The Falconer by Elizabeth May

falconerThe Falconer by Elizabeth May (The Falconer #1), published in 2013 by Chronicle Books (though my edition was published in 2014 by Gollanz).

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genre: YA fantasy, historical setting (Edinburgh, 1844) with a hint of steampunk.

Heiress. Debutante. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother. Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways. 

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 2.5/5

So. This book. I expected SO MUCH from this book. It sounded like it was written for me. And I didn’t get it, so now I’m a bit disappointed about it. I’ve got other read books waiting to be reviewed here, but I have to write this one down while the feelings are still fresh (or something).

Lady Aileana Kameron is a character I had huge trouble relating to. Her mom was killed by an evil faery a year ago and she’s channelling her grief and all her feelings into this murderous rage and is hunting all other evil faeries around Edinburgh while waiting for the chance to kill the one whom she really wants to get back at. While I completely understand that dealing with grief at the loss of a parent is an extremely difficult experience, I would have thought that Aileana would go through some sort of transition, perhaps, where she would learn how to begin processing her feelings, or something, but she didn’t.

This is also why I had a difficult time getting into the romantic part of the story. If her fury was so overwhelming that she couldn’t even begin to think about anything else, then how the hell did she find it in herself to feel attracted to anyone? There’s this sort-of-love-triangle thing going on with lots of jealousy on the guys’ part, but I just wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Aileana and the men – perhaps because she was so focused on revenge the entire time. 

I felt like this RAGERAGERAGE feeling could have been presented in a subtler manner, perhaps. But see for yourself, here’s a sample: “I am a wild creature he saw fight, kill and survive only last night. Dresses conceal my brokenness. They cloak the savage creature that lives inside me and thrives on anger. I am a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” Umm… Okay.

Another thing that bothered me was the setting. I haven’t read much steampunk up to this point – it just hasn’t come up in my reading pile, it wasn’t a conscious decision to avoid it. But here, the mechanical elements have no point in the story, they’re just fancy gizmos that Aileana uses and makes.

Oh, hadn’t I mentioned that she’s a wicked-smart inventor (inventress?) and spends hour upon hour devising new weapons to kill faeries in increasingly grisly ways? Yeah. There isn’t much this girl can’t do, really. Proof? Here you go: “He touches his fingers to his face. His eyes meet mine and some emotion I can’t name flickers in their depths. Approval? ‘Don’t you understand’ he says. ‘You’re the only one who could do this. No other human alive is capable of it.'” How about some dead humans, perhaps? Maybe they could do the job? No?

Gah. Anyway. The setting. I’ve read numerous (and by that I mean dozens of) historical romances, some of them set in Scotland at around the same time as this book. There were some really bad ones among those as well – and what I disliked about them is the same thing I disliked about The Falconer: the entire Scottish society and culture is boiled down to wearing plaid and saying things like wee, bairn and aye. Here, May added the names of the faery species which are written in Gaelic (I discovered the glossary when I finished the book), which got mixed up pretty fast – though that may have been my problem because I just wasn’t invested enough in the book to make myself care about them.

And then there was the ending. I’m going to put this into a spoiler mode because you might wish to read the book anyway – it got really good reviews around the blogosphere, guys, so… you know… decide whom you trust the most. :) The spoiler is written in white so you have to highlight it to read it, ok? /spoiler/ The cliffhanger. The book ends in the middle of a bloody battle between literally thousands of evil, extremely powerful faeries on one side, and Aileana and her partner on the other – and it still isn’t clear who’s going to win. It’s one of those endings that simply shuts down the book in the middle of a scene, which I’m NOT too fond of, I can tell you. Also: thousands against two? Really? I love kick-ass heroines, I really do, but can we at least make it a bit plausible? Gah. /end spoiler/

So by now you must be wondering: why did Kaja give this book a 2.5 rating, then? Why not a solid 1? Well… I did finish it in a day, because it’s such a fast read. I enjoyed one of the secondary characters, the pixie Derrick, quite a lot (he’s this cool little guy who gets drunk on honey and is really protective of Aileana). And it didn’t make me want to claw my eyes out, which is the feeling for which I reserve the lowest ratings (I’ve yet to review one of these on the blog because I usually stop reading them before I damage myself).

I feel like this book rubbed me in all the wrong ways, like May had a list of my bookish pet peeves and just ticked them all off. Probably not. :) Maybe I’ll do a post on those someday. I don’t know whether I’ll be reading the sequel when it comes out (sometime in 2015, apparently). I wish I lived in UK or the US, so my library would stock it, but it just isn’t very likely my local librarians would choose to buy this series. We’ll see.

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Have you read The Falconer? What did you think about it? 

What are your bookish pet peeves (in terms of plot, setting, character)?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • Sorry to hear that you didn’t enjoy this one :( I really liked it. I agree Derrick was so cute!

    • Kaja

      YES, I KNOW! Loads of people (whose book tastes are similar to mine) around the blogosphere loved it. And I understand why! But it just pushed all the wrong buttons for me, this is why I was SO frustrated!
      Usually, I find that books feature one or two things that I don’t really love (you know it’s difficult to find the PERFECT book – most of them have something or other that bothers you, right?), but this one was just so full of them. We just weren’t meant to be :)

  • You know, when this was announced I was kinda excited about it, but then I read a sample a while back somewhere and it didn’t do a lot for me. so my enthusiasm waned, and it came out and I just kinda let it go. After reading your review I’m kinda glad I did. I think some of those same things would bother me. The steampunk elements seem unnecessary, or maybe that’s just me…

    • Kaja

      Mm, yeah, I don’t like it when fantasy/SF or other (steampunk) elements are used just as stage props – when they could have been taken out of the story and the story would still function just fine. I was one of the few who DIDN’T like this book, though. It got really good reviews elsewhere. So, like I said: you just have to decide who you trust :) I often feel like some of these books are really hyped up and then the excitement just fades with time – but I fell for this one hook, line and sinker because it promised to be everything I love – romance, fantasy and ass-kicking combined. I think this is why I was doubly disappointed when I read it. Oh well :)

  • Oh, dang! The blurb made it sound so intriguing, and then it fell flat for you. Sorry to hear it, I even love the cover. It happens, but it’s still disappointing when you get excited for a read and it goes south. Enjoy your week.

    • Kaja

      Hi, Rita, thanks for stopping by :)
      Yeah, I’ve had that happen with a number of books – the point of the blurb is to make the book sound exciting, after all – but I *really* wanted to like this one :) Eh, well, better luck next time, right?
      Have a good week!

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