Series: The Falconer #2
Published by Gollancz on November 19th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Steampunk, Paranormal, Faeries
My name is Lady Aileana Kameron.
First the fae murdered my mother. Then they destroyed my world.
Now I’m fighting for more than revenge.
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes it . . . to rejoin a world devastated by war.
The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers . . .
Ever since I fell in love with The Falconer almost two years ago, I’ve been anxious to read the sequel. Yeah, it took me a while to get to it, which I’m hitting myself for, but there. I read it. And it was awesome.
Arguably, The Vanishing Throne is very much a middle book. There is a fair share of action, and there are a lot of revelations that are driving the series to the next conflicts and battles. But it is kind of an in-between phase that is much more about character building. Aileana comes into this book and is thrust into traumatic events: she failed to save the world, and she’s taken and held captive in the faerie realm by Lonnrach. She comes out of it only to find the world in an apocalyptic state, ravaged by the war of the fae on the humans who stood no chance against these enemies they couldn’t even see coming.
Aileana has a lot of growth to go through in this book, so it’s understandable that the plot is a bit slower. She’s obviously feeling guilty about her failure, and she’s traumatized by the events with Lonnrach. When she meets up with humans again, she’s conflicted about her role and destiny as “the girl whose gift is chaos”. She’s playing catch up on the state of the world and has more than enough close scrapes with death. The book functions for a large part as her transition from feeling guilty and burdened by her role in this world to reinventing herself as someone who can stand up for the human race. It’s not the most dramatic character growth arc, and it is a tad slow, but it was touching and fitting. Aileana shows some vulnerable sides in this book, but it doesn’t make her any less strong. It makes her human, and her humanity is her strength.
However, if you dislike the trope commonly used in fantasy where characters die but are brought back to life or end up not really being dead after all, The Vanishing Throne can easily get your eyes rolling. I mean, it’s upfront about its use of the trope, for sure, and in the grand scheme of things, it can make sense as the “bringing back to life” thing is part of this faerie-invested world and does come with certain limitations. But at one particular point, a character is likened to a cat with nine lives and, well, it’s not a false comparison. The ending, while awesome, does feel the slightest bit cheap. If characters can keep coming back to live, it makes the stakes seem so much lower.
If you’re here for romance, you will be pleased though. Aileana and Kiaran are magic. Pure. Magic. Seriously, I ship them so hard. Their relationship is totally built on mutual admiration and respect, and though Aileana does get a little insecure about it now and then, it’s real. There are so many feelsy moments, with slightest touches, meaningful looks, foreheads touching, and the like… and there are extremely hot moments too. Meanwhile, the romance never overshadows the story, which can usually easily happen in the middle book of a series. So even if you’re not here for romance – it’s there if you want it, but not dominating the story.
Honestly, a lot of the plot this time around is just centered on world building. Though Aileana seemed to know a lot about the fae in the first book, that was nothing. This book really gets into the faerie realms, its history and the history of the Wild Hunt, Kiaran’s identity, more faerie species, Kiaran’s relationship with Sorcha (who you see a lot more of in this book), the origin of the Falconers, and the powers of the fae. It’s not exactly overwhelming, but it’s so much more than there was in the first book. It’s good that we’re getting more depth, but the two books are very different. Almost all the steampunk elements are gone now (considering the world is basically destroyed, I can understand that), and Aileana is working more with fae powers than inventing things. That is something I kind of missed.
But in the end, this book still kicks ass. I already cared so much for the characters – including the secondary characters who also realistically develop as a consequence of the war – and the romance, but the end of this book… woah. Elizabeth May knows how to write a good ending. Though I wish she would stop putting her characters’ lives on the line right at the end there. What a brutal cliffhanger…. Where is book 3?