If you watch Lainey (gingerreadslainey) on BookTube, you’ve no doubt heard of the Falling Kingdoms series. I listened to the first book, Falling Kingdoms, on audiobook from Hoopla, which is a streaming media service through my library (shameless library service plug). I’ve always enjoyed listening to audiobooks on roadtrips, especially the Jim Dale-narrated Harry Potter ones. Falling Kingdoms was well-narrated, though the voice the narrator used for Magnus reminded me a lot of Kit Harington’s Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. (Not really a bad thing.) What I didn’t like was that the description of the book revealed as semi-twist concerning Lucia.
The plot centers around the continent of Mytica, which is divided into three countries: cold, pious Limeros in the north, sunny, properous Auranos in the south and the dying nation of Paelsia in between. The four main characters are divided among these three nations: Cleo is the Princess of Auranos, Jonas is a poor Paelsian wine merchant’s son and Magnus and Lucia belong to the Limerian royal family. Their stories are woven together gradually, finally colliding at the end of the book. This is clearly a set-up book and I’ve heard good things about the sequels (there will be six books in the finished series).
Falling Kingdoms has been described as the YA version of A Song of Ice and Fire; it is full of political intrigue and death. But – perhaps because I’m familiar with fantasy tropes and the plot twists – I found Falling Kingdoms very predictable. I was able to predict all but maybe one or two plot ‘twists’. I was also sometimes able to predict the next sentence or word before the narrator said it.
This predictability is not necessarily a bad thing – I definitely enjoyed the book. The characters are interesting. I feel this series would be an excellent starting point for someone looking to get into fantasy. The writing is approachable (if a bit repetitive and using modern phrase), without any of the specialized jargon that often comes with fantasy. There’s plenty of twists and action to entertain a more seasoned fantasy veteran as well. I liked all the characters and wanted to find out what happened to them next, but didn’t have a particular favorite.
Overall, I give Falling Kingdoms 4 cups of tea. It’s a fun, fast-paced YA fantasy that is approachable for non-fantasy readers. I’m interested in continuing the series, but don’t feel the strong desire to dive into the next book like Mistborn or the Winner’s Trilogy. Maybe someday.
After the heartbreak of The Winner’s Crime and a month-straight binge on fantasy, I’m ready to read something a little bit different. Don’t worry – I’ll be back to fantasy in no time. I plan to start some or all of the following this weekend:
- The Last Flight of Poxl West by Daniel Torday
- A Jewish young man learns that his Uncle Poxl’s past during WWII might be far different – and darker – than his memoir states.
- March: Book One and March: Book Two by Rep. John Lewis
- An autobiographical graphic novel of Rep. John Lewis’ life, focusing on his participation in the Civil Rights movement.
- Kingsman: The Secret Service by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons
- Gary, an English kid who’s gotten into his fair share of trouble, is taken under his uncle Jack London’s wing and learns to be a spy.
Three very different books (I’m counting the two volumes of March as one), but all things I enjoy. Poxl West examines WWII history and the complexity of memory – two subjects I enjoyed exploring in college. I’m excited to read March after seeing Selma. My Civil Rights history isn’t the greatest and I definitely want to learn more about this important (and often disturbing) period in American history. And finally, I haven’t seen the Kingsman movie, but I love spy things. I grew up watching James Bond and I love the TV show Archer. I’m interested in comparing the graphic novel to the film when I finally get around to seeing it.
My reading will be somewhat limited this weekend due to basketball. The NCAA Tournament is going on and I’m going to the Elite Eight game held in Cleveland, which is Kentucky vs. Notre Dame. I’ve been following the Tourney my entire life, but have never seen a Tournament game live, so I’m ridiculously excited!
I enjoyed the first book in the Winner’s Trilogy, The Winner’s Curse, and gave it 4 stars (or cups, using my new blog rating scale). Maybe 4.5. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I loved the characters, but I wanted more world-building. I didn’t feel like I could completely ‘see’ Herran and Valorian society.
Well, I definitely got my wish in The Winner’s Crime. There’s a map, which everyone knows is vital to a good fantasy novel. If possible, the writing is even more beautiful. The characters continue to be amazing and the world has been wonderfully fleshed out. Also – can we take a moment to appreciate that women in Marie Rutkoski’s world are not just princesses and maids? They are engineers and bookies and skilled dressmakers and soldiers.
This book made my heart hurt. So much of the conflict in The Winner’s Crime is internal and Marie Rutkoski’s beautiful prose only makes the character’s doubts and inner turmoil all the more poignant and heart-wrenching. This series is dark. The romance is important to the story, but it is just as complex as the plot with all its betrayal and war and torture.
I adore Kestrel as a character. She is strong, but not in the traditional female warrior way. She is smart and clever, but she’s still naïve. She makes mistakes, she gets caught, she harms the people she loves both accidentally and intentionally. She is complex and real in a way that more YA protagonists should be.
I also love Arin, who is just as complex as Kestral. He faces similar challenges, but their goals and methods don’t always align and that causes great turmoil for this couple. Their love is a slow burn, with the potential for great destruction – for themselves and their nations. It’s glorious and heart-breaking to read.
To sum The Winner’s Crime up: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. If you haven’t checked out this fantastic YA fantasy series, please do. It’s dark and beautiful. Not sure how I’m going to survive until next year, when the final book comes out. 5 Cups of Tea.