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Monday, January 2, 2017

Book Review: Crystal Storm (Falling Kingdoms #5)

Release Date: December 13, 2016
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill
Length: 379 pages
Source: Purchased Book

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.

    

Review:

Characters: With Kraeshia ruling over Mytica, all hope seems lost for those who wish for its freedom. Cleo and Magnus end up following a seemingly changed, and not as dead as he should be, Gaius in hopes of finding Lucia and freeing Mytica from the hold of Amara. However, the young couple's journey is not without its challenges. Gaius tries to break them up at every chance he can get, telling Magnus that romantic love is a weakness that will keep him from power. Cleo wants to believe that Magnus is not the same cold and calculating man that murdered her first love in cold blood, but when they are joined by Jonas and the rest of the Rebellion that's come back from Kraeshia, Magnus's cold self returns. Is it all an act, or is Magnus just showing his true colors? Jonas and a pregnant Lucia end up crossing paths and end up joining each other, much to their mutual aggravation. Along the way, both must confront their destinies and find out what their places in this world are. Okay, I know that last part was really short, but the section was getting long and I needed to start the wrap-up. Overall, I still love these characters. What I find most interesting though are how the core four characters feel about each other. When I first started reading this series, I expected them to all team up and at the very least hold mutual respect for each other, if not like them, but there are still characters that even after all their faults I consider "good" that aren't on good terms with other "good" characters which make for an incredibly tense and wonderful to read dynamic.

Romance: Another misconception I had when first starting this series was how the romance might go. I don't think I ever went into this series expecting romance, at least not to the point we've got, but once it became clear that there was a romantic aspect between quite a few characters I thought I knew where things were headed. First off I expected Jonas and Cleo to get together, and granted maybe even the author did too, but honestly, I'm glad they didn't. While I did enjoy their chemistry, the tension and romantic connection between the dark and brooding Magnus, and the formerly pompous but recently hardened Cleo, was an unexpected and completely obsession-worthy match. There are of course other romances in this book, including a certain annoying red-haired boy and a recently resurrected prince. One of the things I love best about this series is how the author doesn't put romance at the forefront of the story to drive it, nor does she hide it in the background. With this many characters of adolescent age, there's bound to be romance and it's handled very well. Sometimes romance needs to drive the plot to new places but it never takes over or overshadows the main plot. There is a bit of romantic drama in this book, some misunderstandings or characters blowing things out of proportion, but still it never distracts from the main plot.

World Building: First off, let me say that if you haven't read or kept up with the Spirits and Thieves spin-off series you really should. It's not needed to fully understand or appreciate the added world building of this installment, however, there are a few things that are casually mentioned and introduced in this book that may seem jarring to those haven't had the right context for those revelations. Though, like I said, on the whole, they shouldn't affect the series that much so it's more of an optional thing, though I still recommend doing it. Now on to the real juicy stuff. Most of this book takes place in Paelsia and so there isn't really all that much additional world to explore, at least not physically, but there is a great deal more to learn about the Kindred, about the King of Blood's past, and about the prophecies concerning key members of our core four characters. This book isn't exactly long, but there's still a great deal of information and adventure packed into here. One of the most interesting parts of this whole book to me was seeing how civilians thought of our core four heroes. I mean, logically if everything turns out okay in the end, Magnus and Cleo will probably end up ruling all of Mytica, however, their subjects or at least the Paelsian people since that's mostly who we see, hate them. They barely know who Jonas is, and most that do think he's dead or hate him too, and all anyone knows about Lucia is that she's a vengeful witch who's burnt down countless Paelsian villages. I'm very interested to see how public opinion is of them once the series has concluded.

Predictability: One of my favorite things about Rhodes's writing, especially with this series, is that you never quite know who or what to trust. This series has so far gone in so many unexpected places. I mean when this series started the main villain was King Gaius, but over the course of the series we've seen far worse enemies at play. Power hungry gods, disingenuous Watchers, and a princess who had a good idea, but because of the influence of others has taken it too far and now threatens all of Mytica, and probably the world as well. Since there's a lot that goes on in this story, there's a lot that can be twisted and happen in ways you wouldn't expect or even believe. I can't tell you how many theories I had for this book that turned out not quite as I had expected them too. There were, of course, things that I did guess that were fairly easy to, but while that never detracted from my enjoyment of the twists, it was obviously the things that caught me off guard that I enjoyed the most.

Ending: *Throws book at the wall* Yeah, I've seen a lot of that going around when it comes to the end of this book, and while I did not physically throw my book against the wall, I understand and agree with the sentiment. When I first saw that this book had an excruciating cliffhanger I began to expect the worst, I actually had three theories as to what might happen at the end of this book, none of which was even close to right. There is actually more than one cliffhanger for this book and while the first two might be rather intense, one even leading me to shed a few tears, it's what happens in the last chapter, on the last page that has me counting the days until the final installment in this series. (At least, I would count the days if we had a definitive release date.) The way this installment ended as a whole really set up that this next book will be the final battle. Things get really intense and I'm excited to see how our heroes manage to (hopefully) save the day.

Rating:


Once again I'm blown away by this world, these characters, and how this story unfolds. I swear, each time I start one of these books I'm afraid that this will be the time I'm disappointed or that this installment won't measure up, but every. single. time. the story exceeds my every expectation. I can't wait to find out how this series ends, and at the same time, I don't want it to end.

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