The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Gollancz, 317pp standard paperback, £8.99 cover price
£5.99 on Kindle (Jan 2016)
Reviewed by Alex Bardy (Twitter: @mangozoid)
There’s a lot to be said for faeries being the subject of so many books nowadays, but it’s refreshing (for me at least – it’s not my usual choice of reading matter), to read Elizabeth May’s take on things…
Set in a steampunk-esque Edinburgh, Lady Aileana Kameron is a faery-hunter who prowls the streets at night on the hunt for anything remotely faery-like. Her fellow faery-hunter is Kiaran, a faerie-lord of sorts who is rather adept at this kind of thing and has taught her much in a short space of time. Alas, he is also not to be trusted, totally self-serving, and has a masterplan of his own, something Aileana spends a large part of the story trying to fathom with futile results. He’s also dead sexy with a glimmering ability that can enchant nigh-on anybody, something he thankfully doesn’t use on our heroine, otherwise we’d probably have a whole different story (and genre) to contend with. Oh, and she also has a pixie helper in the form of Derrick, a tiny, wonderful little character that resides in her dressing room and adores honey, with the added benefit that he can help to ‘hide’ her from the faery realm when he’s in the vicinity.
As a debutante who has somehow been partially blamed and thus ‘tainted’ by the death of her mother at the hands of a particularly nasty strain of faery-kind, Aileana is considered a lost soul even by her own father, who wants nothing more than to marry her off to any male aristocrat who might take her off his hands. You can probably guess there’s a whole lot of different rules of etiquette and decorum that Aileana is expected to follow to maintain the veneer of acceptability among such aristocratic nonsense, but she’s evidently not content within herself unless dealing out death to faeries with her lightning gun and other self-designed inventive weaponry. Determined to avenge the death of her mother, Aileana is on a mission, and everything else is frankly just getting in the way and slowing her down.
Although I’ve been a tad flippant with the plot above, this is actually a very good story, is well told, light-hearted in places, full to bursting with top-notch action sequences, and continually demonstrates a good eye for visual storytelling – hardly surprising given the author is already highly respected for her photographic work.
So… we have lightning guns, flying ‘thopters, artfully constructed incendiary devices galore, and more than a few kickass moves and secret blades to be getting on with… What we also have here is the start of an awesome trilogy, a violent world of nasty faeries (well most of ‘em are), and some excellent descriptive writing. There’s even a short Bestiary at the back – supposedly Aileana’s personal notes about the fae she’s encountered, but it includes some mischievous amendments from Derrick which give a sense of whimsy and playfulness to the whole thing. A nice touch, I thought.
The second volume is also out, The Vanishing Throne, with the third, The Fallen Kingdom, due out next year (2017).