In short: A deeply interesting world, struggling characters, and a plot twisted with magic
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?
First and foremost, the Goodreads description lies, ladies and gentlemen. It's not Game of Thrones for teens, not really. So if you were expecting to get some sort of epic saga à la A Song of Ice and Fire, stop, or you'll only be disappointed.
That being said, Falling Kingdoms was definitely not a bad book. The world of this series centres around three kingdoms: Limeros, Paelsia, and Auranos, and is told from the perspectives of four teenagers from these lands. Paelsia is a land of suffering and poverty, where literally the only thing that grows is grapes, and the land is quickly drying up. Limeros is strict and super religious, worshipping the goddess Valoria. Auranos is rich and comfortable, practically extorting wine from Paelsia, and the people worship Cleiona, Valoria's rival. Our MCs are Princess Cleiona of Auranos, the spirited and stubborn younger daughter of the king; Jonas Agallon of Paelsia, a troubled youth who, along with his brother, dreams of punishing Auranos for the plight they've put Paelsia in; Prince Magnus of Limeros, your trademark messed-up-princeling; his sister, Lucia, who's beautiful and kind and special *dun dun dun*; and a mystical being called a Watcher, Ioannes, who can transform into a hawk and visit the mortal world from the Watchers' home, the Sanctuary
The lynchpin of this story is when Aron, a spoilt little shit bratty Auranian lord slits the throat of Jonas's brother Tomas in a scuffle while Princess Cleo watches, and then everything falls to pieces. Hence the title.
I had only one problem with this book.
Other than that, though, I thought it was a great book. Definitely something to add to the sad dearth of YA high fantasy - or at least the good YA high fantasy. The magic could use a bit more development, but I thought the world itself and its mythology, with the goddesses, was well-explained and creative.