Review: The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

Monday, November 28, 2016
Title: The Vanishing Throne
Author: Elizabeth May
Genre: historical fiction, steampunk, supernatural
Series: The Falconer #2
Pages: 458
Published: June 2016
Source: purchased
Rating: 4.5/5

Everything she loved is gone.

Trapped. Aileana Kameron, the Falconer, disappeared through the fae portal she was trying to close forever. Now she wakes in an alien world of mirrors, magic, and deception—a prisoner of the evil fae Lonnrach, who has a desperate and deadly plan for his new captive.

Tortured. Time after agonizing time Lonnrach steals Aileana’s memories, searching for knowledge to save his world. Just when she’s about to lose all hope, Aileana is rescued by an unexpected ally and returns home, only to confront a terrifying truth. The city of Edinburgh is now an unrecognizable wasteland. And Aileana knows the devastation is all her fault.

Transformed. The few human survivors are living in an underground colony, in an uneasy truce with a remnant of the fae. It is a fragile alliance, but an even greater danger awaits: the human and fae worlds may disappear forever. Only Aileana can save both worlds, but in order to do so she must awaken her latent Falconer powers. And the price of doing so might be her life…

Main character and flawed person, Aileana Kameron has faced all kinds of foes in her journey to become the Falconer; a journey that is far from over. She's fought society itself and monsters of all kinds to save the world and has come out the worse for it. The Vanishing Throne picks up right where book one left off and is darker than its predecessor, which wasn't exactly a lighthearted fantasy. It is a harsh and unpredictable book, chronicling the next stage of Elizabeth May's fae/steampunk trilogy. Grim in tone and darker in plot, Aileana is up against more than just the evil Lonnrach and the treacherous Sorcha as the stakes are renewed at an even deeper cost.

Aileana has always had to wrestle personal demons as well as those of the fae kind, first in in her march for vengeance/self-forgiveness and again here in her rush to protect in the fallout. Her past is a hard one, with few friends and even less family around and willing to support her. That's why the few companions she does hold dear matter so much to her: especially Catherine, Derek, and Kiaran. Aileana would go to impossible lengths to save those she loves and it's one of her best and worst qualities. The relationships between the intertwined group of characters grow and evolve -- and not always in a positive manner. Actions taken in The Falconer have consequences and even those Aileana loves the most will feel their bonds tested in the The Vanishing Throne

As I was before, I remain impressed and intrigued by the version of the world Elizabeth May is creating and revealing with her trilogy. The history and lore of the fairy folk in Scotland is well-known, but the author is a clever and original one and it shows. This take on the fae is filled with an intelligent menace and anger, with a few well-loved exceptions. The worldbuilding is expanded here, as is the general history of the fae, and how the Falconer line came to be. May keeps a lot of elements in play while slowly unspooling her story, but the narrative is strong and engaging. The spin on fairy mythology that the author has created is unique and creates more interest in and possibilities for Aileana's story.

The stakes are higher for Aileana in The Vanishing Throne than she ever imagined they would be in The Falconer; the world is more complicated and the story more rich. Her own life has irrevocably changed, her friends and allies are scattered from her, and her world is in grave and present danger. Faced with these odds, Aileana doesn't give in; she still fights. Her story isn't completely action-packed battle scenes, but her mental struggles are as important as the brawls she wages against Lonnrach and his cronies. May shows the psychological damage wrought by violence, revenge, and torture in an honest and real way, without making Aileana feel or be defined as a victim.

The romance between Aileana and Kiaran deepens throughout the novel, but like everything else, it is tested. Both of these headstrong characters change and evolve in their fight against Lonnrach, and a central conflict between the two of them, given more life here than before, is long in coming and undeniable in its nature. Kiaran's past/present as the Unseelie King is a new challenge for their relationship. That nailbiting cliffhanger ends The Vanishing Throne and is  one of many problems for Aileana to tackle in the forthcoming and final book in the trilogy, The Fallen Kingdom.

Additional-must-be-mentioned faves: Aithinne, kissing scenes, Derek on honey.

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