Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

This book looked pretty cool when I got it. I mean, it’s high fantasy. I had yet to read a high fantasy that I was particularly disappointed by. Plus, it’s a high fantasy with political intrigue and three countries going to war. Now where have I heard that before… I thought it could be a good research book for The Dark War Trilogy, considering the idea was somewhat the same, and I might glean some insight from it.

Skip forward to me, sitting in the dentist’s office waiting room, beginning to read the book, skimming over paragraphs of irrelevant backstory and info-dumping. (It actually inspired me to write a whole post on how to avoid info-dumping.)  However, up to this point the characters have potential, and if you’ve been around for a little while you’ll know that characters are what I look at most in any story. If I don’t like the characters, your book is sunk. But for now they didn’t look too bad.

But once you get 37% through the book, the shallow romances are dominating and detracting from the plot. Shallow romances are something I absolutely despise in books and the one thing I can’t escape in pretty much any book I read. But at least in most of them they’re executed well and start to be less shallow. These just stayed shallow and underdeveloped. One jumped from level one (the other person’s hot but we won’t admit we have a crush on them) to level eight (oh my gosh I’m so “in love” with him! Let’s get Daddy to make him a knight so that I can marry him because I’m a spoiled brat who always gets my way and we “love” each other so much) after what felt like maybe a week of really knowing each other. (There was probably an additional week of them knowing each other, but they weren’t even in the same part of the country for that.) (This book also inspired me to write a whole post on the importance of good romances in literature.)

And that’s just one of the romances. The other was much better executed, but morally wrong (a guy in love with his sister, even though you know they’re not actually blood-related), and after a point you just say “Why did you do that and how are you such an idiot.” Well basically none of the characters in this book seem to have brains, so I guess that answers that question.

The worldbuilding was also shallow. Not unbearably so, simply enough to be underwhelming. (I actually described the whole book to my orthodontist as “underwhelming.”)

By the end of the book none of the characters had developed much in depth or arc, and there was only one that I would have not wanted to die (and he could do a LOT better than the ditzy princess he was pining after). The rest I was all apathetic toward and didn’t care whether they lived or died. Neither the protagonists nor the antagonists were compelling, and the one character I liked was a side character who didn’t get enough attention even when he was the only character with his country’s protagonist.

All of the character’s voices (aside from that of the one character I liked, at times) sounded the same, to the extent that it was sometimes difficult to figure out who was talking in a one-on-one conversation with well-spaced tags. The kings, in particular, were hard to tell apart and felt like copies of each other. Out of them, only the chief was remotely unique, and even he not in dialogue.

All that said, Rhodes did well developing her courts (something I stink at). She has lords who actually have bearing on the kingdom, confidantes and companions for her royal figures, maids and servants who have roles instead of being faceless, guards who do things, etc. (Although I can’t say the guard was very good if the princess was able to give him the slip so repeatedly.)

And despite everything, there was something that kept me interested and let me enjoy the book just a little bit. I wish I could identify what it was. Maybe it was the plot (I doubt it, since it seemed pretty flat, but it was the one thing I didn’t expressly dislike), maybe it was just the hope that the characters would get better, the relationships would develop into something enjoyable, the world would be fleshed out more… I don’t know. Whatever the something was, it allowed me to give this book two stars instead of one.

Overall, I’m wishing my dad hadn’t spent ten dollars on this book.

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