Sunday, 16 March 2014

Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Release date: 26th September 2013
Publisher: Gollancz 
Reason for reading: Historial urbanish fantasy with fae-hunting? Erm, yes
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Goodreads synopsis

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 the rare ability to sense the s√¨thichean — 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 abilities and 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 the 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.

My thoughts:

The Falconer instantly appealed to me for a couple of reasons. One, I'm a big urban fantasy fan but have only read one other historical UF title which was Grave Mercy. Two, The Falconer sounded a little bit like Grave Mercy. Three, The Falconer sounded a little bit like Grave Mercy crossed with the Fever series with a little bit of steampunk added in, and it totally was. 

Lady Aileana Kameron might be a nobleman's daughter, but lately she's much more at home with her skirts torn to shreds, clutching a deadly crossbow and facing off with a faery than she is dancing at a ball with her many suitors. I really felt for Aileana because not only was she having to fight these faeries that just insisted on showing up at the most inconvenient times but she was having to deal with her mother's death and the fact that practically everyone, even her father, thought her responsible. Regency Britain was not a place where you wanted to cause any controversy, especially as a young, unmarried woman and unfortunately for Aileana, and despite her many attempts to appear reputable, controversy seems to follow her around just as doggedly as the fae she's always fighting.

I loved how we jumped into Aileana's journey a year after her mother's death, after all the initial realisations, explanations and training, it made the whole plot feel more vibrant and was a lot less bogged down by exposition and revelation. The different castes of fae and elements of their lore were explained naturally, as we came across them, which felt really refreshing.  I was a little unsure about the steampunk aspect, as myself and steampunk haven't always gotten along, but it felt super natural, not at all shoehorned in or over explained, which I think can sometimes be a bit of an issue as authors can feel the need to describe every tiny detail of every gadget/outfit/device just to show that it's steampunk. I loved how this element really tied into the plot with Aileana's fae-hunts, and how it added another aspect to her personality with her inventions. Aileana is smart, smart and capable and inventive and I really felt for how she was so constrained, both by society and by herself, as she couldn't make herself give up her need for revenge. She was really easy to like and admire, and I just wanted everything to go right for her.

I loved Derrick as a character, he provided much needed comic relief and it was nice that Aileana had a supportive presence. I was such a fan of Kiaran, as I was always going to be and I loved how that element of the plot unfolded. The big surprise character-wise for me was Gavin. Not the sort of character I'd normally like, but he was so supportive and noble and took everything in his stride and was just so perfect and I...really liked him. 

I felt that after the initial adrenalin burst of the opening few chapters, the pace of the book slowed down and it took me a while to get re-invested in the story, but once I was I absolutely flew through the fast-paced tension-filled final part. The ending was such a cliffhanger, the kind that made me absolutely desperate for the sequel but that also makes the wait for it so, so delicious.  

TL:DR; The Falconer really works as a historical urban fantasy novel, the steampunk elements only enhancing its appeal. With a cast of likable and interesting characters, an enjoyable lack of exposition and a cliffhanger ending that will leave you begging for the sequel, it's perfect for light fantasy fans. 


  1. I've had this on my pile for so long. I very much like the sound of Aileana-she seems so cool! Also, I didn't realise it was regency-era-not seen steampunk in that time period before. Definitely going to read it soon. Thanks for the review!

  2. I recently bought this on an absolute whim. Nice to see some interesting reviews of it...


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