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Falling Kingdoms by M. Rhodes

Rhodes, Morgan. Falling Kingdoms. New York: Penguin Group, 2012. Print.

This young adult fantasy novel tells the story of three different fictional kingdoms: the prosperous Auranos, the impoverished Paelsia, and the oppressed Limeros. The book opens with a short prologue where two witches steal a baby girl, who is prophesied to become a powerful sorceress.

Sixteen years later, the story continues with Princess Cleo of Auranos, who is out with some friends and Lord Aron, whom she hates but may one day be her betrothed. They visit a wine merchant in Paelsia, as the country is known for its wonderful wine. After tasting a sample, Aron uses his position to bully the wine merchant into letting him buy many cases of wine for only a fraction of their cost. When the merchant’s two sons, Tomas and Jonas, interrupt the trade, they become insulted and start a fight with Aron, who pulls a dagger and kills Tomas. The incident serves as a catalyst for war between all three kingdoms.

The novel follows four different storylines. One is the story of Princess Cleo, who feels incredibly guilty about the death of Tomas.  She discovers love and loss, and is kidnapped by the neighbouring kingdoms, who wish to use her to make the King of Auranos give up his realm. Another major storyline is that of Jonas, who seeks revenge for his brother’s death. He aligns himself with the Chief of Paelsia, and helps instigate a rebellion with the help of the Kingdom of Limeros, in order to conquer Auranos. 

The last two storylines deal with the royalty of Limeros. Prince Magnus, who grew up under the abuse of his tyrannical father, struggles to live up to the king’s expectation as heir, and also to protect his younger sister Lucia. Even more torturous for Magnus are his strong, romantic feelings towards Lucia. The last storyline is that of Lucia, who is in fact the baby stolen years ago, raised as a princess in Limeros. At age sixteen, her powers manifest, and she learns to control them, and she seeks to protect her brother at all costs. Her father wishes to use her powers to his advantage during the war on Auranos. All four of these stories converge by the end of the book.

Falling Kingdoms takes a serious look at politics, and the effects of economic discrepancy between social classes. The book ends on a cliffhanger. It is the first in a series, the second of which is called Rebel Spring. This series explores not only the repercussions of the war between kingdoms, but the place of magic in this fictional world.

As the book alternates between the four different viewpoints, and each of these viewpoints engage multiple characters, the story is complex, and might be hard for some to follow. The novel also deals with heavy themes, including war, revenge, death, incest, abuse, and sex.

Recommended: 3 out of 4 stars
Reviewer: Colette Leung

Colette Leung is a graduate student at the University of Alberta, working in the fields of Library and Information science and Humanities Computing who loves reading, cats, and tea. Her research interests focus around how digital tools can be used to explore fields such as literature, language, and history in new and innovative ways.