Series: The Falconer #1
on May 6, 2014
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Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.
Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844
Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.
Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.
But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?
Being the fantasy loving gals that we are, Kate and I both devoured this one last month. And now here we are to bring our thoughts to you! I’m not normally a huge fan of steampunk or faery stories, but Kate likes both. We ended up enjoying this one just the same, though. Intriguing! Do join us as we discuss the reasons why.
Kim: I rather enjoyed this one. I don’t often go for steampunk, and I really don’t care for faery stories so the fact that I liked this as much as I did should go to show for something. I mean, there are mechanical spiders that will stitch you up. That’s fucking awesome.
Kate: I tend to like steampunk as a general rule–not, like, the cosplay or whatever, because it seems exhausting, but I love being able to read historically-set novels that can contain modern conveniences. Sometimes when I’m reading straight historical novels it’s like, Jesus Christ, invent a fucking cell phone already. I would categorize Falconer as steampunk-lite. It doesn’t have enough of those elements to put off the people who get irritated by them.
Kim: The combination of Scottish historical plus fantasy plus I heard there was a really hot boy had me so intrigued. I was willing to go along with the fae thing. Maybe because it was because this was like urban historical fantasy and I only don’t like fae stories when they’re modern urban fantasy? I don’t know. Well, anyway, I ended up really enjoying the fae aspects. I appreciated the sort of zoological approach to introducing readers to the various fae species usually delivered in the midst of battle. It worked for me.
Kate: I like all types of stories about the fae. I’m not picky. God, am I ever not picky when it comes to faery stories. It’s more fun when they’re set in Scotland, though, because these types of stories are so steeped in that culture.
Kim: I was actually really drawn to Aileana’s darkness. She is pretty much made of vengeance and bitterness and I loved it. At first I was a biiiit put off by it but I decided to just trust that there was a reason for her fervor (and there was!). After that I was all in. I thought that the writing virtually feasted on her bloodlust and I reveled in it as well. Hmm perhaps I’m a bit scary.
Kate: Oh, yeah, I loved her bloodlust. It was a lot of fun, and if it hadn’t worked, this book would have been really lame. The fight scenes, in particular, were done really well.
Kim: I lovvvvvvvved the action scenes. I think the action was really my favorite part about this book. The scenes were so fun and I enjoyed Aileana’s badassery.
Kate: I loved the gorgeous, fancy gowns, and the obsessive way Derrick repaired Aileana’s when she destroyed them. That stuff was such a fun reminder of the complications of being a wealthy lady and a badass warrior.
Kim: Ahhh! How did I forget the gowns? I think Wendy has a GoodReads shelf called “costume fiction” and that’s just perfect.
Kate: Wendy’s GoodReads shelves are incredible. I mean. Just incredible.
Kim: I also enjoyed the social commentary. I mean, I suppose I’d be very disappointed if I was reading a book about a woman in 19th century British society who was not dissatisfied with her limited position. But still. Perhaps what’s especially nice is that Aileana puts her money where her mouth is. She wants to be fiercely independent and she does her damnedest to try and achieve that.
Kate: Yeah, I read a lot (A LOT) of historical romance, and it kind of bums me out when they skirt around the fact that women were the property of their fathers until they were sold into marriage, at which point they became the property of their husbands. This book doesn’t shy away from that, and it really adds to Aileana’s desperation and bitterness.
Kim: I did find it interesting that this takes place in the space of about a week. The story is so small and self contained. You’re sort of just dropped into this ongoing situation where Aileana has been battling faeries with a vengeance for the past year. All of her relationships with other characters are already well established which didn’t bother me but I can see it being an obstacle for some readers.
Kate: The way the relationships were established only bothered me in a few instances. I was really bothered by Kiaran’s characterization. Like, really bothered by it. Because of the one-week thing. So we meet him and he’s all reluctantly in love with Aileana or whatever, and we’re told that in the past he was mean and showed her no mercy or whatever, but we don’t get to see the change happen. “Show, don’t tell” is a cliche for a reason. I wish we’d gotten to experience the hard-hearted, cold, bajillion-year-old fae warrior get worn down by Aileana’s strength.
Kim: You’ve laid it out perfectly. My very, very favorite romances are the “stoic guy gets worn down by heroine’s sheer awesome” type. This had so much potential to be a favorite for me that it hurts.
Kate: YES. YES YES YES. Experiencing the change is what makes it so rewarding.
Kim: I wish some of the secondary relationships were a bit more developed. I can barely remember her best friend’s personality less than two weeks after finishing this book. Give me the strong female friendship always!! I really did love Derrick, though. He was such doll, wasn’t he?
Kate: Oh, I very much liked Catherine. I remember her vividly. I thought she was really lovely, and her loyalty to Aileana despite her terrible reputation and behavior in public warmed my heart–but then, Catherine’s a lot like a few of my childhood friends, so I have a soft spot for the stable, proper sidekick. We can’t all be hellions. I liked the maid a lot, too.
Kim: This is a minor point, but I would have appreciated more Scottish-ness. I guess this ties in with how self contained the story is. I mean, I definitely got the atmospheric, cobble stone, magical, steampunk vibe. I just wish it had felt more Scottish than the peppering of “aye” for “yes” throughout the story. Did this bother you or am I being picky?
Kate: It didn’t bother me because I just accepted it as a part of the writer’s voice. It drives me freaking bananas when books are written with heavy brogue or southern twang or whatever (do not get me started on the fucking Fever and Outlander series); I’d much rather the author erred on the side of underplaying that stuff if she doesn’t feel she can do it well.
Kim: I also was really, really bummed that I didn’t love this romance as much as I wanted to. It’s definitely a slow burn and never takes over the plot or the character’s heads. But I was really bothered by how difficult Kiaran was to read. I need less brooding and less secretiveness in my fictional crushes. I’m also not a fan of the “I will withhold information to protect you because I obviously know better than you” love interest which is what Kiaran does. I didn’t really start to feel the connection between them until much later in the book when it seemed a bit sudden. It came too late for me to really get into.
Kate: Yeah… I’m pretty done with stories where, like, a 3,000-year-old dude is super in love with a teenage girl. When I was a teenager, I thought the dudes in their TWENTIES who hit on my were creepy and immature; I can’t imagine what a loser an immortal dude would have to be to relate emotionally/romantically to a child. I know that people died younger back then, so everything was expedited, but this book isn’t really historically accurate enough to get away with someone younger than 20 being a viable love interest for someone so old. And Aileana really does feel like a modern teenager. And, as you know, my husband is twelve years my senior, so I’m pretty forgiving of age differences generally.
Kim: Another thing that grated was the constant reflections on how beautiful and inhumanly gorgeous Kiaran is to Aileana. Yeah, I get that he is, and it’s because he’s fae and isn’t human and part of being sithichean is being utterly beautiful. But the constant repetition of those thoughts got on my nerves. And it’s a shame, because I thought there were some really great moments of delicious, delicious tension between the two. As well as moments that genuinely moved me. This romance had all the potential to be a fave. I just couldn’t get over my above mentioned problems.
Kate: Yeah, I kind of preferred the best-friend’s-big-brother line, romance-wise, honestly. I get the appeal of how gorgeous Kiaran is, and that part of the fantasy is that Aileana considers herself maybe a bit of an ugly duckling (as do most teenage girls), but it was a bit much.
Kate: How did you feel about Gavin? I kind of adored him. He really steps the fuck up and does some scary things out of concern for Aileana, and while he’s not a badass warrior like Kiaran, he is, I think, a good match for someone as strong as she is. Why does she have to have a love interest who can show her up every step of the way? Sigh. I am clearly taking my frustration with tropes out on this one poor book.
Kim: I liked Gavin quite a lot! I really didn’t feel any chemistry between him and Aileana, though. In many ways, Gavin’s bravery means even more because he is not an immortal fae warrior. He’s just a regular dude with an almost useless ability in a really scary situation. And he comes through in a big way. I get the appeal.
Kate: I think part of why I liked him him so much was that I didn’t care for Kiaran. Gavin isn’t really my type, otherwise. But he’s soooooo brave.
Kim: The cliffhanger ending. I wasn’t as annoyed as I thought I would be but that might have been because I’d been well warned that it was coming. An ending that abrupt will usually bother me tremendously.
Kate: Cliffhangers bother me because I read over 300 books a year, so they just don’t WORK on me. Does that make sense? If the story cuts off in the middle of what’s happening, I forget about it within a couple of weeks and don’t feel any anxiety to get the new book when it’s published. And then when I get the new book, I’m confused about what’s happening because the previous story didn’t end in a logical place. This one would have bothered me a lot if I’d shipped this ship hardcore, but I didn’t, so the ending was just kind of frustrating.
Kate: I feel like there must be more going on with Aileana’s father. I hope we see another side of him as the series progresses.
Kim: Ohhh I hadn’t even thought of this but I hope so! He definitely knows more than he’s let on so far. Now I’m intrigued. You’ve very sharp eyes for these things so you’re probably right.
Kate: I hope I’m right, because he’s so deliciously terrible! I love when I hate characters (as long as they’re not, like, rapists) and then I find out that they had a deeper motivation.
Kim: 3.5 for me. A fierce and totally murderous heroine stalking the streets of 19th century steampunk Scotland killing off various fae turns out to be as fun as it sounds. I liked that we came at this from different ends of the steampunk and fae spectrums but ended up enjoying this story equally. I’m definitely interested in Book 2 and my fingers are crossed so hard that maybe, just maybe, the issues I had with the romance get addressed.
Kate: A solid 3.5 that could go up to a 4 based on the next book. I wish the romance had worked for me, but the fighting and the friendships and the gentle steampunk and the faery war and the Scotland were really delightful. I need Book 2, like, yesterday.
Did you read this one? Have we been useful if not? Are we tragically and inescapably wrong? We’d love to hear your thoughts!