BY: ANTHONY SEMENTILLI
In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects’ lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:
Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.
Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making.
Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.
Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .
The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?
With around 30 books under her publication belt and counting, Morgan Rhodes, also known by her other pseudonym as “Michelle Rowen,” has graced the bookshelves with another fantastical series—Falling Kingdoms. This New York Times Bestseller is a perfect fit for anyone who likes character-driven conflict in the backdrop of dying magic and a looming war.
I came across this treasure over a year ago in the midst of my Christmas shopping. While stopping in my unofficial residence—the Smithhaven Barnes and Noble— I always scan the shelves for potential future obsessions. Contrary to the world’s most outdated adage, I do judge books by their covers, and my judgment has seldom failed me.
That shiny portrait of the double-bladed assassin striding through the misty castle grounds demanded that I read the first page.
By the way, this is the first line: “She’d never killed before tonight.”
How does one not read more?
One gift card later, and I started reading what would become one of my favorite fantasy works post-Harry Potter.
Yes, this bracket includes A Song of Ice and Fire.
There are numerous instances of comparisons between Falling Kingdoms and the works of George R. R. Martin. In my opinion, if you liked Game of Thrones, then you’ll love Falling Kingdoms.
Please take note of my choice of verbs.
Similar to GRRM, Rhodes employs one of my favorite narrative styles—third person limited with multiple viewpoint characters, each serving as a unique but essential cog to the expansive clockwork of this story. Rhodes changes the point of view character (a “POV”) every chapter in a progression that weaves seemingly separate conflicts into a story larger than the sum of its parts.
What really makes this tale shine is that it carries the epic sense of high fantasy without crumbling under the common faults of the genre, such as indulgent prose, gratuitous violence, overly expansive cast, or the use of an orphaned farm boy named “Marty Stu” that somehow masters the intricacies of magic, swordplay, and political science all within the first chapters.
Falling Kingdoms was cleanly written and just plain fun to read, which is why I urge any Game of Thrones fans that tire from the verbose structure, slow pace, and 18 POVs to give this one a shot.
Now’s the perfect time to dive into the series, as the sequel to this four-part installment, Rebel Spring, was released on December 3rd! Just a warning—the book blurb has spoilers, so make sure you read Falling Kingdoms first!
And don’t think the YA label means this is an easy ride with everyone skipping into the sunset as the curtains close. Rhodes’s mature crafting generates a multi-front battle where each side is understandable, if not justified, in their actions as the plot thickens. Gray morality and dynamic portrayals will force the reader to simultaneously cheer and fear multiple sides. The question is: how many of your favorites will have a pulse by Rebel Spring?
Interested? Check out below to see another of The Talon’s author insiders with the amazing Morgan Rhodes herself!
(Sementilli) Hi Morgan! I want to thank you for honoring us with this interview. To start things off, how did you become a writer? Was it chance or has this been the dream all along?
(Rhodes) Thank you very much for inviting me! I wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, but that was just the “idea” of it, the glamor of being an “author.” (Although, fyi, it’s not really that glamorous!). But this dream stuck around until I finally figured out it was going to take a lot of work and a marketable idea to get my foot in the door. I actually finished my first book ever (still unpublished since it’s not that good) for Nanowrimo about ten years ago. The book that got me an agent and a publishing contract came about because I loved the TV show Buffy and, at the time, I very much wanted to write about sarcastic vampires.
(S) I’ve noticed that you have an incredible inventory of books published in a several genres, but this seems to be your first foray into High Fantasy. What inspired you to take this leap and write Falling Kingdoms?
(R) I do have quite a lengthy backlist under my other pen name, Michelle Rowen. A lot of it is paranormal romance and urban fantasy, which focused on one woman’s story as she’s plunged into a world of monsters and mayhem. Those were a lot of fun to write, but I also wanted to expand and write something on a larger canvas that held lots of different characters. High fantasy fit that bill perfectly and the Falling Kingdoms series grew from there.
(S) Out of your ensemble of POVs, do you have any favorites—or is that like asking for your favorite child?
(R) Falling Kingdoms is definitely an ensemble cast, and in Rebel Spring, the second book, I do a couple chapters from the POVs of additional characters to further enrich the world, but I consider my main characters to be Princess Cleo, Prince Magnus, Princess Lucia, and the rebel Jonas. Of those four, I enjoy writing Magnus the most. He’s such an interesting character since he almost always is thinking something vastly different from what he’s saying. If you only went by his conversations, he’d seem like a really bad guy, but his thoughts show him to be a much deeper and more conflicted character. Plus, he’s really fun to write since he’s so snarky!
(S) Something that I admire in your work is your ability to be ruthless. It’s difficult to word this without sounding sadistic, but the conflict and torment the POVs endure is rather engrossing! What’s your secret to making their pain so pleasurable, and does it have a toll on you?
(R) Good question… I am a bit ruthless in this series, to say the least! There are twists and turns and murder and war….but none of these “sadistic” acts are taken lightly by me. They’re all very necessary to the plot and to help another character see their world differently or shift them onto a new path. As I’m writing, I’m in the character’s heads, so I definitely feel their pain. I figure, if I don’t feel something as I’m writing, then it probably isn’t necessary to the plot.
(S) Can you tell us why you titled the second installment Rebel Spring?
(R) One of the main themes in the novel is rebellion – of the heart, the mind, the spirit…as well as the literal exploration of rebellion as Jonas tries to gather together a band of insurgents to stand up against the evil King Gaius who has stolen so much and caused so much pain and suffering. Spring means rebirth, renewal – and the book is also set in the springtime. Seemed like a fitting title to me!
(S) I thought it was really interesting that your series is projected to be a tetralogy—is there anything you can reveal about the future of your series, or can only time tell?
(R) This is one of those tricky questions that writers are often asked… how long will a series go? All I can say is that it will definitely be four books, but there’s definitely enough material for more if I’m given the opportunity by my publisher.
(S) Would you say there’s a decent chance of seeing Falling Kingdoms on the big screen?
(R) I wish I were psychic like that! No idea at all. All I know that a lot of books are optioned for film, but very, very few ever make it onto the big screen (or the small screen). I would love for Falling Kingdoms to make the leap, but again, only time will tell!
(S) What’s it like to be an author?
(R) Being an author was my dream for so many years and that I’ve had the chance to make it a reality never fails to thrill me. Of course, writing, like any job, is definitely hard work…and some days harder than others…and publishing as a whole is a roller coaster of a business to be involved in…but I seriously wouldn’t want to do anything else.
(S) What do you do when you aren’t writing or touring?
(R) Lately, not all that much! I’ve been pretty prolific over the last seven years with over two dozen books to my name(s) and focused on my deadlines, so writing is definitely the central focus of my life. Of course, I also love traveling, and I’ve had the chance to see many cities in the States (I’m Canadian, so that’s definitely travel!), but usually my visits are writing related! I also love movies and I’m a reality TV junkie.
(S) Is there anything you wish to shout out to your fans?
(R) Only how much I appreciate them and how amazing they’ve been at getting the word out about Falling Kingdoms. A writer is nothing without enthusiastic readers. You all rock!
Morgan Rhodes is the New York Times bestselling author of the Falling Kingdoms series, published by Razorbill Books. To learn more about Falling Kingdoms, please visit www.morganrhodes.net and/or follow Morgan on Twitter at www.twitter.com/morganrhodesya.