the Kindred for their father, Emperor Cortas.

It is essentially a race to find the Kindred.  Many are willing to have others find the crystals and then steal them, but Cleo is more proactive, becoming a cherished friend to Lucia, who is frightened by her erratic powers and helping her, with Alexius’ guidance, to focus her magic, hopefully to locate and claim the Kindred.  And, through a secret messenger within the castle, Cleo is able to share this information with Jonas.

Meanwhile, Jonas has been joined by another rebel, the charismatic Felix, and is determined to save Lysandra and the other rebels who are being held in the King's dungeons and awaiting execution.  But what are Felix’s motivations?  Even Jonas’ motives are less transparent, especially as he is confused by his feelings for Cleo and Lysandra.

As in the earlier books in the series, Gathering Darkness is both plot- and character-driven, relentless in its ability to startle, to gratify, and to crush, engulfing the reader in more emotions than the heart can normally endure within a scant 432 pages.  The elemental disasters–fire, tornado, earthquake–are nothing compared to the cataclysmic breaches in the essential relationships within Gathering Darkness: between Magnus and Cleo, Cleo and Jonas, Jonas and Lysandra, Nick and Ashur, Amara and Ashur, Felix and Jonas, Lucia and Alexius, and everyone in between.

Morgan Rhodes wastes neither words nor characters, definitively giving everything and everyone substance.  The words she gives her characters are prophetic and powerful.  For example, Felix tells Jonas that,
“There are no guarantees in this life, only strong possibilities.” (pg.16) 
whereas Cleo reassures Lucia to
“believe in things other people think are impossible, and it makes you strong enough to face whatever comes next.” (pg. 76)
Forgive me for not sharing the gut-wrenching words of spellbound lovers or cutting comments by the wicked. Those are all there too. But, after the intense read that is Gathering Darkness (and that darkness is certainly gathering), I need to hold onto the crystals of tenderness that Morgan Rhodes embeds, helping us to see that it’s not all darkness. In fact, I must thank her for seven simple words on page 397 that carried me through the wickedness revealed in the last chapter and forward to await the next Falling Kingdoms book.  Thank you, Morgan Rhodes, for that gift and for taking Gathering Darkness into new realms of wickedly magical splendour.



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

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