The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May (#2 The Falconer)
The Vanishing Throne is the second in the Falconer series by Elizabeth May, a series that brings to us a story including the fae, a little romance and a combination of period drama and steampunk. Whilst I had the odd irritation here and there these were only slight niggles that didn’t spoil my enjoyment of this book – although, that ending! (more later). It has a different feel than the first, a lot more dark and moody as we learn more of the fae and their history and in particular the role they’ve previously played with humankind.
Please be aware that being the second book in series this review may contain spoilers for the first book.
Basically, as a recap from the first you will no doubt recall that Aileana (or Kam as she’s more commonly known) was attempting to keep closed a portal that kept the majority of the fae world separate from humankind. Unfortunately the attempt did not succeed and at the same time Kam fell through the portal and became the prisoner of Lonnrach. Now, I don’t really want to give away too much about the plot or the motivations that underpin the story but I think I can safely say that Lonnrach is searching for something and he believes that Kam may hold the key. This in turn means he needs to keep her alive – although her existence is a dark and painful one full of guilt and torture. The opening chapters are undoubtedly full of despair and anguish. Kam is overwhelmed by what she perceives as her own failure to secure the portal and on top of that the situation she now finds herself in feels desperately hopeless.
Again, I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that Kam, with the assistance of an unexpected ally, manages to escape from Lonnrach. Of course this isn’t a moment of joy as the world she returns to is no longer recognisable. The fae have indeed wrought massive destruction and death upon an unsuspecting world. There are thankfully some human survivors and they are in hiding, living in a magical fae city with a fragile truce in place. And, of course, Lonnrach is still in pursuit of Kam. He’s not about to give up his dreams for power and he’s using everything in his arsenal to secure success. So, a precarious position for Kam, and even more so in terms of the people around her whose lives will be devastated again if Lonnrach finds their hiding place. The only hope is for Kam to awaken her falconer powers and unlock her full potential.
This story feels very different from The Falconer, and not in a bad way, whereas book one brought to us an alternative period drama with strong steampunk elements the Vanishing Throne truly highlights the role of the fae within that world. I really enjoyed the history that is woven into the story, the difference between the seelie and unseelie courts and the fighting and politics that drive their lives.
In terms of characters I really enjoyed the return of Derek – he’s an odd honey guzzling pixie who helps to alleviate the mood with his cheekiness. We’re also introduced to Aithnne, Kiaran’s sister. I loved Aithnne, she has craziness aplenty and she’s a dynamic force to be reckoned with. Kiaran and Kam – well, in a way I felt like their characters took something of a back seat somehow. That probably sounds a little bit harsh which isn’t really intended but I suppose put simply in the first book Kiaran and Kam took quite positive action and were out in the field fighting the good fight whereas in this book apart from the fact that they are central to the plot they don’t seem to have as much of the action. Kiaran seems to take a back step to his sister Aithnne (which wasn’t a bad thing) and actually so does Kam to a certain extent – well, at least until the latter chapters. The romantic element to the story progresses a little with Kiaran coming to terms with his feelings – and more to the point how to express them – and Kam coming to terms with Kiaran’s past life.
In terms of my niggles, well these were just little things as the story progressed. For example when Kam originally escapes from Lonnrach it felt like she was constantly slowing things down, I guess I wanted to feel her urgency and anxiety to be away from the place much more than the need to talk about other things. Or the Mortairs, which seem to be a formidable weapon used by Lonnrach. When we encountered the first Mortair it was indeed a terrible foe – fast, strong and highly destructive with a weapon that once engaged seemed to be able to lay waste to a vast swathe of land – and yet later in the book it seemed like there was almost an army of these same weapons and yet they almost seemed ineffective by comparison.
But, I think the biggest niggle has to be the ending. Another cliffhanger to contend with and one that wasn’t just simply a cliffhanger but almost an unexpected cut off point. I felt like one minute I was reading and then I just wasn’t. Okay, it might not have ended mid sentence but it did feel like an odd or rather abrupt way to conclude.
That being said this was a fast and enjoyable read. In terms of being the second book I think it manages to avoid middle book syndrome by becoming not so much a continuation of the previous story so much as a diversion or change in tack. On the whole a satisfactory read. I look forward to seeing how the author concludes this one. At the back of my mind I can’t really foresee a happy ending but you never know.
I received a copy courtesy of the publisher for which my thanks. The above is my own opinion.