Back before the start of summer I out a call for fantasy recommendations featuring faeries and badass leading ladies, and the lovely Danielle Jensen chucked this baby my way. It may have taken me a few months to get around to reading The Falconer by Elizabeth May, but I’m delighted to say that I absolutely loved it and will most definitely be reading the rest of the series in the months to come. If you like action, imagination, and drama so think you can taste it in your YA Fantasy this is most definitely one for you!
Title: The Falconer
Author: Elizabeth May
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date: May 6, 2014
Genre: YA Fantasy, YA Fiction, Steampunk
Themes: Faeries, Survival, Invention, Societal Expectations, Inter-dimensional Wars
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
Taken from Goodreads…
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 love discovering new authors, so you can imagine my joy when I discovered that Elizabeth May not only writes fabulous fantasy, but that shine can combine steampunk, faeries, and kick-ass heroines with the skill of a freaking ninja. Now make that heroine a young lady who bucks the expectations of society, add in a detached and ambivalent father, and a problematic romantic arc and I’m skipping household chores to read by the fire. Oh, and I did I mention that The Falconer is set in Edinburgh just streets away from where I used to live? Ding ding ding! You have a new series fan. I mean seriously, I couldn’t help but waxing all nostalgic at the most unexpected moments – it was pure magic.
But the thing that really made this steampunk fantasy stand out for me was May’s exquisite attention to historical detail. I loved how she slipped in that the waltz, which is now viewed as a dance that epitomizes elite society, was originally viewed as lewd and indecorous as partners maintained a body contact that was far too close to be considered proper. Or how houses used to be subject to window tax rather than property tax, ever walked through some historic neighbourhoods and wondered why all those beautiful windows were bricked in? Whelp, no you know why. Or that high society was governed by a close debutant code, that dance cards were more than just a figure of speech, and that the slightest transgression (whether intentional or otherwise) could ruin both reputations and families. Having all of these details so well founded in reality really made the more fantastical elements pop. Flame throwers and orinthocopters? Magical thistles and daemons rising from an inter-dimensional prison buried beneath the city? I AM SOLD.
And if you know me at all, you know that adore scandalously independent female characters. Aeliana fits this mould perfectly with her dangerous activities after dark, her persistent desire to invent anything from weapons to transportation, and her blatant disregard for finding a suitor and settling into married life. The only thing that worried me about her character was that she fell into the trap of being a bad-ass lady that hated wearing dresses, I feel like it’s been done a lot lately, even if fashion in the 19th century was incredibly restrictive. But, her lack of fashionability is balanced out by an incredibly proper and supportive best friend so I can’t complain too hard. But more than anything I liked that Aeliana is both a balanced and flawed character. She’s capable of saving the world but she still grieves the loss of her mother and has PTSD meltdowns flashing back to her murder, she’s skilled and intelligent beyond all measure and yet she’s still susceptible to the failings of pride and arrogance. She’s witty, intelligent, and hilariously off-key funny, and every now and then you still want to smack her in the mouth. She’s pure gold.
Oh, and the fae aren’t half bad either. Okay, maybe they’re 99% evil and hell-bent on vengeance, but Derrick and Kiaran make for some incredibly compelling allies. And let’s just behest here, if I could have a little pixie living in my close and mending my destroyed clothes for the occasional bowl of honey, I would be so there! Even if that said pixie had more sass than any one person could handle, and could hold grudges like nobodies business. Derrick honestly reminded me of a lush, male, Tinkerbell because I would be all over that. And all over Kiaran too, because snarky dark heroes drowning in secrets are totally my thing. He’s killing his own kind, is training Aeliana to do the same, and has been banished from the faerie realms. Good people, gimme the popcorn and wine.
I won’t go too much into the plot and (serious) non-ending because I’m not a big fan of spoilers but you should know the action is available in abundance, the the drama thickens with the turn of every page, and that every character has layers that when discovered will throw you for a loop. The writing is spell binding, expertly paced with a superb balance between plot and explication, and it will most definitely leave you wanting to dive straight into the next book in the series.
If you’re a fan a spellbinding fantasy, some serious steampunk vibes, and a whole host of irreverent and independent characters then pick up The Falconer – you won’t be disappointed!
I purchased this book as a result of blogger and reader recommendations, all opinions are my own.