Book Reviews, Historical YA, Paranormal

Steampunk + Alternate History + Scotland = Unusual Fae World // A Review

This is a book I got from Netgalley when The Falling Kingdom (book #3) was released back in 2017. I read it in December and really loved it! It helped me to break the hyped curse of November… Come check out what I loved…

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15791085The Falconer

The Falconer series #1
by Elizabeth May
Published May 6th 2014
by Chronicle Books

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Set in Scotland, 1844, a year ago Aileana, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was found standing over the dead body of her mother, covered in blood. Society believes she did the deed, but that her rank saved her from paying for the crime. The truth is a fae ripped out her mother’s heart. Now she’s training night after night, with Kiaran, a member of the fae himself. Confident in her skills she tracks and kills fae so that one day soon she can avenge her mother’s killer, hiding from her friends and father her double life.

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Scotland! Alternate History! Fae! Steampunk! Love Triangles! Forbidden Romance! Living a Double Life! Supernatural Battles! Cliffhangers!

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First Impression rating graphicFae stories are all about the details, this is because the fae world is pretty much established… i.e. the entire back history of the fae pretty much doesn’t change. Only the details do. In this rendition we are set in an alternate steampunk version of historical Scotland. Hidden in the shadows are the fae. The details of the world building all come together simply but work well together to create an unexpected and unusual version of the fae. There are some great characters that flesh out the story… Derrick the drunk honey loving tiny fae! Charlotte the innocent but complicit BFF! Gavin, the returned crush who can share the burden! I love fae. And if you love fae too then I’m pretty confident this is a series opener you will enjoy.

And a series opener it certainly is. The book ends on a massive cliffhanger that gives the story a feeling of incompleteness. This aside, what it is (setup for the rest of the series) it does well. The story is tight, centered around meeting Aileana and Kiaran and learning about the situation with the fae. Kiaran is a mystery we want to crack as its not clear why he’s helping train a human or hunt his own kind. And you feel for Aileana who can no longer fit in her world and lost her mother, the one person who was everything to her. The idea of a falconer who deal with the fae is an intriguing one and is a great central idea to direct the series.

Cover Design rating graphic A-A gorgeous cover that draws your eye immediately, especially if you enjoy a historical setting even a little bit. It gives a fantasy vibe plus you know this girl is a fighter. It practically SCREAMS to be picked up… What caused me to drop the rating a tad is the fact it doesn’t scream fae… in fact there is ZERO indication of supernatural leanings of any sort, so readers naturally drawn to those stories wouldn’t think to pick it up for that reason. I still think you’d want to check it out, but its a lost opportunity to slam dunk the target audience.

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How does Scotland, 1844, steampunk and fae work together for great world building?

Watercolor splot 2 Scotland provides a magical wild setting.

England during this time was a little more staid and developed. Scotland was considered more rugged and wild. Setting the story here allows there to be high society to influence Aileana and her life but also have a location where wild fae would perhaps be locked up and when freed roam around without causing an immediate panic.

Watercolor splot 6 The historical time period a feminist agenda.

This isn’t exactly a book for staunch feminists, but it does use the fact it’s set in 1844 to pit Aileana against the male chauvinism of the day. Women today whether you are a traditional sort or more modern one have to fight for their place in the world. And Aileana has to fight to be allowed to avenge her mother. She can’t be swayed by the priorities of her position, her sex or her society.

Watercolor splot 8 Steampunk adds the fire power.

It’s not really believable in the least that a human female can beat a male fae. Not only because of the racial differences but because of the differences in strength between the sexes. Adding steampunk though and a propensity to tinker with it is fun AND it allows Aileana the fire power to even the playing field, at least enough to be believable.

Watercolor splot 4 The fae brings the sex appeal.

The best thing to combat feminism is a gorgeous, hot, supernatural male. And who wants an easy sell?! So, of course, he’s a bit of an ass… Plus add in his role as your trainer and the one who has all the answers… he becomes this irritating draw that keeps sucking you in no matter how you try to escape! It’s fun and root worthy.

Overall rating graphic BlueRating Heart GreenRating Heart GoldRating Heart Green GrungeRating Heart Pink Purple

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My thoughts as a writer Typewriter Pink Purple Logo

Writing stars rating graphic

⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Authenticity
⋆ ⋆ ⭐⭐⭐ Writing Style
⋆ ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Plot & Pacing
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ World Building

If you take something that everyone already knows and put it in an world that is different from the norm then many times those stereotypes shine brightly. In the case of The Falconer the mix of the historical world with the steampunk really helped set apart Aileana and Kiaran’s story.

“With a sigh, I pop open the lid of my trunk and pull out my stitcher kit. I lie amid my scattered dresses and twist the key at the bottom of the box. The tiny mechanical spiders crawl across my chest and abdomen, mending my torn flesh. I close my eyes. I listen to their bodies move, the whisper of wee mechanical pieces interworking as tiny legs creep across my skin.”

And the fae with the steampunk is quite intriguing too…

“The dense mist clears to reveal a tall figure astride a steaming, muscled horse. A metal horse. Silver alloy with gold veins, the opposite of my armor, and beaten so thin that its organs are visible beneath. Shining metal bones and muscles of varying thickness glint in the moonlight. Everything is metal except for its heart—which is a real, fleshy organ that beats and pumps liquid gold through the horse’s veins.”

The battles were well developed and added legitimacy to the world in a way that details alone can’t do.

“I grip its fur, digging my fingers in. I know it’ll kill me as soon as it confirms who I am and I have to get it off. But the hound is too heavy, a good seventeen stone of solid weight on top of me. My corset, even loosely laced, is already restricting my breathing and the faery’s heavy body makes it worse. My heartbeat fills my ears, the rhythmic thump growing ever louder, louder. The cù sìth draws in one more breath, then opens its eyes and snarls. Now it knows who I am. What I am. Its teeth are pointed, sharp as blades at the tips. I hitch a breath, unable to move even if I wanted. The hound’s irises blaze a bright, burning red. Saliva drips onto my skin, those teeth scant inches from my flesh. My restraining hands digging into its neck are all that’s preventing it from tearing into me, and only barely at that.”

When we start a new fantasy series we want the world to stand apart from what we’ve read before. The details can do that and with this fae world it creates a great steampunk, alternate history, supernatural punch! Aileana and Kiaran take us on a wild, battle filled ride through that world and I’m anxious to follow them deeper into the Seelie and Unseelie territories…

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Do you mind a cliffhanger ending the 1st book of a series?!

I’m not a fan of cliffhanger endings as far as I believe the present plot should feel complete. I don’t mind though if its quite evident that the story will have some major stakes in the next book because of what happened in the present book. I want to want to read the sequel I just want to feel satisfied until the next book is released…

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Thanks for Reading XOXO




Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. It has not influenced my opinions.



14 thoughts on “Steampunk + Alternate History + Scotland = Unusual Fae World // A Review”

  1. Ah this sounds sooo good! To be honest what first drew me to it was indeed the cover… Absolutely gorgeous! But I had no idea it was about fae either… That is news to me hahaha
    I love that it has so many genres intertwined and they all work wonderfully. You’re right, it takes skill to take something already established and nicely rooted in and make it our own, so kudos to the author.
    Amazing review, Dani! ❤️

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