Gathering Darkness: Morgan Rhodes

So I finished Gathering Darkness, book three of the Falling Kingdoms series, and it was pretty good! This book was a lot more slow than the others, but major stuff still happened, so it never got very boring.

I think that this book focuses particularly on Lucia and her strengthening elementia powers. Lucia starts becoming more of a major player as she learns, from a competent tutor, that she can summon the locations of the different Kindred crystals, and this is exactly what she does. This book is all about finding the Kindred and hunting them down. Of course, Cleiona sits in on her location-summonings, then discreetly sends the information to Jonas so that he might steal the crystals before them. Jonas gets to two of the three crystals; Lucia and Alexius find one, but this is taken by Princess Amara by the end of the book; and the fourth crystal, I think, is lost. No one really knows who has it.

Alexius also makes a heavy appearance in this book. Under the influence of Melania, he exiles himself from the Sanctuary and becomes mortal (uh oh #1) and flutters down to the mortal plane like an angel, bent on finding Lucia and helping her fulfill the prophecy… which he secretly knows will result in her death. Alexius is bound to Melania through an obedience spell that causes him great pain, if he even thinks about betraying her. For this reason, he can’t do much to warn Lucia to his less-than-genuine intentions, though he really does fall for the girl. In fact, Lucia and Alexius did the dippidy doo da so, I’m like 99% sure that she’s going to find out that she’s pregnant. She does something really good and then really bad at the end: she murders Melania, good. Okay. But then she summons this fire-god, who does not seem like the greatest person and is keen on freeing his siblings, who are trapped in the Kindred stones.

I found myself disliking Lucia more and more. She’s very much a selfish, conceited princess who has no idea what it’s like for those less-off, or of less power than her. I think that this might be deliberate though, because as earlier books address, her elementia powers have started darkening her soul. I remember her being kind in the first book, but by the third novel she’s really a horrible person. It’s kind of an interesting twist, though, which I hope will be resolved later.

Cleiona spends most of her time trying to manipulate her way throughout the castle. She does get really close to Lucia, and by the end of the book grows to actually care about her. She even claims that she hopes Lucia might have a place in her kingdom, when she takes the crown back. And her main concern at this point is finding allies– which she thinks about seeking with the Kraeshvian royals, but (rightfully) finds herself unable to trust. Her only friend is Nic, who is less in love with her now, but still considers her to be family, and he risks his life several times in order to get her more information.

Speaking of the Kraeshvian (I don’t know how to spell it) royals, they are the low point in this book, for me. Amara is your textbook villain– all she wants is power– although her reasoning for doling out so much violence and heartbreak as she searches for the Kindred is kind of funny, (“I want them.”) she’s overall a really boring character. She’s very much evil for the sake of being evil. There’s no interesting backstory for her.
Ashur, I had high hopes for. It’s insinuated later on in the novel that he’s a master manipulator and he’s really good at charming the pants off of people, and that this is exactly what he did to Nic. I legitimately thought that he had been playing Nic the entire time, and it would have been amazing because it would have been a super cool plot twist. But at the end of the book, he does a 180 and reveals that he’s actually been working against Amara, and he’s really in love with Nic, which 1. was ugh super predictable and 2. excuse my caps, but I’m kind of mad, YOU LITERALLY MET NIC LIKE A WEEK OR SO AGO. HOW THE HELL COULD YOU BE DEEPLY IN LOVE WITH HIM. STOP THINKING WITH YOUR BITS, ASHUR. We all saw how the Romeo and Juliet thing worked out with Theon and Cleiona– spoiler alert, he got a sword through the chest. Which is pretty interesting, actually, because Ashur got a dagger through the heart. So… up your games, Morgan Rhodes. Think of new ways to kill off characters, please. I think most of the deaths in this series have been sword-related, though.

Anyways, I was really glad when Ashur died. He was just boring. I was pretty mad that Ms. Rhodes took a potentially very interesting character and made him a cliche… and Amara is the one who kills him, which I was like, ha, you idiot, you should have seen that coming.
Alexius also dies, so that’s one off of my predicted-deaths list. Two more and I get caramel corn!

One thing I really loved was the blooming romance between Magnus and Cleiona, who really hate each other. Magnus knows that she’s deceptive and only wishes for his family to burn, and Cleiona hates him because he’s part of the royal family that took over her kingdom and also, he killed her one-true-love, Theon. They get set up in an arranged marriage, mostly for publicity, but find themselves genuinely falling in love with each other near the end of the book. Their relationships has its ups and downs though– a down, example, when Magnus beds Amara while he’s drunk. He spends most of the book trying to rile up Cleo and make her slip, but it culminates in Cleo being imprisoned and almost killed– which Magnus does put an end to, escaping the palace and dragging her along as well. They do have kind of a confession-thing, which ends in a brief but very passionate kiss, which is interrupted by Amara and Ashur.

Also, Jonas is in this book and it’s kind of funny because in the previous one, he was a legitimate threat, but in this book, he’s lost 90% of his rebel-army to the wedding massacre, and also he’s come to realize that all of his plans are failing– and so have many others. He’s now kind of a joke, but that doesn’t stop him anyways, as he continues to try and do his best to rise up against Gaius. There’s the introduction of Felix, an assassin who we find out later, works for Gaius, which was really interesting. He could be the potentially-great-background-plot-twist character that we never had, because he’s very much a good guy trying to leave his terrible past. I just hope he doesn’t fall in love and that becomes his whole story from there-on-out, like it did with Ashur. I also hope to everything holy that he isn’t the replacement Ashur… again. That would be so predictable.

One last thing I like about this one is that Lysandra evolves as a character. She’s forced to watch her brother’s decapitation, and this really changes her. As she’s lead to her own execution, she embraces death, but upon being rescued by the rebels she regains her fire. Also, she doesn’t trust Felix at first but then slowly warms up to him– and they make a fun “musketeers” kind of group, Felix, Lysandra and Jonas. Until, you know, Felix overhears them talking about who he is and decides that it’s not worth it to be a good guy when no one trusts you anyways. He makes a very compelling case in defense of his innocence, stating that he knew that Jonas would never trust him if he revealed that he’d been sent out by Gaius and that he had never, not even once, betrayed Jonas… but the moment that Jonas found out about him, he turned his back on Felix. I’m also glad that Jonas wants to redeem himself in his new friend’s eyes, instead of being angry about the whole situation.

There are good parts and bad parts to this book, but I’m hoping that the bad is resolved by the next installment. On another note, the next book is the last book until December (?) I think, which I will legit be sad about because this series is really interesting. Also– I’m calling it, Nerissa’s gonna die in Frozen Tides. She was waaaay too helpful in this book.

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