Friday, January 10, 2014

Review: Rebel Spring - Morgan Rhodes

Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes
Series: Falling Kingdoms #2
Genre: YA, fantasy
Published on December 3, 2013
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 416
Read From: 12.29.13 - 1.3.14

After a bloody siege, Auranos has been defeated, its young queen orphaned and dethroned. The three kingdoms - Auranos, Limeros, and Paelsia - are now unwillingly united as one country called Mytica. But the allure of ancient, dangerous magic beckons still, and with it the chance to rule not just Mytica, but the whole world over. . . . 
At the heart of the fray are four brave young people grappling for that magic and the power it promises. For Cleo, the magic would enable her to reclaim her royal seat. In Jonas's hands, it would free his nation, and in Lucia's, it fulfills the ancient prophecy of her destiny. And if the magic were Magnus's, he would finally prove his worth in the eyes of his cruel and scheming father, King Gaius, who rules Mytica with a punishing hand. 
When Gaius begins to build a road into the Forbidden Mountains to physically link all of Mytica, he sparks a long-smoking fire in the hearts of the people that will forever change the face of this land. For Gaius's road is paved with blood, and its construction will have cosmic consequences.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I don't quite like it as much as the cover for Falling Kingdoms - the character impersonator's pose doesn't look natural. But I still really love the whole style of the series, and at least we cannot see the character impersonator's face.

Characters: Oh my, I did so much flip-flopping in my feelings for all the characters (that isn't a bad thing, though). They all go through so much character growth, and it's all quite painful. Magnus continues to be the most complex character of the four "main" ones. He makes a lot of bad decisions that result in death, persecution, and other such horrid things. In fact, logically I really should hate him. But just like his adopted sister Lucia, I have a very strong inkling that he will be redeemed in the end. Magnus is an antihero, not a villain. He is capable of goodness; there are, in fact, many times when he tries to protect individuals from dire consequences and displays an acute dislike for his father's needless cruelty. He disguises his feelings, of course, because he has bought into the belief that respect can only be gained by fear, and he desperately wants his father's approval. But Magnus will change; I know it, and the Author has already begun to set that possibility up. So, while it pains me horribly to see him make bad decision after bad decision, he's actually my favorite character. He's just so interesting and complex and has so much potential for character growth. Jonas, while relateable in his quest for vengeance and freedom for his people, is my least favorite. He's a great character and brings a lot to the story, but I personally just don't care for him as much as the others. He is too quick to anger, and then blame, and doesn't think through his plans nearly as much as he should. His emotions are very black-and-white, and he never feels anything mildly. I do love his friend Brion, who's loyal to the very last. Lucia experiences some moments of surprising turn of temperament that had me doubting whether or not I really did like her as much as I initially thought. It's not wholly her fault; the powers within her are warring against one another and cause her to lose control. Nevertheless, she doesn't express as much remorse or fright as I would expect in someone who was genuinely and truly sorry for what they did and could not control. Lucia has a bit of a dark side and I have to say that it adds an extremely interesting element to her character growth. Is she bad person? No; I still really like her and feel sorry for her. But she's not quite as innocent as I initially thought her to be. Cleo continues to grow in maturity and strength of mind and character. She started out as a spoilt princess in Falling Kingdoms and becomes more and more an intelligent, strong-willed, and caring exiled ruler of her kingdom. She was the only character I never doubted, and it's really fun to see how much she's growing. There are some new characters, too. Lysandra is one of them - a young Paelsian girl who joins Jonas' band of rebels after her brother is taken by the Limerians to work on the royal road. She's good with a bow and other woodsman skills, and unfortunately a bit of an Attitude comes with it, too. Lysandra wasn't just downright unbearable, and she was believable in combat situations and survival skills. However, she did harp quite a bit on how women are expected to stay at home and not pursue manly pastimes such as archery. She had a temper worse than Jonas' and spent a lot of time criticizing and complaining. I'm not going to miss her if she dies in any later books. We get to see more of Alexius and the other Watchers, which I loved! Alexius has the potential of being a really awesome character. And then there's King Gaius, the tyrant himself. He was pretty awesome in Book #1, but he totally made it to my "favorite villains" list in Book #2. Right when I thought Gaius couldn't be any more cruel and evil and totally bereft of a heart, he would do something that would leave me thinking, "Oh, you didn't just do that! Dude, you're like the worst!" He is such an amazing villain, I can't even begin to describe it (I would give away too many spoilers). Everything about him was convincing, and he never once lets up in demonstrating his absolute power. And at the same time, Gaius maintains a certain air of politeness, good manners, and class. The best sort of villain in the world: he can be directing a disembowelment while presenting the very picture of a well-educated gentleman. And let us not forget Aron, who is the world's biggest jackass and so much fun to hate!

The Romance: So the number of love triangles (octagonals, maybe?) in this book is more than a little dizzying. I didn't necessarily disapprove of any of them - they all certainly serve a purpose and add a layer of intrigue to an already very-fascinating story. But they got very confusing; I in fact drew myself a chart. So, as we all know, Magnus likes his adopted sister Lucia, but Lucia likes Alexius the Watcher (who reciprocates). Magnus is also betrothed to Cleo, and they both dislike each other intensely. Cleo likes Jonas (who reciprocates), but then Cleo starts to wonder if maybe she doesn't hate Magnus as much as she thought (and Magnus sort of begins to wonder the same thing). Meanwhile, Jonas' friend Brion is hot for Lysandra, who won't give him the time of day because she likes Jonas - and Phaedra, another Watcher, really likes Jonas as well. Then there's Nic, Cleo's bodyguard and childhood friend, who now likes Cleo, but has some creepy guy (whose identity I won't reveal, because it would be a spoiler) hitting on him, and Nic might reciprocate? I'm not entirely certain about that latter bit (Nic reciprocating, that is); that particular scene left me a little confused as to what Readers were supposed to read into it. The romances aren't focused on nearly as you might think, which is probably a good thing. But a lot of them do kind of come out of the blue. I saw the Cleo-Jonas duo coming a long time ago, but it did still feel extremely rushed, and the Lucia-Alexius duo only a little less so. Whether the Cleo-Magnus duo goes anywhere, I don't know. It's a possibility, but it could also just settle into a "Magnus wasn't as bad as Cleo thought, and she respects him" plot. Lysandra and Jonas? I hope not, because while I'm not a big fan of Jonas, I wouldn't wish Lysandra on him, either.

Plot: Rebel Spring picks up a few months after the events of Falling Kingdoms. The kingdoms of Auranos, Paelsia, and Limeros have been united into one kingdom - Mytica - under the cruel leadership of King Gaius. In his quest to find the missing Kindred - four crystals that are said to grant unimaginable power to any who possess them, - King Gaius has ordered the construction of a giant roadway spanning the length of the three kingdoms. He's enslaved Paelsians to build this roadway, while he woos the good graces of the Auranians by announcing the betrothal of Cleo, Princess of Auranos, to his son and heir, Magnus. It isn't a union either of them want, but no one says no to the desires of King Gaius and keeps their head. Meanwhile, Jonas gathers a group of rebels about him to combat the tyranny of their new king, and the Watchers anxiously await the prophecy of the Kindred and the sorceress born - Lucia - to be fulfilled. There are a lot of plots running through this book. Every character has their personal ambitions and motivations, and they are all connected or are being set up to be connected. Every character you meet is important, and every occurrence and death is important. And as you all know, I love stories like this. Especially when they are written well, as Rebel Spring is. For all of its plotlines and hundreds of characters, it is a very easy book to follow (the romance is where it gets a little complicated). The Author interweaves a ton of world building without bogging the plot or breaking stride. Everything that happens in the story is world building. There's only a couple of complaints I have. 1)The rebellion: it was very hard to take Jonas' rebels seriously, because they failed in positively every endeavor. It never felt like Jonas had even acquired that many rebels in the first place, his plans were rushed, and they always ended in miserable failure - and not necessarily because Gaius was just that good as thwarting them. It was . . . a pathetic rebellion, and I was totally with Gaius in not worrying about them at all. 2)The romance, which I already covered above. It was just a little too confuzzling, all of the triangles and squares and octagons. Nevertheless, the plot is still amazing, captivating, and this Author is totally not afraid to kill characters, which was very nice to discover, because it not only added an element of believability, but also made for some surprises.

Believability: Not applicable.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. Each chapter alternates between narrators, and not just the "main four" (Jonas, Cleo, Lucia, and Magnus). We get perspectives from Lysandra, Gaius, Alexius, Phaedra, and a few others. I kind of would have liked it if a couple of these narrations had actually be in first person - namely, Lucia's, who I think would have come across as less arrogant and a bit cruel if we had been inside her head in those moments when she loses control of her magic and hurts people. The style itself is rather simplistic, but not altogether bad.

Content: 2 s-words. A creepy guy kisses Nic, and many of the characters are not exactly chaste, though past romps are only briefly mentioned and none actually happen in the story.

Conclusion: What to say about it?! It's abrupt, and I don't want to wait for Book #3. Rebel Spring is not at all a disappointment. There is a lot of character development, a strong and complex plot, world building, and setup for the next two installments. Even with its flaws, I loved it.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, seventeen-and-up, great for fans of high fantasy and fantasy stories that have only touches of magic and actually feel more like historical fiction than actual fantasy.

Others in This Series:
1)Falling Kingdoms
2)Rebel Spring


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