The island of Mytica, once united, is divided into three kingdoms: cold, stark Limeros, wealthy, hedonistic Auranos, and between them Paelsia, impoverished yet rich in natural resources. The king of Limeros plans to change this, and he’s willing to use Paelsia’s leader to do it. The first book is told through four alternating perspectives: Limeros’s two royal children, the younger daughter of Auranos’s king, and the son of a Paelsian wine merchant.
Set in a brutal secondary world, Falling Kingdoms tells a story of conquest and vengeance, of political marriages and romance but also, increasingly, of magical artefacts and conflicts older than Auranos or Limeros themselves. Rhodes does an excellent job of telling a story of grand scale, featuring multiple kingdoms and a domineering empire as well as a cast of demigods, but at the same time focussing on the human impact of the conflict on the core characters, how their choices shape the narrative and how the narrative impacts them.
One of the things I love about this series is the complexity of all the major characters. The POV characters all have broadly sympathetic aims – earning a father’s respect, succeeding as a woman in a deeply misogynistic society, seeking revenge for a family member’s death – and they do, generally-speaking, want to make the world a better place for others as well as themselves, but they can also all at times be incredibly frustrating in their selfishness, their short-sightedness, or their arrogance. They’re believable individuals, people who want to do the right thing for others, but who are also scared for their own futures and often ignorant or naïve about what is right or wrong.
Because these characters are all so well-imagined and have such clear motivations, there is often conflict when they come into contact with each other, but it never feels false or engineered, because the reader knows that their goals are incompatible or that they dislike each other for good reason, so the tension between them feels real. It means this isn’t just a story of good people fighting an evil leader, but of good people fighting each other, too, and different readers will find themselves rooting for different ‘sides’ much of the time.
Falling Kingdoms is one of those fantasy series of such scope that there’s something for everyone: romance, political intrigue, suspense, magic, and more. Full of memorable characters, you’ll power through the four published books and find yourself eagerly awaiting Crystal Storm’s publication later this year.
Nicola is an English Lit graduate with a passion for character-driven fantasy. You can find her on Twitter.