Happy Doctor Who season, everybody! Did you enjoy the episode? I loved Capaldi!
Since our new reincarnation is Scottish, I thought it fitting to review a book by a Scottish author that takes place in Scotland.
For me, this was one of those “judge a book by its cover” instances. Although in all fairness, how could I resist purchasing a book with a hot ginger deadly-looking lady on the cover?
Well, when I say “purchasing”, I’m exagerrating a little. One of the perks of having a Waterstones’ card is occasional free books thanks to all the points acquired over time.
Edinburgh, 1844. Lady Aileana Kameron’s mother was murdered last year. According to the high society, it was either a vicious animal attack or Aileana herself killed her mother. Aileana knows, however, that it was a faery. A Baobhan Sith to be precise. Consumed by revenge, Aileana doesn’t have much time or patience for social engagements and dances with elderly gentlemen. She needs to find her mother’s murderer and kill her. And if she kills a bunch of other faeries on the way, all the better. The only two faeries she is somewhat friendly with are a honey-loving pixie named Derrick who lives in her wardrobe, and Kiaran. Tall, dark, handsome, two thousand years old Kiaran, who is allegedly the last of his kind. Derrick is Aileana’s spy, of sorts – he delivers her the news on the Baobhan Sith who murdered her mother. Kiaran, on the other hand, is somewhat of a coach. He is training her how to kill faeries. Naturally, Aileana becomes curious as to why he’s teaching her how to kill his people. Her curiosity is not satisfied however – her renegade-like murders of faeries are causing a stir in the faery population. Luckily they’re all trapped underground under a seal, right?
As midwinter approaches, Aileana discovers that she is a descendant of a line of assassins. The Falconer. And she is the last one left. Unfortunately, that’s not the only bad news. Midwinter is approaching, and with it, a battle. Seal is about to be broken, and faeries are to be let loose onto Edinburgh and the Earth. Would Aileana choose to lead the fight, or is she far too consumed by her thirst for avenging her mother’s death? And where does her childhood friend Gavin, who turns out to be a Seer, fit into all of this?
The best thing about this book was the main character. She felt like a real person. With real struggles. Sometimes, when I read books about ladies getting stuff done, I want to facepalm because there is NO WAY anyone would actually do what is being done in a situation of that kind. With Aileana, however, I felt that I could understand her actions and motivations. While I may have spent less time swooning over Kiaran (I’m lying I totally wouldn’t), I can understand the attraction. And I want to thank Elizabeth May for only making it a secondary theme in the book. Revenge is always interesting to read about, and I’m glad the romance didn’t distract me from it.
It was also lovely to see a steampunk version of Scotland. While I felt that there were too few elements of steampunk in the book for me to really grasp the world created by May, I have a feeling that the next book in the trilogy will explore it a bit more, not unlike “The Hunger Games”. “Catching Fire” was my favourite book of that trilogy, not least because we got to learn more about Panem. What I’m hoping May won’t do, however, is pull an “Allegiant”, i.e. throw all the history and significant elements into the last book. Well, I’m also hoping she won’t pull an Allegiant for other reasons, obviously… Although I have a feeling that May primary wanted to establish the character of Aileana and her motivation in this installment of the series, which I feel that she has managed to do.
In general, this is a good read for someone who is looking for an action-packed book with a badass protagonist. It would also serve as a good introduction to the steampunk genre, if you’re starting out. What one must say, however, is that it doesn’t go further than that. I have read historical fantasy that is more epic (see recommendations), although the character of Aileana is a stand-out. May’s writing is good, but I am not a fan of ending a book on a massive cliffhanger. I know it helps to maintain an interest in a series, but there are other ways to do so. Nevertheless, I will continue with the Falconer series, and my rating is 7.5/10.
Favourite character development
As I said above, Aileana’s character is my favourite aspect of the book. While we don’t see what she was like before she became a renegade, her actions and thoughts are believeable. As is her development. At the start of the book, she believes that rage and hunt are all that she has left inside her, and her only source of satisfaction is a momentary joy and a power surge she receives from killing a faery. It is clear that avenging her mother’s death is her ultimate goal. However, by the time midwinter rolls around, she realises that her pursuit is not more important than saving the world. May demonstrates her development throughout clever manipulation of well-crafted faeries’ powers and their effect on Aileana, particularly that of Sorcha, i.e. the faery that was responsible for the rage all along. At the end of the book, there is a glossary of faeries and it is explained that Baobhan Sith is highly intelligent and her ability to kill is “aided by mental powers that can deceive a person into meeting her on a dark road of her choosing”. It can be argued that “the dark road”, in Aileana’s case, is her thirst for vengeance. She may not realise that until the last few pages, but by calling it “the dark road”, May can be suggested to allegorically represent Aileana’s character development. Once upon a time, she would have been thrilled at the prospect of fighting Sorcha. Now, we know otherwise.
“In what way could keeping me in ignorance be construed as protection? God spare me from such protection, especially when it involves safeguarding my poor feminine sensibilities from life-saving information.”
“Society, it appears, is more accepting of a rumoured murderess than a ruined woman”
“For once, I relish the lack of emotion. Every pretence I’ve built around myself is perfectly intact”.
Aileana Kameron – Karen Gillan (tall, ginger, Scottish and fierce)
Kiaran MacKay – Gerard Butler (hot, brooding and Scottish)
Gavin Galloway – Richard Madden (blonde, Scottish, brave and sad)
Catherine – Rosamund Pike
Sorcha – Hayley Atwell
You would enjoy “The Falconer” if you liked:
“The Fever series” by Karen Marie Moning
“Gemma Doyle Trilogy” by Libba Bray
“The Infernal Devices” by Cassandra Clare
“His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman