The best way to describe this book series is Game of Thrones light, or Game of Thrones for teenagers.
It’s set in a land divided into three kingdoms: Limeros, Paelsia, and Auranos; each with a different king (or chief), with different belief systems and priorities. There’s also an ancient magical myth that could be the reason for the kingdoms’ demise and slow decay.
Much like it’s more mature counterpart, Falling Kingdoms follows various perspectives and deals with political intrigue, war, and magic. The difference is that it’s much easier to follow and understand, and all the main characters are teenagers.
Cleo is the flighty Princess of Auranos who is used to getting her way. From Paelsia, Jonas is a rash wine sellar’s son who wants revenge for his brother’s murder and rights for his people. Prince Magnus of Limeros who seeks his father’s approval and is stuck between wanting to do so while avoiding becoming him.
It’s a fast, easy read with plenty of mystery, plotting, and action. You aren’t stuck too long in any character’s perspective, which is good and bad at the same time, because while you don’t get bored, you also don’t really get to know the character as quickly. It’s also slightly confusing, because the chapter is named based on the location rather than the character, and sometimes the perspective will shift mid-chapter between two characters in the same world, rather than just sticking with the one character the entire time.
I also found the writing to be a little lazy at times, with a lot of emphasis on telling rather than showing. Some of the scenes that seemed pivotal were never described but instead simply glossed over with “this happened,” and I felt a little disappointed and cheated by that.
I also felt a little underwhelmed with some of the character development. Cleo is the typical YA heroine, misunderstood by her family, flighty, and without any special skills or abilities, yet she is able to avoid danger multiple times and have plenty of boys fall in love with her. And her own “love”? Seems more like teenage lust to me.
Another thing I felt slightly annoyed with was all the death. I totally get the necessity of character death, I’m a big Game of Thrones fan after all, but many of these deaths just felt like they happened just to happen, or to make Cleo alone, or make Magnus feel something. They weren’t super shocking and they weren’t powerful enough for me to really care, and I felt a little like they were done just to be more like GoT.
The world building, however, was nice in that it wasn’t just an info dump, as many first books, particularly in new worlds, can be. Rhodes gave that information through myths and stories, gradually throughout the books, which helped the reader get a better understanding of why characters acted like they did. And even though some of the characters were very typical, I did enjoy them, and I liked that they started to grow as characters by the end of the book.
Overall, I really enjoyed the premise and the intrigue in the novel, and thought it was a fun read, especially while waiting for The Winds of Winter. 4 stars.