I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: The Falconer #1
Published by Chronicle Books in 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Steampunk, Young Adult
Source: the publisher
Reading Challenges: Once Upon a Time VIII
Buy the Book • Goodreads
The daughter of a marquess does not charge out of the 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.
-The Falconer, by Elizabeth May
Lady Aileana Kameron is a teenager living in a steampunk version of Scotland in the 1840s. On the night of her debut, Aileana watched as her mother was murdered by a faery. Determined never to feel so helpless again, Aileana spends her nights hunting and killing the fae, hoping to one day have her revenge. By day, she’s the very picture of propriety, and no one suspects her double life. That is, until the night a faery shows up at a ball.
Aileana is trapped between two worlds. At night, she revels in the thrill of the chase and delights in killing her prey, feeling their power wash over her. She uses her talent in engineering to craft glorious weapons and explosives. She must build her strength, because the strongest fae are about to escape their underground prison and wreak havoc on mankind. She’s the only one who can stop them.
But by day, Aileana’s father is trying to force her to get married and continuously tells her that her opinions don’t matter. She’s confined by the expectations of a woman of her social standing, and she dreads marriage because it will mean that her secret’s out. You see, fighting the fae is dangerous, and Aileana has earned her fair share of battle scars that will be impossible to explain away. The only reason she’s been able to keep her secret thus far is because there’s a pixie who lives in her closet and takes great joy in mending clothing.
One of the things that I love about this book is that the fae aren’t portrayed as cute or cuddly. They are nightmares, the monsters that children fear live under their beds. There’s nothing gentle or sparkly about them, and they have a thing for slitting throats and/or ripping people’s hearts out. The fact that Aileana can and does get hurt when fighting them makes them seem even more real. In a lot of fantasy novels, the heroes seem to have a knack for coming out unscathed, and while we root for them to do so, it can cheapen the effect that their enemies have.
Aileana knows on an intellectual level that she probably shouldn’t feel so much joy when killing the fae, and she wonders if that makes her a bad person. However, she considers her transformation into a killing machine to be an acceptable price to pay to get her revenge and to save the people she cares about. It’s interesting to see Aileana act so fearlessly in battle but then at the same time see her buckle under the rules that society places on her. She’s always worried about her reputation, and she can’t stand up to her father as he tries to push her into a life she doesn’t want. The contrast between the two sides of her makes it very clear just how restrictive women’s lives used to be and how easy it is to internalize societal values.
I nearly screamed when I got to the end of the book and realized that the sequel won’t be out for a year. I CAN’T WAIT THAT LONG DAMMIT!!!!
The Falconer has everything–explosions, angry fae, flying machines, and whiskey. It’s a must-read.