The Falconer by Elizabeth May
My rating: 2 of 5 teacups
Goodreads members have differing opinions on what kind of rating is the hardest to write a review for. Some say it’s the ones they didn’t like – perhaps trying to keep a balance between their own subjective dislikes and the overall general standard of the book; some say it’s the all time favourites – how can you put that kind of book love into words? For others, myself included, it’s those annoying books that sit right in the middle. Those books that are okay. Fine. Overwhelmingly average. When they’re neither bad nor good, what do I say? For me, The Falconer is one of those books. I feel like I’ve read this book about fifty times before (okay, five or six but shh…) and I feel like I’ve written this very same review that many times as well.
If you’re new to fantasy, if you’re new to faeries in fantasy, there’s no real reason for you not to like this novel set in an alternative Edinburgh in the year 1844. It’s a little tame for my liking, occasionally almost edging towards the middle grade end of the age range, but I’m sure newcomers to the genre will find it more entertaining. But all I can see are the same recycled features: a female warrior protagonist who’s out for vengeance, an awkwardly forced romance, another love triangle, and a cliffhanger worthy of Moning’s Fever series. In fact, this book feels like an amalgamation of several I’ve read before. It’s like Shadow and Bone without the Darkling, Throne of Glass without the entertainment (or a fabulous sequel to make the first worth sitting through), and Darkfever without, like, everything I love about that series.
The writing is fairly good, though. With some more original material, I think I could find myself returning to see what the author writes in the future. I’ve just exhausted myself on this story line. But anyway. Here’s what’s happening in The Falconer: Lady Aileana Kameron is the daughter of the Marquess of Douglas in Scotland. She was blissfully enjoying upper class life and social events until a faery murdered her mother and she became a hunter. In secret, she slays faery after faery, hoping to one day come face to face with the faery who murdered her mother and quench the need for revenge that is burning inside her. On top of that, drama ensues when her father returns and demands she choose a husband. Other possible suitors aside, Aileana is torn between her fae ally – Kiaran – and her old crush – Gavin – who has recently returned to Edinburgh.
I will say that I’m glad the author included nasty, evil faeries. While there is obviously some faery romanticization with Kiaran, the faeries in this novel tend to be the vicious, blood-thirsty kind (perfect, in my opinion). But I think there is a lot of untapped potential in this story and a bit of tweaking could have made it a more original and engaging tale. For one thing, it actually took me a while to realise that this is supposed to be a steampunk novel, those elements of it were so subtle that I didn’t even notice them at first. I’m really enthusiastic about the new steampunk genre because it combines so many different things that I love, but I find myself being frequently disappointed by the lack of it in books that promise so much. Don’t be afraid to go all out, I say! I want machines! I want old times! I want that magical blend of science fiction and historical! …please?
Afterthought: I compared this book to many others and I remember noting to myself several times that it seemed loosely similar to the Fever series. But Khanh did a fantastic (and shocking) breakdown of the similarities between this and Faefever in her review. Wow. Enough said.