Book One of the Falling Kingdoms series
By Morgan Rhodes
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
Part of the 2012 Breathless Reads
I love high fantasy epics. I mean, people have written pages upon pages about the problems of Robert Jordan, Terry Brooks, George R. R. Martin's, et al's style and while all of that criticism has a point, it doesn't matter for me.
I love fat, bloated fantasy that is grandiose and full of melodrama. Gimme secret children, incest, betrayal, political intrigue, loving descriptions of servant number five's uniform any day of the week.
Thus, I expected to love FALLING KINGDOMS. As you've probably discerned by now, I didn't. One of the big problems for me was the structure. The book cycles through several points of view - at least five - which isn't inherently bad, but I never really connected with any of the narrators. They're living in a crappy world that forces them to make tough decisions, but I wasn't feeling their anguish. These are teenagers who are instrumental in pushing their countries from peace to the brink of war! And yet, they all felt like small people. They were all sort of mopey in the same way, aside from Jonas, who was also righteously angry.
FALLING KINGDOMS also felt oh-so-predictable. Morgan Rhodes is obviously taking more after the model of Martin than Jordan, but part of what makes A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones so much fun is when it subverts genre expectations. Look, as I pointed out in my intro, I love the tropes and style of high fantasy. But FALLING KINGDOMS didn't seem like it was having fun with them. It just sort of lurched through unhappy set pieces. All the grimdarkness and angst beat me down.
I have high expectations for the titles Penguin Teen names as Breathless Reads. I've enjoyed almost all of them, even when I didn't expect too. FALLING KINGDOMS didn't even come close to leaving me breathless. More like a sad sigh of frustration that I was in North Dakota and it was the last book I'd taken with me that I hadn't read.
I do recommend Morgan Rhodes' books as Michelle Rowan. Honestly, I never thought I would say one of her books wasn't fun.