Author: Morgan Rhodes
Release: December 3rd 2013
Genre: Fantasy, Magic, YA
#2 in the Falling Kingdoms series
Series: Falling Kingdoms (#1), Gathering Darkness (#3), Frozen Tides (#4), Crystal Storm (#5), Untitled (#6)
Love, power, and magic collide with war in the second book of the Falling Kingdoms series
Auranos has fallen and the three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now united as one country called Mytica. But still, magic beckons, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the world...
When the evil King Gaius announces that a road is to be built into the Forbidden Mountains, formally linking all of Mytica together, he sets off a chain of events that will forever change the face of this land, forcing Cleo the dethroned princess, Magnus the reluctant heir, Lucia the haunted sorceress, and Jonas the desperate rebel to take steps they never could have imagined.
Pretty much what I feel about this book if it could be summed into one gif. I'm mostly really, really fucking annoyed, because I do see the potential, I see it everywhere in this book, but it just won't be crafted into something that's truly good. There are so many things that simply lack finesse or were painfully unnecessary and this book could have done so much better than this. If Rhodes only put in a bit more effort...
Let me start with the things I did like and did think were done alright. First up, we have some of the relationships, that are truly intriguing and interesting and, as of now, have not been butchered quite yet. I have the feeling that one of them at least could be on the highway to hell very soon, but for this installment, it's been nice to witness. And that would be Cleo and Magnus' relationship, which was entirely unromantic but also not very friendly, for obvious reasons, and its progress was very entertaining to track. Their constant back and forth, each trying to win the upper hand in some way — it was well crafted, and there's definitely a dynamic between them that simply works.
I'm also applauding Rhodes' guts, because she is actually willing to let her characters face some hardships, she raises the stakes and doesn't take the easy way out for her protagonists. Usually, the characters are rescued and saved from any hard decisions or unfortunate events that can't be undone before they can happen, and I expected nothing less in this novel as well. But, I was wrong! I was so wrong and there were multiple occasions where I did not think Rhodes would actually go through with them, some of which she truly didn't, but some of which she did and I was quite impressed. I liked it, it gave the book a sense of urgency that severely lessened its overall ridiculousness.
Furthermore, Rhodes finally tried to give her characters that much needed development, although some of it, like many of her plans for this book, backfired, some character arcs were pleasant surprises. Again, the best example for this is Magnus, he is truly the best crafted character for now in this series, since he is so well-rounded and complex, which makes him such a unique and intriguing character to follow.
That is so far all I can really praise about this sequel, so let's get to the unpleasant things next, shall we? Well, let me tell you about all the things Rhodes intended for Rebel Spring, but that — in my opinion — completely backfired. First and foremost, what infuriated me the most, was Cleo and Jonas' relationship. I already said this in a status update on Goodreads for the first novel, and that was that I saw some serious shipping potential between the two. Theirs would also be an interesting relationship, I mean the chemistry and the feelings are definitely there after what they've been through, what with Jonas having wanted to see her dead and all, but Rhodes totally killed any appreciative feelings I had for something between them. Their romantic relationship moves way too fast and is almost forgotten by both of them by the end of the novel, fickle as their feelings for each other were in the first place, and let me tell you, it's never a good idea to have your characters kiss passionately after one of them just proclaimed they "hated" the other. Just, ugh. I had so many high hopes for their romance, which could have been absolutely great had Rhodes stayed her hand a bit longer and developed it better.
Equally distressing was the relationship between Alexius and Lucia, rarely mentioned as it is, but ... I can't help wondering why that was even necessary in the first place. I swear Alexius is mega pedo extraordinaire. You thought Edward Cullen was weird, with him being over 100 years old and watching Bella sleep? Well, Alexius is even worse. Not only he is two thousand years old, but he also watched Lucia grow up, he literally watched her when she was a child, all the time, only to fall in love with her later on. And not only that, fall in insta-love with her. I kid you not, we had one chapter, one fucking chapter, of them interacting with each other and in the next one they were proclaiming their love towards one another and blah blah blah.
But maybe that's just because the passage of time was a mess in general. Seriously, keeping track of the timeline is a waste of energy since it is nearly impossible and only induces headaches. At the end of some chapters, there will be some line about how it's been a week, been a month, whatever, but that doesn't really help my feeling of how much time has passed. It might have been a month, but it still feels like only a few days from how you're telling it, Rhodes. And maybe that's why her relationships seem to move way too fast, but it seriously annoys me. I don't even know how to fix it, I just know that she has to, because this is no fun.
Moving on, another thing that greatly backfired is some of the character development. Most of it was nice, yes, as I said I truly enjoyed Magnus' POV, and Lucia also keeps getting more interesting with each chapter, but Cleo is still an idiot. I had high hopes, as I'm sure you know if you've read my review of Falling Kingdoms, and I was hoping she would take a road more along the lines of getting proactive, doing some dirty work to get her kingdom back, maybe learn to pick up a sword or some kind of weapon, get off her princess-y, royal-y ass and kick her enemies' butts, but no. She's alright, I'll give her that, but I just want to shake some sense into her. There's one scene where she suggests a possible assassination plan for a king to Jonas, and he's all for it, saying it's an awesome one that might just work, but then she quickly backs off again, because she got that it might not work and lives could be lost. Honey, that's what happens in wars, you do realize that, right? She's still too pristine, she still has too little blood on her hands and there's absolutely nothing tainting her and I don't like how Rhodes is trying to portray as a 100% goody two shoes that could never do any wrong, not to mention that it simply makes her incredibly boring, especially compared to all these other characters that do have to struggle with past decisions they are now kinda regretting.
However, my main complaint, above all others, remains this one: When are they ever going to make progress with finding that Kindred? Those Kindred? Are/Is that a plural or a singular? I don't know, apparently neither does Rhodes though, so it's okay. Honestly, I'm calling shenanigans on this. Sometimes in the book, the kindred are referred to in the plural, often in singular and I am just confused. Anyways, we're two books in and there still has been zero progress on retrieving these crystals. Nada. Zilch. Come on, this is supposed to be the main plot of the series! It's all about finding these damn things!
Mostly, I'm just really pissed. So much wasted potential, so much of it it's almost sad, if I gave enough of a damn. Which I don't, because there is this glass wall between me and the characters that keeps me from caring about them, which in a fantasy novel driven by its characters is not good at all. Honestly, I think if Rhodes would take a little more time on these books and work more on the finer details, it could be a great fantasy quartet. Alas, I don't think it will get better as it progresses, I've officially given up hope. I'm probably still going to read Gathering Darkness, because I'm curious, but not because I am particularly attached or anything.