Donna's Reviews > Falling Kingdoms

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes
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's review
Apr 08, 13

bookshelves: fantasy, young-adult
Read from March 12 to 26, 2013

How did we end up here>

This was one of my very few must-grab reads at BEA last year because I was, and still am, desperate for GOOD fantasy. It SOUNDED like something that would be incredibly good, forget who it was inevitably compared to. So I’ve been sitting on this one for a little while then and despite my counterpart’s review of the same book, I still kept my hopes just a little bit high. I WANTED this book to be good. Laura and I have been left seeing eye-to-knee on the same books before. I had hope that this one would be one of those and I would end up loving it. SO MUCH HOPE.

Okay, book. You've got 50 pages. Go!

And there goes that hope, dashed upon the rocks, left blody and gray matter-splattered.

The cast of characters was immediately off-putting because it was so incredibly huge only to have a good half of them dead before we even got to the middle of the book. So why lay them out like that?

And the voice. Holy good lord, the voice. Or should I say the lack of voice? Because there wasn’t one. The text had all the personality of a cinderblock and the ability to reveal pertinent plot information in the dullest fashion possible. What should have been exciting came across dull because there was no flare in the writing. NONE. Laura had an issue with the lack of WORDS. Every book that doesn’t have WORDS is at least a little bit disappointing because I want to fall in love with the writing. FALLING KINGDOMS had the alphabet strung together like popcorn on a Christmas tree. Incredibly dull, lifeless and got stale really damn quick.

But I didn’t stop reading because I was interested in the plot. There was enough intrigue there, despite the dull writing, to keep pushing me forward. Lucky me.

What worked . . .

The fact that it didn’t fall into the realm of stupidly ridiculous like THRONE OF GLASS. Despite the story told in the voice of Ben Stein I believed what I was reading. I could get on board with the characters and there was enough drama to keep me reading even though the writing was as dry as my desert backyard. I wanted to find out what happened. So at the very least it had that.

What didn't work . . .

Everything else.

FALLING KINGDOMS was written in the way that fantasy SHOULD sound like: stilted and dry with a desperate attempt at high brow without the flourish or the purple prose or anything that would give it an ounce of personality to make it stand out from, say, stereo instructions. This could have been written by a cyborg for how robotic and dull the words on the page were. It’s damn lucky I was interested in the plot as I was or I would have DNF’d this thing at 50 pages. And unlike other teen fantasy books that get the unfortunate marketing ploy of being compared to GAME OF THRONES despite their obvious lack of anything even remotely related to that series aside from the publisher’s marketing push for it because it’s what’s popular right this very second, I actually felt like FALLING KINGDOMS was trying to be like GoT, with the closet full of characters, incest, constant character death and the attempt at a deeper, more intricate plot with a smattering of subplots. Of course it fell grotesquely short.

And then you have the secrets that get strung along for the sake of keeping the pages turning. The voice is omniscient third/head-hopping so you’d think once inside a character’s head you’d know what’s going on. Nope. One “secret” was dragged on for a quarter of the book only to be replaced immediately by another once it was revealed. No. That’s cheap and will make me want to rip pages out of the book. Cliff-hanging a chapter to reveal it in the next is one thing but hitching it to the back of a pick-up and dragging it across the ground of the text is quite another.

And let’s not forget the contrivances, like Cleo’s waxing and waning stupidity to fit her current situation or some characters’ abilities to make incredibly stupid moves despite all the training they’re supposed to have. And it happened more and more as the story progressed, really from the mid-point on when more and more characters stared to die and the plot really started picking up. Characters that were so steadfastly acting one way the majority of the time flipped on their own laurels and all of a sudden were supporting a plot development that, until that very second, they would have been against but it moved the plot forward so . . . Or characters that really should have died ended up surviving because of reasons, mainly relating to the “not rightness” of finishing the act. Like, oh, I don’t know . . . wanting to kill someone who killed someone you loved and wanted to use you as bait. No! It’s not right! Okay, let’s just walk away and leave him probably unconscious and surrounded with swords. *headdesk* What a cheap way to set up the next plot development instead of having your characters do what 99% of humans would have done in that same situation. Boo.

And, again, the writing. All tell, no show with some awkwardly developed relationships that just added to the pile of contrivances. I could have potentially loved this book had it not had the personality of a chipped brick and written with something even remotely resembling a flourish instead of in the simplest, elementary writing style best kept to a Frog & Toad book instead of a teen fantasy novel trying to play a bigger kids’ game.

And in the end . . .

How incredibly disappointing. Sure the plot kept me going along well enough but Dr. Seuss wrote more eloquently than Rhodes. I’m of the opinion that fantasy needs to be beautiful. Not to be confused with PURPLE. The plot needs to be captivating, the characters engaging, the writing filled with WORDS. Or at the bare minimum Words. Rhodes has the plot down. She had some good twists and turns and was rather ruthless when it came to knocking off her characters, which I can wholly appreciate. But it was lacking a spark, a hint that the author was something more than just a robot reciting elementary English at me. I didn’t feel the love. I felt the author had an idea and let’s capitalize on this shit now because it’s big but you just can’t have a dull epic fantasy. I can forgive the wishy-washy characters, I can forgive the stringing secrets. But I can’t forgive lifeless writing. I just can’t.

FALLING KINGDOMS could have been so much more. It could have been LOVED. Instead it’s mediocre at best and because I don’t want to waste my time with such incredibly dull and lifeless storytelling I won’t be reading the next in the series. I have better things to read, quite frankly.
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Reading Progress

03/12/2013 page 25
6.0% ""She'd never been killed before tonight." <--- Am I supposed to be floored by this opening line? Because all I'm thinking is 'no shit.' Is it a grabbing line? Sure, if you don't think about it for more than a nanosecond. That being said I'm still reading despite an otherwise slow start. Although the 'cast of characters' put me off a bit. You do understand I remembered NONE of them as soon as I finished reading them."
03/13/2013 page 75
18.0% "While the voice is in the manner of "this is what fantasy SHOULD sound like" instead of being itself, I'm still interested in reading. But the names are annoying. Whether it's an -os or -ius/-eus tacked onto otherwise normal names, they're all mashy. It feels like it's actually trying to reach towards Game of Thrones and not just being shoved into it by marketing."
03/14/2013 page 95
23.0% "So that's the secret. All the hint dropping was starting to get annoying."
03/14/2013 page 121
29.0% "Just as one secret is revealed another one is alluded to. This won't wear thin AT ALL. And I really wish the writing would get some personality. Luckily I'm enjoying the plot. Far more than, say THRONE OF GLASS."
03/18/2013 page 210
50.0% "Well Cleo's head is filled with rocks, isn't it? What a fucking moron."
03/19/2013 page 258
62.0% "I might have actually loved this book if it weren't written in Ben Stein's voice."
03/20/2013 page 293
71.0% "This book has the uncanny ability to state the obvious in the most boring fashion possible."
03/20/2013 page 293
71.0% "Such an excellent swordsman turned his back on a still-standing enemy? How fucking smug. He deserved it."
03/20/2013 page 299
72.0% "Fuckity fuck fuck fuck. So...much...wrong... Eyes...rolling... Considering that love story jerked across the pages like a drink doing the robot, perhaps it was for the best. And by all means...LEAVE THE ENEMY UNCONSCIOUS AND ARMED. That has never backfired. Ever. When will people learn to just shut the fuck up and do what needs to be done. Or at the very least TAKE THE FUCKING WEAPONS."
03/21/2013 page 305
74.0% ""Her face had paled so much that she now resembled a ghost." How incredibly heavy-handed and droll. And passive. So much potential, murdered for the same of stilts."
03/21/2013 page 307
74.0% ""Then his heart, now broken into a thousand pieces, slowly began to turn to ice." Maybe if you showed me this instead of giving me a cliched play by play I would actually give a fuck what's happening to anyone."
03/26/2013 page 369
89.0% "This book has about as much personality as a brick."
03/26/2013 page 412
100.0% "Wow. Cleo and Jonas were Play Doh to the plot, weren't they?"
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