The Falconer by Elizabeth May (Review)

February 28, 2014 Book Reviews 14 ★★★★

The Falconer by Elizabeth May (Review)The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Gollancz on September 26th 2013
Pages: 312
Source: Publicist, Publisher

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 sìthichean — 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.

THE FALCONER is one of those books that just radiates FEELS, you can practically see the awesome vibrate off of it but I’ll admit we didn’t get off to the best of starts. The first half of the book while interesting, hooked me just enough to keep reading but it was the second half that really set off at a blistering pace, grabbed my attention and had me race to finish and then there is  “that” ending…I lie prostrate at the feet of Elizabeth May, yelling “Why? You evil, genius – why????” while she probably kicks me in the face to go away. Nice!

It’s 1844 and Aileana Kameron has just survived the worst year of her life. The night of her débutante ball should have been the high point of her young life but instead she witnessed the brutal murder of her mother at the hands of a Faery and realised that all the bedtime stories of her childhood were true. Having to face the accusatory stares of her peers while trying to repair her fractured reputation at the local soirées of Edinburgh’s finest families after months out of the spotlight is enough for any young lady to handle but add avenging the murder of her mother against an enemy no-one believes exists is sure to complicate things. Spending her nights prowling the dark shadowy streets and murdering countless Fae whilst being trained by the mysterious and handsome Kieran McKay to finally face her mother’s murderer, Aileana must put aside former ambitions of marrying well and garden parties with tea and finger sandwiches, after all this lady has a world that needs saving.

The Falconer was such a fun read containing all the elements that for me spell a fabulous book. A wonderful heroine, amazing secondary characters, compelling plot, historical fiction and tons of kick ass action. It also had an extra dimension to it that I admit was a little nervous about – Steampunk. I confess I have read next to nothing from this sub-genre but I found it fascinating although slightly jarring at first with the mix of all these far-fetched inventions intermingling with my familiar knowledge of the time. I loved the Scottish setting although I would have loved for it to have been depicted more in the book. I did love the mythical theme and the development of the Faery world and it was fascinating how May developed this incredibly complex and fascinating infrastructure with different levels of Fae and their respective powers. The use of Gaelic was both a welcome sight and a personal embarrassment as it proved that like most Irish people who’ve gone through 12 years of learning the language my fluency extends to “an bhfuil cead agam dul go dtí an leithreas?” which translates to “can I go to the toilet?” and not much else so the lesson was appreciated (for the most part). The action scenes were fantastic, I loved May’s descriptions of Aileana’s battles with the fae, I felt they were believable and realistic and I enjoyed them immensely. The steampunk aspect really makes its presence felt here especially with all of Aileana’s gadgets and inventions which were a fun extra

The character development was stellar and for me Aileana was one of the most impressive portrayals of a female character in YA fiction in a long time. I loved her depth and how willing she was to admit to her imperfections but rather than hand-wringing and wailing she acknowledged those imperfections were more so in the eyes of the society and for her were her greatest strengths. Her blood thirst for revenge is more often seen in male characters so it made a refreshing change to see it displayed from a woman. Caught between two worlds, the veil has dropped from Aileana’s eyes and the old ways of tea parties, dowrys and coy glances across the dance floor are no longer enough. Seeing she has a purpose to play in the world and that as a woman has more to offer than she has previously been taught, it was heart-warming to see her rail against the social mores and demand more. The stunning revelation that she is in fact one of the famed “Falconers”, legendary female warriors adds weight to her convictions and her strength grows with each broken rule, disapproving glance and stinging bruise.

While this is very much Aileana’s story, there are two male characters that must be highlighted deservedly so . Enigmatic and handsome, Kieran McKay, the man who vows to help Aileana taste revenge; his dynamic with her was fascinating and I loved how their relationship developed in a realistic slow-burning manner. The star of the show however has to be the hilarious pixie Derrick, a sheer bundle of joy, he is Aileana’s confidant who lives in her closet doling out wise remarks and barbed insults with frightening speed, I enjoyed every scene he made an appearance in and adored his friendship with Aileana. It was clear to see the genuine love and affection the two had for each other.

As I mentioned above, it took me a while to settle into my groove with this book which on reflection I believe had more to do with my unease and unfamiliarity with the light touches of Steampunk in the novel but once I got my head around it I felt the book flowed extremely well. May’s writing is fresh, easy to read and packed with humour and emotion.

The last few chapters in particular highlighted May’s talent for writing a gripping, swashbuckling adventure story with plenty of FEELS. I could not put the book down and ached for the characters as the plot unfolded building up to a tension filled crescendo and then…THAT ENDING! Are you kidding me? My heart, it is tormented by the final sentence and I am aching to find out what happens next.

The Falconer is a mesmerising, assured, enthralling début and one I highly recommend! So…yeah READ IT!


14 Responses to “The Falconer by Elizabeth May (Review)”

  1. Nuzaifa @ Say It with Books

    I’ve seen some really great reviews for The Falconer but I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet. 🙁
    Steampunk is a genre that has been utterly disappointing for me so far but I do adore a good historical fiction read. The reason I’m apprehensive is because I’m a bit of a series abandon-er so I don’t want to start any new series before finishing at least a few!

    Brilliantly reviewed, Danielle! You should give Robin LaFevers’s His Fair Assassins series if you enjoy historical fiction with bad-ass heroines. 🙂

    • Danielle

      I’m with you on the series thing! I have so many I need to get back to!
      Thank you! 🙂 You know, I bought Grave Mercy the other day so I’m super excited to read it now!

  2. Aimee @ Read by the Undead

    I love high fantasy (I’m assuming this is high fantasy) and steampunk, so I should really get a copy and read this one ASAP.

    I’m glad you liked this one. Derrick sounds absolutely adorable! 😀 Lovely review. 🙂

    • Danielle

      Aww I hope you like it if you get a chance to read it! It’s a little slow to start but then it was so entertaining and I totally want a little Derrick of my own! 🙂

  3. tonyalee

    I am SO EXCITED to see you loved this! I feel like this is a combo of all the things I am lovin as of late. Historical, fantasy a little romance and bad assery lol

    Great review, love 🙂

    • Danielle

      Thanks doll! Yeah this was a lot of fun and it’s a quick read. I loved Aileana, she never whined, was totally badass, she was just cool so I think you’ll enjoy this one!

  4. Faye @ The Social Potato

    I need to get this one asap! Even though I was initially turned off by the cover (really not a fan of it… it seems awkard! lol), you made it sound like a really good book with an explosive ending… and who does not love explosive endings!! Plus Aileana seems like a bad ass character. I hope I love her as much as you did!

    • Danielle

      I prefer the US cover to be honest, I think it’s prettier. This was a lot of fun so I hope you enjoy it and Aileana is a badass for sure!

  5. Jasprit

    I have read several praising reviews for this book already Danielle, so I’m glad that you were able to appreciate this book too. I don’t know why for some reason I had assumed that this book wouldn’t be for me, but I think your enthusiasm has me convinced to give this book a go! Gorgeous review!

    • Danielle

      Aww yay! Thanks Jasprit! I hope you’ll enjoy it if you get the chance to read it, I personally was apprehensive about it but in the end it hooked me!

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