Google+ YA Romantics: Just Finished Reading ... Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Monday, December 10, 2012

Just Finished Reading ... Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Falling Kingdoms
by Morgan Rhodes
To be published by Penguin/Razorbill
on December 11, 2012

Source: bought




My summary: Three kingdoms. Two princesses. A prince. A guard. A stolen baby. A secret. A murder (well, more than one.)  A dangerous alliance (also more than one.) Forbidden love.

Goodreads summary: In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power--brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined.

My take: As my regular blog readers know, I'm not a big fantasy reader. But to me, Falling Kingdoms didn't read like a fantasy, despite the cover and the long list of characters that prefaces the text and the book's setting in the mythical land of ... Mytica. After finishing the book, I have to say that Falling Kingdoms read more like a fairy tale. Which is not a criticism -- I love fairy tales!

What's the difference between fantasy and a fairy tale? I couldn't find any good explanation on the internet, but I'll give it a shot and -- as always -- you're welcome to chime in and disagree in comments!

To me, fairy tales have simpler worldbuilding. There's not a lot of explanation of the world or how its magical and supernatural elements work; these things just are. The princess gets cursed and then the kiss magically wakes her up.

I also think that characters in a fairy tale tend to be more archetypal. We meet them and instantly recognize them: the beautiful princess and the jealous old witch who didn't get invited to her christening. Finally, I think the plot elements are deliberately more transparent in a fairy tale: we watch the witch curse the baby and we know that Aurora is going to get herself into trouble, no matter what her parents try to do to keep her safe. That's part of the pleasure of the story, to know that she's going to get her finger pricked.

So, back to Falling Kingdoms.  To me, the main strength of Falling Kingdoms lies in the cleverness of its set-up. There are three neighboring kingdoms and a nicely chosen cast of characters, all with various loyalties to and hatreds of and rivalries with one another. There are beautiful princesses and evil nobles and loyal guards and servants and two couples who seem like they can never be together ... except that in a fairy tale, anything is possible.

The three kingdoms are mainly described by climate and crops, and in contrast with one another:
Auronos was warm and temperate, even in the bleakest winter months, with rolling green hills, sturdy olive trees, and acres upon acres of rich, temperate farmland. Paelsia, by contrast, seemed dusty and gray as far as the eye could see.
Paelsia does grow grapes and is known for its wine. Limeros, the third kingdom, is described as "frigid [and] colorless" with "ice-covered land" and a "frosty granite castle."

The palace at Limeros reminded me of the palace of the Snow Queen in the Hans Christian Andersen story:
The walls of the palace were of driving snow, and the windows and doors of cutting winds ... all were lighted up by the powerful Aurora Borealis, and all were so large, so empty, so icy cold, and so resplendent!
The character descriptions in Falling Kingdoms also seemed straight out of my favorite fairytales.  Princess Lucia has "eyes the color of a clear blue sky." Cleo is "a beautiful golden princess with eyes the color of the sea."  Evil nobleman Aron's "slight frame and pale skin spoke of a lifetime indoors." He also drinks too much a smokes and leers and threatens Cleo-- a perfect villain.

There's a stolen baby -- foundlings and changelings are great fairy tale tropes -- and even some magical seeds.  Cleo's sister Emilia becomes seriously ill. Emilia tells Cleo that a healer told her of a woman in the kingdom of Palesia who has magic grape seeds that cure illness. Cleo talks to her father about the seeds, and he forbids her to go in search of them. She discusses the seeds with her friends Nic and Mira. She then talks to Theon, the palace guard, who also forbids her to go after the seeds. Of course, like Little Red Riding Hood, or Blackbeard's wife, or dozens of other fairytale heroines who willfully wander into danger, she goes after the seeds.

Falling Kingdoms was a quick and enjoyable read that I think will appeal to those who enjoy a fast-paced story with strong fairy tale elements, the promise of romance and a touch of action. The story is told in alternating third-person POV, which worked well given that the main characters hailed from three different kingdoms. While the book's worldbuilding, character development, and plot were definitely not as rich, multi-layered and complex as I've come to expect from my favorite YA fantasy series, like the Lumatere Chronicles or the Graceling Realm series, the fairytale world of Mytica and its characters definitely have a lot of appeal.

I'll be offering up a copy of Falling Kingdoms as a prize on tomorrow's Hot Off the Presses, and giving other readers a chance to link up their reviews of this book and others -- be sure to stop by!

35 comments:

  1. I love fairy tales so I feel like this will work for me even though I was expecting a stronger fantasy perhaps in the vein of the Graceling series. I like your analysis of fairy tale vs fantasy as well-I'm going to be thinking about that difference today.

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    1. I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. And you and I have talked about expectations and how they shape your reading experience. As I was reading this, I just kept feeling that it wasn't what I was expecting, but I was still enjoying it. I hope my review managed to convey that....

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  2. I totally loved this book as well! I read it over the weekend and OMG! I love the strong fantasy element to it. Nice review :)

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    1. It is a quicker read than a typical fantasy -- the plot moves along, and I feel like this book is setting up some interesting stuff for the next installment.

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  3. I have this book but I don't usually enjoy the fantasy genre either so I keep setting it aside.

    Thanks for your explanation of how it's a little more fairy tale than fantasy - I want to give it a shot now.

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    1. Thanks -- I'm really happy that you said that. My goal in a review is always to just try to help other people figure out if a book is a match for them or not.

      Let me know what you think!

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  4. I have not read fantasy in a while but I certainly do enjoy the genre :D this is one read I cannot wait to get my hands on, unfortunately I will probably have to wait :(

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    1. Stop by Hot Off the Presses and enter to win it :)

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  5. I think you described the difference between say a fairytale like fantasy compared to high fantasy. Think THE SWEETEST SPELL compared to FINNIKIN OF THE ROCK.
    if you liked FALLING KINGDOMS it sounds like you'll like my fantasy--which I'll make sure to hook you up with when it's published ; )

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    1. But is there a term for "fairytale like fantasy?" Falling Kingdoms is not a fairytale retelling, and I think Sweetest Spell is a retelling??

      And yeah, watching your blog waiting for you to give out more info on your book ;)

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    2. Hmm, not sure. I think it's more of a feeling. Another book that would fall into that category is the AMARANTH ENCHANTMENT. I think it's just categorized as fantasy.

      Was it a re-telling? Either way, I loved it. Think I need to post a review of it's awesomeness.

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    3. I've never heard of that one, but I'll check it out. Or just wait for your review ;)

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  6. I am not typically a fantasy reader either, but I have been getting more into them lately. This one sounds fantastic. Awesome review!!

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    1. I'm pretty picky about the fantasy -- I think it's one of the trickiest genres to write. But my favorite fantasy books -- Kristin Cashore, Laini Taylor, Melina Marchetta -- are some of my favorite books ever!

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  7. I'm not a big fantasy fan so I think I will prefer it to read like fairytale and for the world to just be than having a lot of confusing information. I've also never read Graceling or any popular fantasy books so I don't have to much to compare it too. I just love romance, action, and an interesting setting. I'm going to start this tomorrow when it arrives!

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    1. I think you'll love it. There's not a lot of romance (which I know you enjoy) but the book definitely sets up some great potential relationships. Let me know what you think!

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  8. If it weren't for your review I might have completely overlooked this one. The cover doesn't feel like it would be a book for me, but the story sounds right up my ally!

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    1. Yeah, not sure the cover fits the story that well. To me it sort of reads "assassin monk" or something.

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  9. Oooh, more fairy tale than fantasy? That makes it sound even more appealing! Can't wait to read this one now. :)

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    1. LOL that my review is getting everyone interested!

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  10. I have to admit this is the first time I've read the synopsis for this book. I liked the cover, but since I'm not really a fantasy book reader, I didn't pay much attention to it. I'm more interested in it now though after reading your review :-)

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  11. All of the reasons that you mentioned you enjoyed it are kind of what peeved me. That cover was a bit deceiving if you ask me. I love fantasy, and I know it's not your favorite, so all of the reasons you enjoyed this one are kind of why I didn't love it as much as I had hoped to. It was still a fun story, but I wanted MORE. I am glad, however, that it is encouraging more people to give it a try. Another successful review, Jen! :D

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    1. I completely understand that if you were expecting high fantasy based on the cover and the description, you might be disappointed.

      I'm just glad I can match the book up with people who might enjoy it!

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  12. woooh girls. why don't you love fantasy . awww
    gr8 review. super exited

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    1. Ha -- I do like fantasy, I'm just super-picky about it...

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  13. This book sounds great! Fairy tale re-tellings are hit and miss for me, but you know I LOVE the fantasies:) I like that it is told from multiple POVs. I am definitely going to add this one to my TBR:)

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  14. This book has definitely been on my TBR for a while now. I actually want to read it more now that you've said it has strong fairy tale elements. Who doesn't love a good fairy tale?

    Jesse @ Pretty in Fiction

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  15. Cool, now I'm even more excited to read this! I'm not a super huge fan on fantasy, but fairy tales? Yes! :D Awesome review, definitely made me want to read it!

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  16. Lately,I've been getting more and more into fantasy. First Shadow and Bone then Throne of Glass and now Falling Kingdoms. Can't wait to read it.

    Zemira @ YA Fanatic

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  17. your review make me want and don't want read this book..
    Consider "fairy taikl" issue, I really not fan of things like this , especially like you wrote "archetyp" characters, I love when they surprised me etc..
    but hmm maybe I'll give it a try.. thanks.
    Magda

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  18. From the sounds of it this is more like a fairytale than a fantasy! I've not had a lot of luck with fantasy books this year, but if this is more fairytale I might gice it a try :)

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  19. I do enjoy Fantasy & Fairy Tale reads - but having said that I don't just want the same thing every time.

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  20. This book looks really good! I haven't read a fairy tale/fantasy style book in quite awhile, so I think I'm going to have to get my hands on this one!

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  21. Great review, this one is on my wishlist for the holiday.

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