YA Fantasy, YA romance

My Review: Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5): by Morgan Rhodes

Publish Date: December 13th, 2016

Number of Pages: 379 Pages

Publisher: Razorbill

Genre(s): YA Fantasy, YA Romance

***Warning! This review contains spoilers from this book and from previous books in th series, continue reading at your own risk! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Falling Kingdoms – Click HERE

To see my review of book #2 – Rebel Spring – Click HERE

To see my review of book #3 – Gathering Darkness – Click HERE

To see my review of book #4 – Frozen Tides – Click HERE

To see my Fancast/Dreamcast of the series – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

When on the very edge of death, matters such as fortune and legacy are meaningless in the face of knowing that someone who cares for you will hold your hand as you slip away.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Crystal Storm”

Power and what people are willing to do to gain it is a theme in the Fantasy genre that we’re all familiar with, it’s nothing new, but somehow it’s a concept that never seems to not help create an entertaining and twisty story that leaves us readers filled with intrigue and anticipated pleasure. Whether it’s kingdoms at war, supernatural beings threatening to take over, or the evil overlord is trying to destroy life as we know it; it always creates and allows the opportunity for us readers to have a widely encapsulating story.

Gathering Darkness is the fifth book in the fast-paced and unpredictable Falling Kingdoms series, and so much has changed with the development of the story so far with our characters like Cleo, Magnus, Lucia, Jonas, and even King Gaius as they’ve stolen, plotted, and enacted out certain actions that have caused so many evocation of emotions: anger, confusion, excitement, and grief. A total YA version of Game of Thrones, there’s been dueling kingdoms, backstabbing, magical orbs, forbidden love, manipulation, gruesome deaths, gods and immortals, alliances formed and lost, vengeful acts of revenge and retribution, and now even resurrections!

I’m going to be honest: I did enjoy this book and I absolutely devoured it when I got my hands on it, but at the same time, it felt like filler/complete setup for the next book which also happens to be the final book in the whole series. It felt shorter than every other book, and it felt like not as much got resolved with everything that happens. I get it… the author is trying to make that final book all that much more sought after to go out with a bang, so I can’t exactly knock her for that. It just makes the torturous year long wait for that final book all that much more worse.

One of the greatest aspects of this whole series are how all the characters are so morally grey. No one’s completely innocent, and no one hasn’t done at least one heinous act in order to get ahead in the game. They’re all flawed, and they all have proper justification for all their actions, which just makes for such a fun reading experience.

Cleo continues to be my favorite character; she’s not some badass assassin or thief, but that doesn’t make her any more of a damsel in distress. She’s not able to physically do much, but I like her spunk, her heart, and her courage in order to (hopefully) one day reclaim her home of Auranos. She’s feminine, and despite her physical shortcomings, she’s such a strong character. I also love her romantic storyline with Magnus, that has become a real treat to enjoy. It’s gone through so much ever since the second book, and they’ve come so far; it’s one of the best enemies-to-lovers storylines I’ve ever read and think people should read these books for that alone. I admit though, she has really learned how to play the game, and is really spiteful and greedy and isn’t the greatest with handling their relationship. At one point, she’s enjoying the sexy appeal of sneaking around, but it’s all because she’s actually ashamed to be seen with him. Plenty of angst to add to the plot!

Magnus is also such a treat to read. I mean, his character arc is nothing new or highly original: he’s basically the messy haired, broody, dark prince who has the sassy comebacks, but is a total softy when it comes to the woman he loves. He’s really gone through some major growth throughout the books, and he’s far away from the moody prince and is really starting to become a true leader and future king of Limeros–Or Auranos if and Cleo make it all the way!

Jonas is such an endearing character and is so easy to want to root for, he’s been through so much that he’s evoked the most emotional investment besides Cleo for readers to get behind. However, he’s not the greatest at making sure his plans follow through… I don’t think of his plans have been successful, nor has achieved any of his goals for himself–in fact, I’m pretty sure other people have been the ones to make any sort of his goals/plans actually follow through. He also seems to have totally gotten the short end of the stick when compared to the other main characters when it comes to storylines and overall success.

Lucia Damora is easily my least favorite character in the whole series. She was alright at the beginning, but after a few books, she has turned into such an annoying brat who doesn’t have any meaning of the word genuine in her soul. My final straw was her alliance with Kyan in all of Frozen Tides. Sure, she sort of saw the error of her ways, but she’s also such an indecisive brat who was fine with all the death and destruction going on, and while she tries to make amends for that in this book, part of me wonders if she can redeem herself at all by this point, at least for myself.

Amara has also become a real gem of a character! She’s more deceptive and dangerous than King Gaius, and the fact that she’d even kill her own brother shows how far she’s willing to go in order to get what she wants. She’s despicable and heartless, but she makes for a much more interesting story. Plus, she’s not just bad for the sake of being bad. As we saw in the previous book, she’s been looked down on all her life for being a woman and she is no longer allowing men to decide her fate for her. I thought she’s had a believable arc throughout and has some depth that makes her drive actually pretty relatable. Characters like her are the absolute best in these kinds of stories where there are multiple people vying for the throne; you never know what they’ll do next.

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

The ruthless Empress Amara of Kraeshia has taken the Mytican throne, and now uncertainty looms over the three kingdoms. Since Lucia unleashed the fire Kindred, wreaking havoc throughout the land, Myticans have been looking for someone—anyone—they can trust. They believe in Amara, not knowing her grand promises are built on lies.

In Paelsia, Magnus and Cleo reluctantly follow King Gaius to the home of his exiled mother, Selia. Selia is a powerful witch and claims she can help unlock the magic of the Kindred—if the visitors agree to her terms. When Jonas arrives from Kraeshia, he is shocked to find that his rebel army now includes his sworn enemies. Along with Nic, Felix, and the mysteriously resurrected Ashur, the contentious group agrees to cast aside old grudges—for now—and united against their common enemy: Amara.

Meanwhile, bearing the child of a Watcher and feared by all, Princess Lucia travels across Mytica to find her family. But time is running out. The impending storm signals the dark prophecy Timotheus warned her about. Her fate is written, and it includes none other than the rebel Jonas. When their paths collied, Jonas and Lucia must decide between blindly following their destiny or fighting for their own free will.

The battle for power culminates at the Paelsian palace, where Amara resides. Rain pours. Blood spills. And soon all will discover that the darkest magic comes at an even darker price

What I Liked:

  1. Enemies become Allies! One thing about this series that makes it so much fun is how unpredictable some characters truly are and how all the alliances and rivalries have changed so much within the series if not even just within one book. It keeps you on your toes and keeps you guessing, and I would’ve never guessed at Magnus teaming up with Cleo based off just the first book back when I first read it, nor how they become the OTP of the series, and now they’re teaming up with Gaius! Like, WHUUUUUUUUT??
  2. Magnus and Cleo Romance Development! These two continue to drive up the romance I love in this whole series, and things aren’t all “happily-ever-after” after the two of them were getting it on in that cabin in the climax of the previous book, Frozen Tides. It’s back to the real world, and of course, everyone is maybe starting to see that something is going on between them. Not everyone is thrilled about them, and they make sure to remind Cleo of all the shady things Magnus has done in the past, and part of her starts to wonder if whether they’re right for each other or not. I for one am a huge stan for them, but even I remember how I was hoping for more to happen between Jonas and Cleo at the very beginning of the series.
  3. King Gaius Gains Depth! One thing that’s usually lacking in Fantasy-genre books/series, both adult and YA, is how the villain is incredibly underdeveloped. They’re bad just for the sake of being bad, and not a whole lot is revealed about why they got this way, and even of the King of Blood in the Falling Kingdoms series starts off this way, but after his death in Frozen Tides, he seemed to have changed his ways a little bit: he’s working with Magnus and Cleo to take down Empress Amara, and even the opening scene is of him and his mother when he’s a child and talking about what’s to happen in present time reveals more depth to his character. Maybe he’s seen the errors of his ways, or maybe he’s got some diabolical plan going on in his head? Who knows!
  4. Nerissa! She has been a side character that has actually been around since the beginning of the series; she’s just been under the radar, but she’s been a valuable role with her being a spy and reporting back to Jonas and the others. Since she’s made it this far, is still alive and even has a small romantic subplot developing, I thought she deserved a shout out!

The fire that hollows us out is what allows us to be filled with strength and power where before there was none.”

– Morgan Rhodes, “Crystal Storm”

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Jonas Has Magic?…This was just a random plot twist that I was torn about. Since Jonas has now been saved by two Watchers, it’s not exactly hard to believe that maybe there would be some weird consequences because of that. Jonas seems to have snagged some magical abilities, but he has absolutely no control over them at all. I guess what I really didn’t like about this development was how it was tied up in the end of this book.
  2. Jonas Joining Up With Lucia, and Becoming Part of Prophecy…I love Jonas even though everything he’s sought after doing in this series was either a failure or was accomplished by someone else, but I continue to be disappointed as he joins up with my least favorite character in all these books. Even worse, he ends up randomly becoming a huge factor in the whole prophecy with Lucia and how she’s the sorceress reincarnated, and I just wasn’t for it with this whole development… Jonas once again gets the short end with these books.
  3. The Kindred End Up Being Boss Villains?…So with the appearance of Kyan being revealed as the spirit of the Fire Orb of the Kindred, it’s soon discovered that each orb actually has a trapped spirit within, and they want out. Imagine it like the Titans vs. the Gods of Olympus with the Kindred and the Watchers. While this was an interesting development, what I didn’t like was how we had no idea this was going to happen up until this point. I don’t know, I feel like all great series have the boss villain rather early on in the story. Gaius was the first big villain, but we had no idea there were these vengeful spirits within the orbs and that they’d end up being the big boss villain–like Voldemort or Sauron.
  4. That Cliffhanger Ending…Okay Morgan Rhodes……..that ending was just cruel! Sure, I’m kind of used to it with this series with literally every book having a big cliffhanger, but I’d read these books all the way back when they were being published, so waiting a full year to get any new updates and seeing what happened next was torture!

Conclusion:

Crystal Storm is yet another thrilling addition to the exhilarating Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes, but feels a little less complete than the other books at the same time. It felt like the fifth book here was just pure setup for the the next book that also happens to be the final book to end it all. Whenever a series is wrapping up, it reminds me of myself and all my excitement back when I’d first read the first book and how I was filled with excitement amazing story and the wonder of where it was going to possibly go and what may happen when I get to the current point I’m at right now. There’s just something so magical about that whole experience for me!

With this book feeling more like setup for the sixth and final book, it certainly raised my expectations and makes me not only even more excited for the next title, but the fingers crossed that it’s the best possible ending that it deserves!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

YA Fantasy

My Review: Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms #2): by Morgan Rhodes

Publish Date: December 3rd 2013
Number of Pages: 401 Pages
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre(s): YA Fantasy

***WARNING*** Potential Spoilers past this point for those that haven’t read the first book of this series! You’ve officially been warned!***

To see my review of book #1 – Falling Kingdoms – Click HERE

Total Star Rating: 4 Stars

After reading the first book in this series, I had to suffer an entire next year until this sequel came out onto shelves back in 2014. Any book reader who discovers an amazing series to read while it’s still being published on an annual basis knows the sheer pain of that waiting period!

One thing that was discovered was how Morgan Rhodes is an incredibly talented writer. She is almost masterful of being able to write excellently crafted and compelling scenes that have you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails in anticipation to see what happens next. Like the TV show Game of Thrones, these books are utterly unpredictable and every character faces insurmountable dangers that could lead to pain and ultimately death. No one is completely safe!

What It’s About:

Taking off immediately from the ending of the previous title, Rebel Spring starts off on a high high note. The Kingdom of Auranos has been taken over by the Damora’s and in the span of an epic battle, everything has dramatically changed, much blood has been spilled, and its all only the beginning.

Cleo, who’s lost literally everyone close to her, is now a prisoner within her own castle as the Damora’s have taken over.

Lucia is in a magic-induced coma from the exertion of power that won her father the kingdom in the first place.

Magnus has become his hateful father’s right hand man and goes off on tour to spread his message with Aron Lagaris, and oversee’s the construction of the golden road to connect all of Mytica.

Jonas has narrowly escaped after the betrayal of his chief, and is slowly building another rebel army.

We are introduced to some new characters: Lysandra, Melenia, Alexius, and Prince Ashur Cortas. Lysandra, who comes from another town in Paelsia, joins up with Jonas and his rebel clan in order to rescue her brother, who has been taken prisoner by King Gaius’s men. Alexius, a mysterious demigod-like being called a Watcher, helps Lucia discover more about herself and the magical abilities that she possesses. Melenia, also a watcher, is the voice inside King Gaius’s head, urging him to build a road in order to find the magical elementia orbs that have been hidden for so many years. Ashur Cortas is the third born prince from the foreign empire of Kraeshia who visits Mytica for a special occasion, but has much more going on beneath the surface.

What I Liked:

  1. The Action! One thing that this series delivers on is the excitement factor that the author brings to the table. A lot more happens in this book than the last, and while some could argue that the pacing is inconsistent, I thought that it added to the unpredictability of what was going to happen next to certain characters.
  2. The Addition of New Characters! The characters that I’d mentioned earlier add a lot to the overall story, creating more depth to the plots of the four main characters in different ways. Prince Ashur has to be my favorite addition just because it’s obvious that more is going on with him than just being a guest to a royal wedding, and I was curious to see what more he’d bring to the table.
  3. Character Deaths! While it’s usually heartbreaking to say goodbye to certain characters, whether it be a violent, cruel murder or a heartbreaking sacrifice, a character death that causes an emotional impact to the readers always makes a story more effective. Every main character loses someone close to them in this story, but it gives them more motivation to their story moving forward.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Still too Derivative…I absolutely adored this series when back when it was brand new and the books were coming out every December; I had nothing bad to say about them at the time. Unfortunately, as time has passed, thats no longer the case, and at reading other reviews that weren’t so glowing about these books, it’s more and more obvious how this series is too similar to Game of Thrones. It’s gotten to the point that it’s becoming harder to and harder to separate what the author has created themselves, and what they’ve slightly changed/copied from the stories of George R.R. Martin. I know I mentioned this comparison in my review of the previous title, but by this point, there’s just too many comparisons that match up: King Gaius is a mix of Tywin Lannister and Stannis Baratheon, Cleo is Sansa, Melenia is Melisandre, Magnus is Jaime Lannister, Lysandra is Arya Stark, Nic Cassian as Jorah Mormont, and Jonas is (maybe) Jon Snow and/or Robb Stark? I’m just relieved that we don’t have another King Joffrey running around…
  2. The Cliffhanger Endings…This is more something I love to hate, because its such a long, drawn out torture to read a book, be so elated to read what happens next, and then finish the book with another huge cliffhanger, and then realize that you have to wait another year for the next book to release….again. the torture continues. I suppose its a good thing that you read something that you enjoy so much that you’re in such a conundrum.
  3. The Random Addition of LGBTQ+…There’s one shocking moment in the story where two male characters share a secret kiss, and honestly, the reveal of it for one of the characters was certainly shocking, but not in a positive way. There was absolutely no hinting at it in anyway before hand in either books, and he’d been hopelessly pining away for a woman who’d never return his feelings the entire time before, so while it was shocking, it was just random and seems like it was only added for a cheap token-like addition and for the sake of adding diversity as an afterthought. I’m all for LGBTQ+ representation, but the way it was handled in this story could’ve been better than how it was actually executed.

Conclusion:

SO MUCH MORE happens in this sequel of the Falling Kingdoms series, and while its satisfying, it still leaves you wanting more and leaves more hints of whats to come. The main thing this series needs to improve on by this point is becoming more of its own thing, not just a YA knockoff of another fandom in The Song of Ice and Fire.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell