Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Synopsis: Edinburgh, 1844. Beautiful Aileana Kameron only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. In fact, she’s spent the year since her mother died developing her ability to sense the presence of sìthichean, a faery race bent on slaughtering humans. She has a secret mission: to destroy the faery who murdered her mother. But when she learns she’s a Falconer, the last in a line of female warriors and the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity, her quest for revenge gets a whole lot more complicated.
Spoiler-free Review: When I first started this book it seemed like your run of the mill historical fiction filled with romance and witty banter- but then the killing began. Set in 1844 Edinburgh, this story does contain Victorian-era elements such as balls and stringent social expectations, but it is definitely not your typical historical fiction. It’s a world filled with evil faeries and exciting steampunk inventions. And Aileana, the protagonist, isn’t you average debutante either. She has recently witnessed the death of her mother and this has left her filled with a desire for retribution against the fae responsible.
Aileana is the type of strong female lead I love. She’s intelligent, witty, and kicks ass. However, she is not made out to be invincible, altruistic, or heroic. She’s not perfect and at times even fails. There’s a depth to her that feels real, not contrived or cliché. She relishes in vengeance- in killing. And although she may question whether she is a monster, she owns it. She’s determined in her goal, and creates steampunk-esque inventions of death to aid her endeavors.
But it takes more than a lust for killing and innovative weapons to defeat the fae (also called sìthichean) in this world. They are a formidable race that ranges from seemingly harmless pixies to the bloodsucking Baobhan Sith. Luckily, Aileana is not alone- introduce Kieran. The only thing I like more than tall, dark, and brooding is tall, dark, brooding AND fae. Kieran is dedicated to wiping out his kind and acts as Aileana’s mentor. He’s aloof and hard to read, but we do get rare glimpses of emotion. Glimpses that intrigue the reader as we are left pondering his motivations for most of the book.
Likewise, Aileana questions Kieren’s behaviors and past as she struggles with her growing feelings- feelings that come to conflict with her need for vengeance. And while romance may not be the main focus of the book, there is a sweet undercurrent. It’s a drawn out tension that makes your heart ache wondering what will happen next between the main characters.
However, as mentioned, this is not the main focus of the story. This book is action-packed with excellent character and relationship development, world-building, and witty repartee. All the characters are varied with distinct personalities, although some are more likeable than others.
One other thing worth mentioning is the writing. It’s amazing. I was shocked to find out this is Elizabeth May’s first novel. It doesn’t read like a new writer, rather someone who has already mastered their field. And it extends beyond just a keen grasp of the written word. The storyline intertwines perfectly with attention to detail and world-building that incorporates what seems like extensively researched fae folklore.
My one complaint is the ending. It isn’t just a cliffhanger- it’s abrupt. It literally ends mid-scene. I was confused and wondered if I had a faulty download at first. While this is an amazing book- I wouldn’t recommend reading this until you have the sequel, A Vanishing Throne, close at hand. (The Vanishing Throne is out June 21st, 2016 in the US. Currently available in the UK.)
Reviewed by: Pamela J.
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