Series Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

Series Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Falconer by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Gollancz on September 26, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical
Pages: 317
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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three-half-stars

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.

Given the slow publication schedule of this series (in no way a fault of May’s), a reread was necessary to kick off my preparation for the sequel. I don’t have as much to say here, since I did review The Falconer back in 2013, and my opinions are pretty much the same. However, I will do a brief rundown of my main impressions on the reread.

  • Absolute favorite parts are Aileana hanging out with either Catherine or Gavin. I know I’m supposed to love the fae stuff and Kiaran the most, but the banteriest bits are when she hangs out with her friends sooooo.
  • I’m really trying to ship Kiaran this time around, but I’m still sort of eh on it, because he’s all MYSTERIOUS and IMMORTAL and BEAUTIFUL and NOT HUMAN and like really super old, so yeah idk mate.
  • Aileana has that blood lust like whoa, and I love it. It’s awesome that she doesn’t murder fae just out of ideals and blah blah, but no she actually loves murdering them and that rush of power she gets. It makes her way more complex and dark and interesting. All about that.
  • Never can decide if Derrick is hilarious or annoying.
  • Basically could not put this book down. The pacing is on point.
  • That ending isn’t a cliffhanger though. The end of the book is just missing. I am every bit as puzzled by this now as I was in 2013.

Rereading was a lot of fun, and The Falconer remains an action-packed joyride.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Series Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #2
Published by Gollancz on November 19, 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical
Pages: 362
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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two-half-stars

My name is Lady Aileana Kameron.

First the fae murdered my mother. Then they destroyed my world.

Now I’m fighting for more than revenge.

Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes it . . . to rejoin a world devastated by war.

The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers . . .

*sighs deeply* I started The Vanishing Throne on the high of finishing The Falconer, which I read in a day, and excited to finally find out what the fuck happened. It took me two and a half weeks to slog through The Vanishing Throne. While there are lots of great things about it, this wasn’t the direction I hoped the series would go in (or really ever could have imagined it would go) and it was so much heavier than I was emotionally prepared to handle.

The tone and pacing of The Vanishing Throne are completely different from that of The Falconer. The Vanishing Throne is consistently depressing and dark to a degree I have trouble expressing. I couldn’t handle reading more than a chapter or two most of the time, because it had such an impact on my mood. This is most definitely one of the most depressing fantasy novels I’ve ever read, if not the most depressing. For example, a lot of the book felt like a fantasy metaphor for sexual abuse, so yeah it was just ridiculously painful. Spoilery examples: View Spoiler »

Character building is mostly about how everyone has PTSD now. On one hand, I do like this, because they’ve been through real shit and May is showing the emotional consequences. On the other hand, though, again it’s a lot. There’s not enough balance. Derrick and Aithinne are the only ones attempting to add comic relief, and with everything else they couldn’t shift it. Aithinne’s by far my favorite character at this point. Aileana should hook up with her instead of Kiaran, who, I’m sorry, I barely even know. View Spoiler »

There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on in this world, but this book made me so sad that I couldn’t really enjoy it. Go into it well-prepared, and it might work better for you? I want to stress that it’s not bad, but it’s such a stark departure from book one.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Series Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth MayThe Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #3
Published by Chronicle Books on June 13, 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Historical
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
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The long-awaited final book in the Falconer trilogy is an imaginative tour-de-force that will thrill fans of the series. Aileana Kameron, resurrected by ancient fae magic, returns to the world she once knew with no memory of her past and with dangerous powers she struggles to control. Desperate to break the curse that pits two factions of the fae against each other in a struggle that will decide the fate of the human and fae worlds, her only hope is hidden in an ancient book guarded by the legendary Morrigan, a faery of immense power and cruelty. To save the world and the people she loves, Aileana must learn to harness her dark new powers even as they are slowly destroying her. Packed with immersive detail, action, romance, and fae lore, and publishing simultaneously in the UK, The Fallen Kingdom brings the Falconer's story to an epic and unforgettable conclusion.

Though I’d been planning to read The Fallen Kingdom pre-publication, I ended up taking a break of several months after  The Vanishing Throne. That book was too sad and angry, and, especially in 2017, I couldn’t take any more of that right away. Frankly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t like The Fallen Kingdom, but thankfully the pacing and tone returns to that of the first book, and I absolutely could not put this book down.

Much as I admire the fact that May was able to make the reader feel just a bit of what it’s like to experience severe depression and PTSD, that experience took a serious toll on me, and more of a toll on Aileana. I mean, Aileana did actually die at the end of the book. But, like Buffy, that doesn’t necessarily mean she won’t be back.

Aileana comes to in a forest and has to claw her way out of the dirt. She has no idea who the fuck she is or why she’s there or why, apparently, she can destroy forests. This is one of the only times I actually really love amnesia as a plot device. First off, it was nice because it allowed May to recap the reader on things that might have been forgotten since book two. Second, the amnesia doesn’t make anything easier at all. While Aileana’s mind seems to have done this to cope with the pain, the things she does in this state make her even less sure of who she is.

Though the plot is basically constant action and terrible stuff happening to our heroes, May does a nice job bringing back the humor from book one. The Fallen Kingdom is both funny and intense by turns. Sure, it undercuts some of the tension, but it also sets this series apart from a lot of other fantasies, which often don’t have a great sense of humor. It’s emotionally satisfying to see these characters gaining some lightness back even in bleak circumstances. The world may be fucked, but Aileana’s working out her mental health, and that makes me happy.

Kiaran and Aileana aren’t my favorite ship in the world, but I’m relatively happy with how things play out. I like that May didn’t take the easy route and that their reconciliation doesn’t go precisely as one might have thought. I also like that Kiaran has to struggle the whole time. Still, if Aithinne had been the ship instead of Kiaran, it would have been that f/f OTP I’ve been dreaming of, so it’s hard not to be just a little bit salty. And, neat as it is, I highly doubt View Spoiler »

On the whole, I’m very happy with this series, and I’m glad it’s part of my collection. May’s debut trilogy shows so much talent, and I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

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4 responses to “Series Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May”

  1. Thelma says:

    This is on my reading list for 2018 so I got a bit scared when I saw your rating for the second book. But apparently the third book won you over so I think this will a solid trilogy for me. Thanks for the reviews!

    • Christina Franke says:

      The second book is good, but it’s just SO HEAVY that it was hard for me to enjoy it. I slogged through it. May does a nice job conveying really hard subjects so that you feel them, but it was a tough book for me. You might enjoy it more! I prefer a nice dose of humor with my darkness, but the heroine was not in that place in book two.

      • Thelma says:

        Okay I’ll keep that in mind. I do like humour too but I never want it to feel forced. So I’ll just have to survive through book two. If I like the characters enough I should be fine.

  2. I thought it was a really strong trilogy all in all, even though it’s definitely too intense at some points. And there is one part in the third book that just devastated me. I bet you can guess. But I’m glad the series rebounded for you in the end!

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