Edinburgh, 1844. Beautiful Aileana Kameron only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. In fact, she's spent the year since her mother died developing her ability to sense the presence of Sithichean, a faery race bent on slaughtering humans. She has a secret mission: to destroy the faery who murdered her mother. But when she learns she's a Falconer, the last in a line of female warriors and the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity, her quest for revenge gets a whole lot more complicated. The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller blends romance and action with steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.
The Falconer by Elizabeth May
First book in the Falconer Series
2.5 out of 5 stars
If books were puzzles, The Falconer would be a puzzle made up of pieces borrowed from other puzzles that somehow manage to fit together. While this book isn't necessarily part of genres that I'm an avid reader of - I much prefer high fantasy to the paranormal, and I can't say I read a lot of steampunk - this still managed to feel like something I'd already read before. This is a rather subjective complaint, so I will say that if you haven't read stories like this in the past, you may still enjoy it. There are certainly many readers who have. May allows us to see faeries in a negative light - as deadly creatures, rather than sweet little critters or politicking human-like beings. This does offer a bit of originality that some readers will appreciate.
Aileana, the main character of The Falconer, was a rough character to follow. The Falconer is written in first person POV, and we see everything through Aileana's eyes. Her character is defined by her rage, a trait sparked by the murder of her mother. Before the death of her mother, she describes herself as a pretty average Victorian woman. Her rage permeates the narrative at an annoying rate. We're bombarded with her constant need to murder. Aileana could be attending a breakfast and suddenly, while sipping her tea, become overcome with a need to slaughter faeries. It gets old quickly. The only other trait she really reveals to the reader is her inventiveness - she is very technologically savvy and invents lots of gadgets that she typically uses to aid her vengeful slaughter of the faeries. Unfortunately, her skill seems out of place and unbelievable. Within the context of the world she is living in, it's very unlikely that she would have the supplies to practice her hobby as she does. The creation of any kind of tech, whether it be a new gun or a new locomotive, is portrayed as easy and not at all time-consuming. Planning on going on a murder spree in the afternoon? No problem. Aileana can create a whole new arsenal of weapons the morning of. There were several aspects of this story that were too demanding on the reader to suspend their disbelief, and Aileana's characterization was one of them.
The other characters were archetypal but for the most part entertaining. We have a pixie that lives in Aileana's closet and provides some lighter, funnier dialogue to keep the story from getting too dark. There's a faerie love interest that manages to fit the bill of brooding, beautiful supernatural lover that we see so often in paranormal romance type books... but he's not insufferable. And while the premise of the book sounds mature, The Falconer is actually pretty tame. This could actually fit a younger audience, which leads me to reiterate that this book will be best for those new to this kind of story.
My final thoughts are in regards to the plot of The Falconer. May seemed to struggle with raising the stakes. I felt a distinct sense of apathy when reading this, and didn't generally feel like there was any reason to care about where things were going. Problems that Aileana kept worrying over didn't seem like they were actual problems. There wasn't the feeling that something bad might genuinely happen. The ending of The Falconer is also poorly done - leaving us with a ridiculous cliffhanger. It's as if the author got up mid-paragraph during the climax of the novel to go for a bathroom break and never came back. There is absolutely no resolution, and just as the action starts up, the book ends. While a good cliffhanger can leave readers antsy for the next installment in the series, this just left me unsatisfied and annoyed.
And again, while my review was critical, I think many readers will really enjoy this. The foundation The Falconer lays down for its sequels is interesting, and perhaps the following books will succeed where this one failed.