Monday, January 7, 2013

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

The land of Mytica consists of three kingdoms; Auranos, Paelsia and Limeros. The Silver Sea lies to the west with the Forbidden Mountains to the east. The northern kingdom, Limeros, is in an economic decline and under the iron-fisted control of King Gauis Damora. Gauis is nothing more than a bully who forces his people to strictly follow his rules using fear and violence. Paelsia, the middle kingdom, is a withering wasteland, slowly drying up. Only the southern kingdom of Auranos, ruled by King Corvin Bellos, is prosperous. Rumors persist that Limeros and Paelsia began their declines due to the death of elementia – elemental magic. It is believed that when the goddesses Cleiona and Valoria destroyed each other, the magic began drying up. Only Auranos remains unaffected.

Princess Cleo and her sister’s lady-in-waiting Mira sail from Auranos to Paelsia with Lord Aron Lagaris in his quest for the perfect bottle of wine. Aron is expected to be chosen by the king to become Cleo’s husband. Not her ideal choice but he knows a secret about Cleo that could destroy her. She is able to tolerate him socially. The trio is accompanied on their trip by Theon Ranus, a member of the palace guard who Cleo is unfamiliar with. She realizes that Theon’s father was the king’s personal bodyguard until his untimely death a week earlier. Offering her condolences, Theon tells Cleo that he hopes to be chosen as the king’s new bodyguard.
At the market, Aron finds Silas Agallon, the famous winemaker he is looking for, along with his daughter Felicia. Aron introduces himself and lets the Agallons know that they are in the company of Princess Cleiona of Auranos. Not a drinker like Aron, Cleo warily accepts Silas’ sample when he wishes to toast her as well as Felicia’s impending wedding that very evening. Theon is leery of poison and stops her but Aron greedily drinks. Relenting, Cleo drinks the wine and is surprised to discover that it is as truly marvelous as Aron led them to believe. Aron offers to pay a pittance for the wine. Silas is visibly offended and attempts to barter. Negotiations quickly go south and Silas agrees before he loses any more money.
Before the transaction can be settled, Silas’ two sons, Tomas and Jonas, come upon the scene. Tomas is angered by Aron’s offer and the verbal banter soon turns physical. Tomas swings and Aron stabs him in the throat. Cleo is visibly shaken and regrets she didn’t let Theon stops them before it escalated. They leave. The life bleeds from Tomas as rage fills Jonas. He promises his brother that now Paelsia’s predicament with Auranos has faces and names; Aron and Cleo. He will make sure they play.
A week later, word of the death of Tomas Agallon has reached the court of Limeros. King Gaius is celebrating his daughter Lucia’s sixteenth birthday and his son, Prince Magnus is keeping an overprotective eye on her. When the conversation at Magnus’ part of the table turns to Lucia’s potential suitors, he crushes the goblet in his hand, bleeding, Lucia offers to clean his wound and they leave the banquet while King Gauis watched suspiciously. Magnus has an uneasy relationship with his father and tries to remain inconspicuous whenever possible. He is also threatened by his father’s valet, his bastard son Tobias, whom the king could claim and name his heir at any time.
Magnus knows his growing feelings for his sister are unnatural. He attempts to keep them in check while playing the overprotective brother role. When he later overhears his father and his mistress Sabina talking about the difficulties in Limeros and how they might be related to elementia. They talk of a prophecy and Gaius is tired of waiting to see if Sabina is right in her beliefs. Lucia is now sixteen and her awakening should happen soon. Magnus hides as his father leaves but Sabina spots him. Realizing that their conversation is important, Magnus vows to himself to do everything possible to protect Lucia, even if that means from their father.
Back in Auranos, King Corvin is disappointed in Cleo’s actions. The political ramifications are starting to spin out of control. He is grateful that Aron was able to protect her life. She will now be confined to the palace so as not to cause any more trouble. Theon Ranus is being assigned as her bodyguard. Shortly, Corvin will announce her engagement to Aron. Upset, she leaves and runs into Mira’s older brother, Nic who is also Corvin’s squire. Cleo cries on his shoulder and he offers to marry her instead. She laughs that it is impossible; he is her best friend and not a noble. Theon finds them and Cleo inquires if he is pleased with his new assignment. He replies that it is his duty and an honor to be her bodyguard. Nic leaves them but not before whispering to Cleo that Theon isn’t a noble either.
Haunted by her nightmares of Tomas’ murder, Cleo decides she must know Aron’s feelings about the incident before she can consider marrying him. Ditching Theon, she goes to Aron’s villa just outside the castle. She is chagrined to learn that Aron believes he did the right thing and she should forget about the incident as well. Talk of their upcoming engagement comes up and Aron reminds her that he knows her secret. Disgusted with him and herself, Theon encounters the situation and takes Cleo home. She dispels Theon’s theory of as tryst.
Princess Lucia is concerned about some of the changes she is currently experiencing. She knows that they are far from normal and her emotions must be kept in check to keep them hidden. When Sabina attempts to have a heart-to-heart chat with her, Lucia’s curiosity is peaked and yet she is fearful because it seems Sabina knows exactly what she is going through.
Princess Cleo is upset when her father publicly announces her engagement. Running off for comfort from her ill sister Emilia, Cleo is devastated when her sister admits that she is dying, Emilia says she has prayed to die since her lover’s death. Not wanting her sister to die, Cleo is determined to find out if the legendary healer who welds elementia exists in Paelsia. When her father will not allow her to search and Theon won’t break his order. Cleo decides to sneak off with Nic.
When Chief Hugo Basilius of Paelsia comes to Limeros to meet with King Gaius, Prince Magnus is surprised to find out he is the last to know. Interrupting the meeting, Magnus is livid to see Tobias there and King Gaius asks him to join them. He is shocked to learn that the plan is for the kingdoms to join forces and conquer the prosperous southern kingdom. Magnus hides his true feelings and agrees with the plan, especially since Tobias is on board. Basilius demands a blood sacrifice from Gaius to prove his intentions. Gaius finally sacrifices Tobias, his eldest son and bastard. Basilius thanks him and leaves. King Gaius lets Magnus know that he is his son and asks him to keep an eye out for his sister. Failure to do so could be disastrous for Lucia.
Does the death of Tomas Agallon spark a war between the kingdoms of Mytica? What is going on with Princess Lucia? Can Prince Magnus put aside his feelings for his sister and become the heir his father desires? Will Jonas Agallon become the face of the war? Will Princess Cleo find love with Aron or will her heart lead her to someone else? Can she find the source of elementia to heal Emilia? And what happens when these four meet?
Book two, Fallen Spring, will be released in the fall of 2013.

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