Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book review: The Falconer, by Elizabeth May

Title: The Falconer
Author: Elizabeth May
Publisher: Gollancz
Release date: 26/9/13
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Source: Bought at Waterstones

Description: Lady Aileana Kameron was destined for a life which revolved around Edinburgh's social events - until the moment a faery killed her mother. 
Now, between high society balls, Aileana slaughters faeries in secret. Every night, armed with modified percussion pistols, explosives and a killer instinct, she sheds her aristocratic facade and goes hunting.
She's looking for revenge, but she'll kill any fae that crosses her path.
But there's another battle looming - one her mysterious mentor, Kiaran MacKay, won't even talk about and it has world-altering consequences.
Aileana will have to decide how much she's willing to lose - and just how far she'll go to avenge her mother.

My thoughts: I first noticed this book when I heard the author was British, as I like to support 'local' authors when I can, and when I heard it was a historical fantasy set in Edinburgh (where I go to university) it really piqued my interest.

Aileana is attending her first ball after spending a year in mourning for her mother. The other ladies gossip when they think she isn't listening, speculating over the fact Aileana was found covered in blood beside her mother's body: a fact she has never explained. Aileana has changed a lot since then, learning how to hunt down and kill the faeries who most people can't see, alongside her mentor Kiaran. But now she's back in the limelight of society, with her every move scrutinised as she theoretically looks for a husband, it becomes much harder to keep hunting the fae. The action of the story kicks off straight away, with Aileana realising a faery is there at the party and going in search of it.

I love the world Elizabeth May creates in this book: part historic Scotland, filled with half-believed folklore, elaborate balls, and a city well on the way to becoming the Edinburgh we know today, and part alternate-world, with mechanical punch dispensers, flying ornithopters, and modified guns.

Something that surprised me about it was the length of time the story takes place over. I believe there's something like a week, or just over that, from the start to the finish. Sometimes this annoys me in books,  but I think Ms May pulls it off in The Falconer - any relationships (family/friendship/other) that change or develop aren't sudden things - we're very much thrown in to the middle of Aileana's life, and the changes were more like instances of Aileana realising something that has been true for a while. There is enough of her past, pre-faery-fighting life worked in to the story that you can see how she has changed, and how that has affected her view of the people around her. There were a couple of times where I thought the action felt a little rushed with one thing happening after another, but it kept the tension high and made me keep turning the pages until the end.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, because it really does go very quickly and it's more fun to read if you're trying to figure out what's coming next. I will give you a cliffhanger warning for the ending though - I went in to this book not knowing if it was a stand alone book or part of a series, and the ending is very abrupt. The first in a trilogy, I'm going to be very impatient waiting for the rest of this series!

'The Falconer' is a fantastic debut novel from Elizabeth May, leading the reader through a dark alternate-history Edinburgh full of things that will grab you in the night. I give this book 8 out of 10, and I'm very much looking forward to book 2.



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