The Falconer is set in an alternate, steampunk-inspired version of Victorian Edinburgh, in which ornithopters and mechanical tea-making machines (Mrs Doyle from Father Ted would loathe this world!) are commonplace. After Aileana Kameron’s mother is killed by a faery, she trains and hunts down faeries in the hopes of one day killing her mother’s murderer and getting her revenge.
I tore through this book, reading the entire thing in less than a day. That alone should tell you how much I enjoyed it. My biggest gripe was the ending; it was a total cliffhanger, which I hate as I feel cheated of resolution.
Other than that, though I loved this book. Aileana has a distinct voice as narrator, using Scots words like “bairn” and “wee”, which befit a tale not only set in Scotland but steeped in Scottish folklore. She’s also terribly sarcastic, which I love, as in this exchange with her maid:
‘Did you have a splendid time at the assembly?’ she asks.
Oh, aye. Killed a faery. My fifth this week.
I clear my throat. ‘Quite.’
I loved the sheer Scottishness of this novel. It’s not overt in any way, but it comes out not just in the language but in the dances done at balls and the attitude towards tea (one can never have too much in a crisis). It’s clear on every page that the narrator, and the author, are Scottish. There aren’t many novels with the same kind of understated Scottish flavour; the only other ones to come to mind are Aline Templeton’s excellent DI Marjory Fleming series (set in present-day Galloway) and Shirley MacKay’s equally excellent Huw Cullen mysteries (set in 16th-century St Andrews and Edinburgh).
That being said, although the world of the story was undeniably Scottish, with its strathspeys and faeries, it sometimes felt like there was a bit too much. The steampunk elements, while vital to the action of the story (one scene involves escaping faeries in an ornithopter, for instance), didn’t really seem to meld with the supernatural elements and as a result the world felt a bit disjointed at times, as though the author couldn’t decide if she wanted to write a steampunk story or a faery story. I hope this is one of those instances where two apparently independent elements are revealed to be more closely entwined in later books, as in spite of this the world is utterly captivating, and I loved the way the story plays the stifling propriety of upper class society against the eerie danger of the fae.
Another thing I loved about this novel was the protagonist. Aileana is precisely my kind of protagonist: a woman who is skilled at what she does but beneath the surface struggling with herself. Wracked with guilt over her mother’s death, Aileana does not train to protect herself, but to wreak vengeance upon faeries, and sometimes the way she revels in the hunt scares even her. The way she hides her battles with faeries from her human acquaintances is mirrored in the way she hides her doubts from herself and faery acquaintances by pushing herself harder.
This was seriously a 5-star read for me, and you should go check it out. Now.