Book Review: The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

vanishing throne

My review for Book 1 of this series can be found here.

Favourite quotes

“The truth is, memories weigh a great deal. Each one bends your bones a little more until the heft of them wears you down. Now I know that some scars go so deep that they never fade”.

“Truth is never as pretty as a lie. It’s never as appealing. It’s a sword to the gut, the thing that reminds us that some people aren’t who we thought they are. Truth forces us to confront the ugliest parts of the people we love”.

“Don’t look at me for ideas. I just got to keep my body parts”.

 

Aileana Kameron has made a grave mistake, and now the faeries have been released and are wreaking havoc upon Scotland. She doesn’t know how long the assault on Edinburgh has been going on for – days, weeks, months, years have no meaning in Sith-bhruth, where she is trapped and kept prisoner by Lonnrach. Since Aileana is a Falconer – the last representative of a race that kills faeries – and Lonnrach is a baobhan sith, i.e. brother of the very same faerie that killed Aileana’s mother, their relationship is the opposite of pleasant. What Lonnrach puts her through in order to find what he needs is nearly impossible to bear, and it changes Aileana forever. These changes become clear when she escapes Lonnrach with the help of another badass lady and sees what has become of Scotland and her friends. The remaining people of Scotland have formed a fragile alliance with the fae in order to survive, but both the human world and the fae world are on the brink of destruction. The last remaining Falconer can get the solution to saving the worlds, but at a grave cost. Is Aileana ready to – literally – die to save the realms? Or is she still consumed by vengeance?

 

I waited for “The Vanishing Throne” pretty much since the moment I closed the very last page of “The Falconer” in the summer of 2014. I wanted to know more about Aileana’s world, and I wanted to see more badassery, but at the same time, I was anxious about “the second book syndrome”. Fortunately, “The Vanishing Throne” is just as good as “The Falconer” and in some aspects, it even surpasses it. In my review of “The Falconer” I mentioned that I wasn’t thrilled with the cliffhanger, but book 2 starts right after book 1 ends, which worked really well and made for a smooth transition. We don’t see Kiaran and other lovable characters from book 1 for a while – the first part is Aileana-centric, and provides a lot of material for character development, that’s written in a very compelling way. This part also provides us with some insight into the fae magic, which is quite disturbing. The Fae are generally pretty creepy creatures, I find, and I was glad to see that the author doesn’t romanticise them like many other fantasy authors I read. The bone-chilling history of the kingdoms of Seelie and Unseelie that’s revealed throughout the book just adds to the “creepy” factor. We also learn more about the world in which the series is set, which is what I was hoping would happen in this installment.

Aileana Kameron is the best part of “The Vanishing Throne” – just like “The Falconer”. Her development is central to the novel, as it was in book 1. If in book 1 she was primarily driven by revenge for her mother’s death, book 2 shows us that Aileana’s actions that involve killing faeries are no longer about avenging her mother’s murder – she is determined to save the world, even if it costs her her own life. She is not perfect – she feels like a real person, with strengths and flaws, and the emotions she experiences throughout the book are felt by the reader, even when the author doesn’t name them. We all know that a great author shows but doesn’t tell, and May has done the job perfectly in “The Vanishing Throne” when it came to the reader getting to know the Aileana that has gone through what few people have. The writing in “The Vanishing Throne” is even better than in “The Falconer” – as I pointed out, May’s way with words has genuinely made Aileana Kameron a stand-out. The setting in book 2 is much more sinister than in book 1 – there are fewer dances and no society functions, but a lot more blood, death and torture. The blend of the fae and human realms is very vivid, and the reader has an excellent picture of the world created by the author and inspired by the Scottish folklore in their head.

“The Vanishing Throne” is NOT a happy book. “The Falconer” wasn’t either, but the second installment is much darker, and Derrick’s jokes unfortunately bring less relief when the characters know that the world is ending. The romance between Aileana and Kiaran is more interesting than it was in the first book, but after finishing the book, I felt that there was even less hope for them than after Aileana was pulled under into Sith-bhruth at the end of “The Falconer”. The ending of book 2 is less of a cliffhanger than that of book 1, but it is nonetheless quite shocking and makes you yearn for book 3, which unfortunately doesn’t come out until 2017. I can wait, but it’ll be hard! My rating of “The Vanishing Throne” is 7.5/10.

 

Recommendations:

You might like “The Falconer” series if you liked:

“The Infernal Devices” by Cassandra Clare (and “Shadowhunters” TV series)

“Fever” series by Karen Marie Moning

“Throne of Glass” series by Sarah J Maas

 

Have you read “The Falconer” series? What are your favourite books set in Scotland? Do let me know in the comments! 🙂

Book Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

falconer

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?

Wrong.

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.

 

Favourite quotes

“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”. 

 

Dreamcast

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

 

Recommendations

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