Trust issues reign in the third cloak-and-dagger intrigue of the Falling Kingdoms series.
Following Rebel Spring (2013), rebel leader Jonas is recovering from yet another failed mission against evil King Gaius, having lost most of his followers. He’s nearly captured when a mysterious, amazing fighter emerges to rescue him and join Jonas’ cause. Gaius’ heir, Prince Magnus, meanwhile, wavers between his desire for Gaius’ approval and the knowledge that his father’s a liar who ordered the assassination of Magnus’ mother. Princess Cleo decides to bond with her new sister-in-law, the sorceress Lucia, to get closer to the Kindred, magical crystals whose power Cleo hopes to use to retake her kingdom. In the process, she bafflingly starts to care about Lucia, though it’s mostly through telling not showing. Meanwhile, two children of a powerful overseas emperor visit; they’re after the Kindred like everyone else. Characters are frequently stabbed to death with daggers. Romantically, it’s more of a messy love web than a triangle, giving fans of every couple chances to swoon and hiss. The viewpoint-jumping narration induces too much repetitive recap, slowing the already unevenly paced plot. In the final act, characters calling one another out as traitors start to identify the liars among them, as well as feeling the consequences of trusting and mistrusting the wrong people.
Last-minute twists don’t make up for slow pacing, but they give the next sequel potential. (Fantasy. 13-17)