Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes

 Title: Rebel Spring

 Series: Falling Kingdoms (#2)

 Author: Morgan Rhodes

 Genre: high fantasy

 Rating: ★★★☆☆

 In short: disappointing. I have far too many problems with this book. 

Warning: some spoilers, much ranting.

Goodreads: Love, power, and magic collide with war in the second book of the Falling Kingdoms series

Auranos has fallen and the three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia—are now united as one country called Mytica. But still, magic beckons, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the world…

When the evil King Gaius announces that a road is to be built into the Forbidden Mountains, formally linking all of Mytica together, he sets off a chain of events that will forever change the face of this land, forcing Cleo the dethroned princess, Magnus the reluctant heir, Lucia the haunted sorceress, and Jonas the desperate rebel to take steps they never could have imagined.

Let’s take a moment to observe the tagline for the second Falling Kingdoms novel. “Love, power, and magic collide with war in the second book of the Falling Kingdoms series.” I can assure you that the actual book went something like this: “Love, love, and love collide with some drama and a little magic in the second book of the Falling Kingdoms series.” Bah. But more on that later.

Let’s first discuss the plot. After a dramatic and bloody coup, King Gaius has overthrown the ruler of Auranos, King Corvin. Along with Corvin, Crown Princess Emilia died in the attack. Princess Cleo is the last remaining member of the Bellos royal bloodline, and she’s a prisoner to Gaius. Prince Magnus, Gaius’s coldhearted son, is now the crown prince of all three kingdoms—Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia. He has the power he’s always wanted, and is closer than ever to gaining his father’s trust and approval. Princess Lucia, Magnus’s adopted sister, has been comatose ever since the attack on Auranos, when she exerted herself in a violent show of fire magic. Jonas, the Paelsian rebel, has realised that Gaius will only bring misery to the people, and has started to organise a band of rebels. It’s already a grim situation. To make things worse, Gaius is planning a road through the Forbidden Mountains for some (undoubtedly) dastardly purpose, and he’s willing to put hundreds of Paelsian lives in danger for it. Dun dun dun.

Falling Kingdoms, the first book in the series, certainly held promise. But what troubled me then was the iffy insta-love between Cleo and her bodyguard Theon. I’d hoped that Rebel Spring would avoid the mistakes that Falling Kingdoms made.

Hahahahahaha. No.

The romance is horribly forced, and there’s way too much of it. I’m sorry, was I reading a book about sorcery, power struggles, and bloodshed, or some twisted version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with ten times the romantic entanglement? Honestly, I expected better from the author considering she’s also a popular urban fantasy/paranormal author, and I’m sure it’s not her first go at writing romance or anything. The love in this is ridiculous, though. Everyone falls for everyone with pretty much zero reason or explanation given. I’m supposed to lap it all up, right. It came to the point where the most believable affections were the semi-incestuous ones. No jokes.

From the beginning, my favourite character has been Cleo, no competition. And frankly, it was awful seeing her tossed around more by the ‘lurve’ than the actual political turmoil. Granted, some of it couldn’t be avoided considering her marital status. But instead of being a pawn in the hands of someone’s quest for power, Cleo was pretty much reduced to a pawn in the hands of love. WHY?! WHY, WHY WHY?! I’ll give Cleo gold stars out of pity. My poor baby.

Even Lucia, who’s rather two-dimensional in Falling Kingdoms since she’s not really a vital, active part of the plot in the beginning, is all about love. Owing to her comatose state, she doesn’t get much chance to redeem that image, and when we do hear her narration, it’s either about lurrrve or stunningly out of character. Fine, I understand that her sorcery is affecting her in less-than-good ways. But I already have a limited perspective of Lucia since she’s underdeveloped in book 1, and you expect me to go right along with her slowly unhinging sanity? I wanted so much more from Lucia.

Jonas also suffers from the same lovey disease, although it’s to a lesser extent. Then there’s Lysandra, and even Nic. What. Look, guys, don’t throw the l-word around. You just met. The only character who isn’t immersed in love-thoughts is Magnus! Good on you, Magnus. Gold star. Too busy mourning your sister’s rejection of you. See what I mean?!

Speaking of Lysandra, though. I’m also disappointed with her portrayal (ha, what did you expect, good news?) because she’s practically a female version of Jonas. I’m starting to think all young Paelsians are made from an unhappy-rebel-spunk-teen mould. Give me a break, guys! Also, can we talk about this conversation between Lys and Cleo.

“You don’t even know me,” Cleo snapped. “And yet you’ve decided you hate me. That would be as fair as my hating you, sight unseen.”

Lysandra rolled her eyes. “Let’s just say that I hate all royals equally. And you’re a royal. Therefore, I hate you. Nothing personal.”

“Which makes absolutely no sense. Nothing personal? Hate is something I take quite personally. If I’ve earned it, that’s one thing. If I haven’t… it’s a foolish decision for you to serve out such a strong emotions without thought.”

Yeah, you tell ’em Cleo. What purpose does Lys’s hatred of Cleo serve? She doesn’t have to love her, but is it necessary that the unhappy-rebel-spunk-teen girl loathes the princess on sight? I give up.

The Watcher mythology gets even more complicated here. If you were confused by it in the first book (like me) you’ll be baffled here.

The ending of the book was redemption for all I had to watch the characters suffer, though, because it was what I’ve wanted since the beginning of the series. Hopefully the next book won’t be so full of meh. The high points were the frequent Cleo/Magnus conflicts (FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!) and Magnus calling Aron ‘a little shit.’ Another gold star for you.

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