She’s a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title—and drop-dead beauty.
She’s a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. she’s leading a double life: She has a rare ability to sense the sìthíchean—the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans—and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.
She’s a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons—from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols—ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.
She’s a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with a gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother’s murder—but she’ll have to save the world first.
The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy, this electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read.
Rating: 3.0 stars.
Gorgeous YA heroine and gorgeous characters? Check.
Even more gorgeous (and brooding) love interest? Check.
Heart filled with vengeance? Keeps on calling herself angry and vicious? Check..
Loud, annoying sidekick (for comic relief purposes, obviously)? QUADRUPLE CHECK.
Obviously, the premise of the book isn’t entirely unique, and has been done many many times in the history of YA fantasy. However, the story is still entertaining enough, a delicious combination of murder and mystery that keeps the readers on their toes the entire time.
Aileana Kameron, heiress-slash-vengeful-warrior, navigates the dangerous battles of the Faerie world and the equally dangerous life of a debutante with spunk and passion. Hunted turned hunter, Aileana turns up her nose at the frivolous dresses of her past and throws herself into the deadly Faerie world to avenge the death of her mother.
The daughter of a marquess does not charge out of a ballroom. The daughter of a marquess does not abandon her partner in the middle of a dance.
The daughter of a marquess does not hunt faeries.
I commend the author for making Aileana so fearless– she is truly not afraid to get her hands dirty and slice some faery throats. I also loved the author’s combination of high society- the dresses, the dances, the etiquette- and brutal killings.
The blurb promised lots of action (and murder) and true to its word, probably about half the book is composed of battle scenes. Without a doubt, Elizabeth May’s fight scenes were glorious and gorgeously described. Let me tell you: she makes killing sound like an art. Just look:
I feel. I feel. Strong and untouchable and capable. An exquisite glow of joy fills me up and extinguishes my anger. For this instant, I am whole again. I am not broken or empty. The shadow-self inside me that compels me to kill is silent. I am unburdened. I am complete.
Elizabeth May also wove in the steampunk elements smoothly and artfully, though I would have loved to hear more about that particular aspect of the world. I especially loved how the author incorporated Scottish slang and alluded to historical events (that bit about Queen Victoria wearing a white wedding dress left me dying!).
The romance, however, pales in comparison to the vivid world-building. Aileana’s relationship with her main love interest, Kiaran MacKay, and her brief flirtation with her best friend’s older brother, Gavin, didn’t click with me. Their budding romance lacks depth. But perhaps this is just a matter of personal taste. Usually, my favorite part of any relationship, whether it be romantic or platonic, is the time and thought that goes into building trust between the characters- their dialogue, their interactions, how they develop together over time.
The author keeps on bringing up the amount of time Aileana and Kiaran have spent training together and getting “closer” (or as close as a cold-hearted faery can get to a human), making the reader feel as if she has missed a crucial turning point in their relationship. All they seem to do together is fight faeries, beat each other up, and reflect miserably upon their impending deaths.
I have absolutely nothing against brooding, alpha-male love interests that aren’t abusive, overly aggressive, or possessive. (Who am I kidding I usually hate alpha-male characters). But for some reason, I just couldn’t CONNECT to Kiaran… or can I just call him MacKay because that’s literally what Ailena calls him all the time. Nothing in his personality made him truly “come alive”; nothing he said made me want to read more about him. And maybe it’s because this is just the first book in the series- maybe he still has a lot of developing to do.
But at this point, while Aileana’s voice is fresh and passionate, Kiaran seems like the reincarnation of the cold-hearted, cold-blooded, alpha-male prince that I have read about far too often about in every YA fantasy ever.
Gavin, too, is unrealistically perfect; the far-too-convenient solution to Aileana’s inability to see faeries without her handy-dandy thistle. And he just happens to be her childhood crush and her best friend’s wealthy older brother! But obviously, as this is a YA fantasy novel, I didn’t come looking for “realistic”, so this wasn’t much of a problem.
I was left unsure if the author meant to create an extremely awkward love triangle, or if I was reading much too into it and Kiaran was the only love interest. Unlike Aileana, Kiaran does not seem to undergo any significant character development- and again, this is probably because The Falconer is merely the first book. (But Aileana DOES do a lot of developing regarding Kiaran’s chiseled body and beautiful face, which she describes quite often.)
On that note, I would have liked to see more development of Catherine and Ailena’s friendship. Catherine is the only female friend in Aileana’s life, as Aileana turns her nose up at all the other debutantes who apparently are all vapid and gossiping and back-stabbing and fake. Catherine is honestly so pure and kind at heart and I wanted to hug her every time she came out.
Despite this, I enjoyed the lighthearted dialogue between the characters that provided a nice balance to the endless battle scenes.Obviously Derrick’s character was meant as comic relief, but he was still hilarious. I know it seems like I disliked it, considering the fact that I just devoted a couple of paragraphs to talking about just how much I hated the romance, but really, I enjoyed it a lot- this is worth the read just for its wittiness.
“For heaven’s sake,” I say, “will you please sip the tea so I don’t have to pour you another cup every five minutes?”
“We’re facing an apocalypse,” he replies. “There is not enough tea in the world to calm me.
I also find the author’s writing style, which is packed full of imagery, exquisite. The story itself never drags, and ends on a mind-boggling cliffhanger that leaves me eager to crack open the next book to see what happens next. Question: how has nobody discovered Aileana’s antics? I am sure it must be difficult to hide bloodstained dresses and someone must have seen or heard her tromping around at night murdering faeries.
I am deeply suspicious that the words “Crimson suits you best” are going to be playing in my head as I attempt to fall asleep tonight.
[for reference: edited image]
Overall, I would recommend this to fans of YA fantasy fiction with strong, passionate, tea-sipping heroines who kill stuff and generally kick butt.
I received this copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.