Gathering Darkness

Title: Gathering Darkness (Book 3 in Falling Kingdoms)
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 1, 2014

War brought them together. Love will tear them apart.
 Alliances form across Mytica and beyond as royals and rebels alike race to hunt down the Kindred—the four elemental crystals that give their owners god-like power. The stakes have never been higher for Magnus and Cleo, who are brought together by a life or death decision that will lock their fates and change the course of the kingdom forever.

 THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo slays with sweetness—and a secret that might control Lucia’s magic—as she and vengeful Jonas lead the hunt for the all-powerful Kindred.
 THE KRAESHIANS join the fray. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the vast kingdom across the Silver Sea, prove to be just as ruthless as they are charming as they manipulate their way to victory.
THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally, in the flesh, with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia’s powers to unveil the Kindred.
And which side will Prince Magnus choose, now that everyone he’s been betrayed by everyone he’s ever loved?
The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica… but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.

As the third book in the series, everything about the first and second is just as true about this one. It is a breathtakingly insane journey back and forth between the three tenuously united countries and the four inexplicably connected main characters. The internal struggle within the relationships they have formed even in brief meetings has grown significantly throughout the series. Magnus is finally learning the truth about himself, parts of his character that I’ve realized long before he was willing to say it aloud; Cleo has realized that things aren’t always as black and white as she might wish they were, and has grown up a lot; Jonas is figuring out the difference between love, friendship, and alliances; and Lucia, despite her struggles with trust and finding her purpose, has become independent and strong, although perhaps not in a way that is very comforting to readers. The mysteries surrounding Mytica and the Kindred are slowly but shockingly being revealed, and I hope that the insanity never stops; it certainly makes for a fantastical and surprising story.

The amount of violence has only increased in this series; I’ve found that very few characters make it through an entire book, so it’s heartbreaking when the author tricks you into believing that perhaps this one that you like will live, when in reality he/she gets killed off in the next chapter. “Expect the unexpected” is definitely a good rule for this book, as well as the idea that a character will serve a purpose and then die after that purpose is fulfilled. Again, shock value is huge in this series. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gasped or started to cry due to the death of yet another character that I could easily see a future for. This emotional investment, along with the intellectual challenge of keeping all the facts of who knows what in the story straight, has kept me excited to know the end – I can’t wait for the next book!

~Yours Truly

*Note: this book is not recommended for readers under the age of 13 due to mild sexual content, violence, and profanity.

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Rebel Spring

Title: Rebel Spring (Book 2 in Falling Kingdoms)
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 27, 2013

The road to power…is paved with blood and magic.
Cleo
is now a prisoner in her own palace, forced to be an ambassador for Mytica as the evil King Gaius lies to her people.
Magnus stands to eventually inherit the new kingdom but is still obsessed with his feelings for his adopted sister, Lucia.
Lucia is haunted by the outcome of the breathtaking display of magic that allowed her father to capture the kingdoms.
Jonas watched at the palace gates a troop of rebels behind him, waiting for him to tell them how he plans to overtake King Gaius.

After a bloody siege, Auranos has been defeated, its young queen orphaned and dethroned. The three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now unwillingly united as one country called Mytica. But the allure of ancient, dangerous magic beckons still, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the whole world over….
At the heart of the fray are four brave young people grappling for that magic and the power it promises. For Cleo, the magic would enable her to reclaim her royal seat. In Jonas’s hands, it frees his nation, and in Lucia’s, it fulfills the ancient prophecy of her destiny. And if the magic were Magnus’s, he would finally prove his worth in the eyes of his cruel and scheming father, King Gaius, who rules Mytica with a punishing hand.
When Gaius begins to build a road into the Forbidden Mountains to physically link all of Mytica, he sparks a long-smoking fire in the hearts of the people that will forever change the face of this land. For Gaius’s road is paved with blood, and its construction will have cosmic consequences.

This book was even better than the first! Everything in it – the new and unrequited love, the betrayal, the violence – was magnified, and there were plot twists that I did not see coming (cough cough, Queen Althea, the new royal visitor, the new thing with Lucia and Cleo, just to name a few). The characters were a lot more developed, the story kept up the pace, and there were so many tense moments where I wasn’t sure who was going to survive! It reminded me of The Hunger Games with the introduction of characters with important roles but their just as quick death. It may have seemed arbitrary at certain points, but it certainly kept me on my toes!

The only negative point I have to say about this installment of the series were that certain plot points were a little sudden and undeveloped. There were a few short chapters whose only purpose seemed to be these really short aspects of the story that aren’t at all unimportant,  but there’s no lead up to it even though it has a huge effect on other characters.

I really liked how many different characters got to have a say in this book. It wasn’t just Magnus, Lucia, Jonas, and Cleo telling the story; Gaius, Althea, Lysandra, and others also had their parts to tell so the reader got a fuller, more omniscient version than the characters. This really heightened the tension when the reader knows something the other characters don’t! There were a ton of places in the story, too, where I was just as clueless as them, though, so this back-and-forth, instead of being annoying, merely kept me interested in the book.

If you enjoyed the first book, then this second will be even better; I’m on my way to read the third!

~Yours Truly

*Note: this book is not recommended to readers aged 12 & under due to violence, mild sexual content and some profanity.

Falling Kingdoms

Title: Falling Kingdoms (Book 1 in Falling Kingdoms)
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: January 1, 2012

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.
Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct.
Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.
Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realise that the heart can be more lethal than the sword….

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.
As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.
The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

I can’t believe it’s been three and a half years since this book was first released. I remember reading so many good reviews, seeing the awesome cover, and putting it on my TBR list immediately. And now that I’ve finally read it, I am just amazed at everything about it!

The writing style was really cool – the third person but from the point of view of the four main characters was really cool, but the unique voice and insight into each character was what truly enraptured me. Every scene showed more about their personalities and unique situations, making it so hard to be emotionally invested in them when they were all fighting against each other. This was an aspect of the book that surprised me because usually there’s two sides in a story – good and evil, basically. But this book added in a third side to twist it all up and complicate it. This made for an exciting, unpredictable, and unique story that hooked me in for the entirety of the book and triggered this insane urge I have for wanting the second book in my hands now!

I just couldn’t root for one character. I also couldn’t root for just one character. Each of them tugged on a different heartstring, and there was a certain shock at seeing them and their outer personas through the eyes of the other characters versus their inner feelings that were revealed during their own chapters. It was also emotionally challenging due to the series of realistic but heartbreaking events of the story. I’ll warn everyone now, even though this book was fantastic, it is not for the reader looking for an uplifting, encouraging story. It is a story of hardship, loss, struggle; a tale of self-discovery and getting through the toughest times imaginable. It starts and ends with violence, filling in the middle with difficult journeys, both physically and spiritually. It was certainly an unusual book in this regard, but it just made me want to read the second book even more!

The story and the characters just meshed really well. Although I’m not usually a fan of multiple narrators or so many main characters, it really worked in this story. The author was focused on all the right parts of the plot to make me interested and to keep up the pace. It started out really fast, and slowed down a little, but it was never actually slow. The pace picked up again towards the middle and end, and I really hope it continues in the next book! I highly recommend this story to any reader over the age of 13 looking for an intriguing, one-of-a-kind fantasy tale.

~Yours Truly

*Not recommended to kids ages 12 & under due to violence and some vague sexual content.