Monday, January 25, 2016

Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer

Author: Elizabeth May
Release: September 19th 2013
Genre: Historical, Urban Fantasy, Fey, YA
#1 in the Falconer trilogy
Sequels: The Vanishing Throne (#2), The Fallen Kingdom (#3)


One girl's nightmare is this girl's faery tale

She's a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she's leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder—but she'll have to save the world first.

The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.


I went into this book with moderately high expectations. It came highly recommended, promises me a strong, badass heroine who kills faeries as a pastime and generally is a book about my favorite mythological creature, the fey. 

And I'll admit that all that was promised to me, was also given to me. However, the overall plot of the novel simply lacks something, some structure and purpose, or it felt like that to me. The story felt like it was haphazardly thrown together and so random, as if the author just made it all up as she went along. There are numerous action and fight scenes where we are proven time and again that Aileana is indeed capable of taking down any number of faeries out to get her, but the story doesn't seem to have any other reason for existing, outside of showcasing exactly that. Yes, I guess you could say that there is this minor plot line containing Aileana's thirst for vengeance about her mother's death and keeping track of her faerie murderer, but since she never makes any proactive choices about that one, I am doubtful of whether to accept that as a true storyline. It isn't up until like 50-60% through that the actual plot of the whole novel is even revealed, when the book finally does get some sense of purpose and direction, and I just found that a bit hard to swallow, because I like to have a clear aim in mind when reading a book, some quest or challenge or whatever that the characters need to concentrate on. And I just didn't have that for majority of this novel.

Aside from that, the characters were compelling and bland all at the same time. Aileana was strong, determined and competent and her characterization was really interesting at first. At first. We get to know this young woman, who is so filled with hate and rage for the fae that these are her only defining features, there is little else driving her on than her bloodlust for them, and her dream of killing them all. And yet, this is so at odds with the fact that she keeps company with not only one, but two fey, and is even in love with one of them. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind that fact, I just wish it had been explained better just why exactly she doesn't hold her two faerie friends in the same regard as all the others, and why she doesn't ever give those she kills a chance to prove her wrong about them, too. One of her two friends had saved her once and thus, earned her trust (sort of) by doing that and agreeing to train with her, but then one day this pixie bursts into her room and she just... accepts that and befriends him as well and all? I simply find it hard to believe that she didn't immediately kill that one on sight either, as she does all the other fey she encounters, and why she did that. 
Not only that, but then she also never changes her personality throughout the whole novel. She is so intent on killing fey it consumes her, and that's pretty much all there is to it. Writing this review, I am currently about halfway through the sequel and I am relieved to say that this does change in the second book, but in this one? Nope. No real character development going on here, which is sad, because while Aileana was an intriguing character at first, her complete and utter stasis kind of ruined her a bit towards the end, because her constant blabber about having to murder every one of them was getting a bit tedious by then. Another quick note I am kind of a little irritated about is that she is soooo special. After a year of training, she is apparently capable of holding her own against hundreds of the most powerful fae who have been imprisoned for years, had time to hone their skills and train on their own for years, and she does so with only one other faery at her side. How, exactly, does she do this again? This kind of invincibility makes her a kind of Mary Sue, especially since I don't recall her ever truly getting her ass kicked during the entirety of the novel, and this phenomenon continues to stretch out into the sequel, which is kind of annoying. Seriously, I enjoy a character able to defend herself, especially a female one, but never being defeated at least once? With all due respect, this is a fine line to walk for authors, I know, make a character get rescued too often and it's annoying or having them never be rescued and it's annoying, too. But, you just gotta have to find a middle. You gotta.

And then, of course, there's the supporting characters. Derrick, Aileana's pixie friend, is more of a comedic relief than anything, which I think puts a really nice touch on the otherwise very somber atmosphere of the book, it's a good addition to it. I liked him, but I think he only ever gets truly important and a proper characterization in the sequel. Kiaran is a walking, breathing trope, the one of the brooding, unemotional, distant faery knight who just so happens to end up having feelings after all, if you can believe it. Honestly, he just reminded me so much of Ash from The Iron King, but to be frank, I didn't mind. I love Ash to bits and pieces, he was probably the first fictional male character that I truly came around to loving, so ... yeah. I kind of liked Kiaran as well. And I even rooted for him and Aileana and their romance, I still do, because they just have that sexual tension that makes you want to grab them, knock their heads together and shriek "Just kiss already!" 

The writing was pretty solid and the pace is quick on its steps, sometimes maybe even a little too quick. Especially the finale was a bit overwhelming for me, because it all just happened so fast and with little preparation, which I mostly blame on the fact that it was only revealed pretty late in the book, as I have already mentioned. 

Nevertheless, I really did enjoy this a lot. I read through it in a single day, or rather the book made me finish it in a day. And I am also currently reading the sequel already, so it was good enough for me to want to continue on. 

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