The Falconer is an interesting read: a unique, alternate universe Scotland, set during early Victorian times, featuring a strong willed heroine and a semi-mystical, somewhat steampunk, and very mannered milieu. While there is a lot of action and great world building, this does feel very much like a book stretched to create a trilogy: several characters feel tacked on and the story ends abruptly without really competing a definitive story arc.
Story: Lady Aileanna Kameron, the daughter of a Marquess in Scotland, has wealth, society, charm, beauty, and intelligence. But that is only a front – she is last in a line of female warriors who protect the humans against bloodthirsty fae. Juggling her duties at a debutante while still confronting the demonic creatures who killed her mohther, Aileanna lives each day for revenge. Aided by her mysterious fae trainer, Kieran, she uses her wits and intelligence to make creative weapons (guns, bombs, electrical devices) to help her destroy her enemies. But she will soon discover that it may not be enough when the seal between the faerie world and the human world begins to break down and things far worse are unleashed on an unsuspecting Edinburgh.
This is the first in a series and does an excellent job of combining romance, action, and Scottish lore into one cohesive story. Aileanna is quite driven and takes her hits and battle wounds then goes out again each night to kill more. What originally looked like a love triangle fortunately doesn’t materialize. This first book mostly sets up the backstory of Aileanna and the Fae Kieran as well as the deadly menace of the fae.
If this feels a bit stretched out to make a trilogy, it’s because a lot of the book is ‘monster of the week’ until the plot finally kicks in. I did enjoy the Victorian type balls contrasted with the gruesome battles – one minute dancing a scandalous waltz and the next sticking a knife in a Sluagh or blowing up a Redcap troll.
There’s a lot to like here – the writing is smooth and if Aileanna is a bit one dimensional, it does suit a girl driven by grief to avenge her mother’s gruesome murder. By the end of the book, we get to the very scary fae, the daoine sith (of which Kieran is a member), leading up to the abrupt anti-climax segue to the second book. There are moments of humor throughout and some really great characters. And a few surprises along the way as well.
The real strength of the story, however, is the interesting characters throughout. From an annoying pixie, to her old flame returned from school changed, to the mysterious Kieran, there’s something to like in each. The writing is smooth and the characters come to life, each distinct and helping set the time and place of the story.
This is the type of book that has a very broad appeal – a little something for everyone. I look forward to book two. Reviewed from an ARC.