The Vanishing Throne

June 8, 2017
The Vanishing Throne Book Cover The Vanishing Throne
The Falconer, #2
Elizabeth May
Fantasy
Chronicle Books
June 21st, 2016
Hardback
458
Library
November 19th, 2015

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…

(via Goodreads)

This book is the second book in the trilogy The Falconer. My review contains minor marked spoilers for this book and for book one, The Falconer. My review of The Falconer can be found here.

 

OH MAN. This book begins very differently than I expected it to. I didn’t know what on earth I thought of it when I started, but after fifty pages or so… Where do I even begin? The beginning I guess…

After our killer cliffhanger in The Falconer, I was actually really shocked with how the book began. I expected the book to pick up immediately where it left off. When it didn’t, I’ll admit, I was a bit disappointed. Time has passed and we never get to figure out how Aileana fell through the fae portal, whether she managed to close it, or what ! It felt like a bit of a cop-out to me; that May didn’t want to explain all the details about fae worlds and kidnapping and the like. Instead, an unknown amount of time has passed and Aileana’s adventure is picked up again.

I’m not a creature of vengance any more. I’m not just the girl whose gift is chaos. I’m the girl who endured.

One thing I *did* like about the beginning of The Vanishing Throne is how suddenly Aileana went from a SUPER reliable (if filled with self-doubt) narrator to an unreliable one. Through her imprisonment and torture, Aileana is ceasing to trust her mental faculties. May did an amazing job pulling the reader along on Aileana’s journey where even the reader was questioning Aileana’s reality. Then her PTSD from this experience haunts her throughout the remainder of this novel. The way that we experience Aileana’s resilience and fear simultaneously is absolutely brilliant. May is a strong author, that’s for sure.

The Vanishing Throne is even darker, more gloomy, and quite grim compared to The Falconer. We are thrust suddenly into a world torn apart by magic and war when we were expecting (hoping?) for peace and prosperity. Instead of the focus of the novel being on a debutant seeking revenge from the fae, our focus shifts to that of human survival and the impact of the fae on that survival. Yes. It’s just as intense as it sounds.

We burn bright, and we burn out. That’s what it means to be human.

The majority of this book is spent exploring character development and relationships in this darker setting. As you all know, I *adore* character development, so I was hooked. This isn’t everyone’s cuppa, however. So, if you are more into plot, you might think the middle of this book drags. On the contrary- I loved it. And this is where I got hooked again.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Aithinne. She is a wonderful new voice as Kiaran’s humanized, slightly loony, sister. Just like Derrick, she provides a levity desperately needed. While Derrick’s humor is often sarcastic and intention, Aithinne’s humor is only intentional when poking fun at her brother. Otherwise, most of her humor is accidental and flows from her tentative grasp on sanity. Plus, this additional female protagonist means there are quite a few women who interact together throughout this book. The feminist in me is soooo happy.

Aithinne smiles. “You know,” she says thoughtfully, “your hair rather looks like an octopus.” Then, as if to reassure me: “I love octopi.”

And Aithinne is obviously a bit barmy, but nobody’s perfect. 

As the book progresses, May explores the pasts of all our characters. New friendships are formed, others are continued– Even lighthearted Derrick’s horrible past is revealed to us. While we do get a TON more about Aileana and Kiaran, May has blown me away with the depth she’s given all her secondary characters. To the point there Aileana and Kiaran are primary characters ONLY because the story is from Aileana’s POV. I’m not kidding ( Don’t worry, Aileana and Kiaran’s relationship also finally blooms into something with depth and meaning; it actually seems to make more sense now! ). These secondary characters are masterful. While I might not be able to connect to all the characters, they all have depth and purpose. They are all well-rounded in my eye.

World building also improved a lot in this novel. As May’s characters leave Edinburgh behind we get to see so much more of Scotland, fae lore, and the influence of the fae on the world.  Suddenly our setting has expanded and is much more rich and lush. That said, for me, here is where things dragged a bit. We needed to learn A LOT about the fae for our plot to push forward. This makes sense. May doesn’t a great job giving us the information piece by piece… and there is a ton of foreshadowing to the relevant fae lore. But we still had far too much lecture for my taste. The lecture was necessary (almost every character is guilty of explaining something to Aileana at some point in the novel), unfortunately. May does a great job showing us, but if we don’t know what we are looking for… well, it’s hard to see. While I wasn’t as interested, I understand why it was there. And I imagine my next read through will be even more frustrating because I’ll be able to see everything that time. <shrugs> But, we shall see.

Aithinne makes her way across the larger beach rocks toward us, her movements graceful. “You both look miserable.”

“I’m cold and wet,” I say. “I feel wretched, and my blunderbuss is probably destroyed from the swim. No need to state the obvious.”

She glances at her brother. “And I suppose your face is just stuck that way?”

Kiaran pushes to his feet and I do the same. “What you see is the incessant, grave look of someone in possession of a sibling.”

All in all, a wonderful story with three-dimensional characters and a gripping plot. If you like badass women, fae, and witty banter- this is a series for you.

I can’t wait for our conclusion in The Fallen Kingdom.


What do you think?

  • Do you prefer character development or driving plot when reading?
  • What other books featuring fae have you been reading?
  • Do you think that paranormal fiction is still popular, or is it waning?

24 Comments

  • KrystiYAandWine June 8, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    This was a four star for me too. It’s a really solid series, very imaginative and love the main character. You picked the perfect quotes to share as usual!

    • Jackie B June 9, 2017 at 11:39 am

      I am constantly impressed with the changes in direction May pulls off, but in a realistic way (well, for paranormal fantasy). Often times when I read books with this many twists and turns I find myself distracted by how disjointed it feels. May is certainly a solid writer, and I can’t wait to see what she had which follows The Falconer trilogy.
      Do you plan on reading the final book soon (it comes out next week!) ?

  • Laila@BigReadingLife June 9, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    It does sound intense! I’ve never read any books featuring fae before. But I do prefer character development over plot if I’m forced to choose. I like getting into the minds and thoughts of characters, their motivations and idiosyncrasies.

    • Jackie B June 16, 2017 at 5:32 pm

      Yay! I’m glad I’m not alone there. I love getting into the heads of different characters and watching them grow. I actually wish that happened a bit more often with some of the characters in these books. But, that’s to happen when you only have a single narrator. Still awesome.

  • Grab the Lapels June 10, 2017 at 3:05 pm

    Wait, wait, wait. One of the characters has mental health issues, so everyone calls her looney and laughs at her?

    • Jackie B June 14, 2017 at 10:39 am

      Ah. I guess I did a terrible job explaining that. Plus, that quote is from when our protagonist first meets Aithinne and doesn’t really understand her yet. So, also a bit terrible.

      So, yes, Aithinne was horribly tortured over the course of two thousand years. In order for her to cope with it, she has developed a very light and bit eccentric way of interacting with the world. There are many moments where her mental instabilities are acknolwedged, respected, and appropriately cared for. But, she does come across as someone who enjoys it when people think she is a bit crazy.

      Wendy @ What The Log Had To Say, addresses this a bit in her May 22nd post, #Mental Health Monday –
      Crazy
      . It’s the sort of idea that Aithinne jokes with her friends about it because she wants to acknowledge it, but doesn’t want to confront it.

      I think you have a valid point about how mental health issues are described, particularly used as a sense of humor, but there is a lot of really interesting stuff which developed from both Aileana and Aithinne over the course of the series as they cope with what the torture did to their mind. But the levity does make me question whether or not it’s an appropriate way to teach us about this…

      • Grab the Lapels June 14, 2017 at 7:49 pm

        She sounds like an interesting character, one that could be difficult for readers to fully understand! People will develop unusual tics and survival methods to stay safe. I’m going to head over to Wendy’s review. Thank you for the link!

      • Grab the Lapels June 14, 2017 at 7:52 pm

        I don’t think the link takes me to the right place. It goes to Labyrinth Lost

        • Jackie B June 16, 2017 at 5:20 pm

          Hm. I’m bad at linking, apparently. Now, with fewer fancy html-type things!
          https://whatthelog.wordpress.com/2017/05/22/mentalhealthmonday-crazy/

          • Grab the Lapels June 16, 2017 at 6:12 pm

            Ah, yes, I remember reading this one. She referring to reclaiming a word, but not everyone finds it acceptable. I read a similar conversation on Twitter today about whether or not fat people can call themselves fat.

            • Jackie B June 20, 2017 at 8:51 am

              Yes! I see it happening all the time. For example, I read Americanah and Ifemelu is shocked that fat and thin both have negative connotations in America. She is shocked that being who you are is such a challenge for Americans.

              What are your thoughts on this concept of reclaiming words?

          • Grab the Lapels June 20, 2017 at 9:50 am

            I think it’s absolutely necessary to reclaim words in all communities. What a lot of Americans don’t understand about the n-word is that it’s been reclaimed, and in the words of Ice Cube, “That’s our word now and you can’t have it back.” Reclaimed words take away the power to hurt as much as it used to and repurposes it to give it a different kind of strength. I haven’t been called fat in a very long time, but if someone did today, I would feel confused. At this point in my life and growth as a person, I don’t see having more fat cells as bad, so I don’t get how it’s an insult. Many fat people will disagree with me. Here’s the difference, one that Roxane Gay suggested in a Tweet the other day: if you’re insulted when someone calls you fat, it’s highly likely that you don’t WANT to think of fat as bad, but deep down inside you really do think fat people are slobby, gross, and lazy. And I agree with her.

  • theorangutanlibrarian June 10, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Ooh I do like the sound of this series- I loved your review of the Falconer and this makes me really excited too because I love character development. I especially love how the book made her grow more unreliable as a narrator. Awesome review!!

    • Jackie B June 16, 2017 at 5:29 pm

      Thanks! Gosh, you make me blush. This has been a super fun romp in 1900’s Scotland, that’s for sure!

  • AvalinahsBooks June 12, 2017 at 10:56 am

    I usually don’t go for “deep” fantasy like this one 😀 (by deep, I mean you’re basically knee deep in fantasy :DD) I used to. Maybe I should go back to it…

    • Jackie B June 16, 2017 at 5:31 pm

      Hahaha. I love that concept. Well, I think it depends on how you define “deep” fantasy. In this case, yes, there are tons of faeries and all sorts of magical things. I would say the amount of fantasy is not much deeper than Harry Potter, honestly. May does a great job explaining all the relevant fae myths, which helps. If you like sassy banter, kick ass female protagonists, and the idea of steampunk Edinburgh I think you should try the first book. I’m not totally able to pin down your type of books yet, but perhaps these will mesh well. 🙂

      • AvalinahsBooks June 18, 2017 at 9:43 am

        For me, the “deep” kind is where it’s a completely imagined world, and there’s always some main character that goes off to fight and slay dragons. Not that those books are bad, and not in the sense of “too much fantasy” – but they are kind of repetitive for me. All those evil queens and whatnot. I’d rather read sci-fi 😀 but yes, steampunk is definitely awesome 🙂

        • Jackie B June 22, 2017 at 4:36 pm

          That’s fair. I think that embracing the fantastic definitely isn’t for everyone. For example, I don’t like reading things in my free time which makes me sad or distressed, so I avoid thrillers, horror, and many contemporaries. There are certainly some I’ve enjoyed, but particularly when it comes to contemporary lit I find a lot of it is repetitive. To each their own, right?

          • AvalinahsBooks June 23, 2017 at 1:02 am

            Oh yeah, I don’t red those either! I don’t understand how people can read about murder and torture and have fun. I just don’t get it.
            What do you mean about contemporary? I’m not sure what kind of book that is 😀

            • Jackie B July 8, 2017 at 4:02 pm

              Contemporary Lit is often just called “fiction”. It’s literature set in our current date and time. There is a HUGE trend for YA contemporary fiction right now– stuff like Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, When Dimple Met Rishi and — they are really hit or miss for me. I either love them or DNF them it seems.

          • Evelina July 9, 2017 at 4:11 am

            “Just books” then 😀 yeah, those are fine. I don’t think I’ve read enough of them to be tired of them yet, cause I barely read any YA anyway. Just take it in small doses and it will be fine 😀

            • Jackie B July 10, 2017 at 9:43 pm

              HAHAHA! “Just books”. Yes. That’s what we really should call them. 😉 There are plenty of contemporary adult books too, you know. Not that I can name a single one. O_o #Embarrassing

  • Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity July 3, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    When I first read this book, roughly a year after reading the first the beginning confused me so much, as well. I wasn’t sure about ANYTHING. But when I read it right after The Falconer I realised the only thing that was missing was the exact details of Lonnrach kidnapping her, which really would have been quite boring if it HAD been explained!

    There was a lot I loved about this book, but it was probably my least favourite of the trilogy. I missed the setting of the first so much, and I felt like Aileana was never quite cemented enough in her feelings for Kiaran. One minute she loves him and the next he’s just an evil fae. I was annoyed that she didn’t make up her mind, haha.

    Aithinne is EVERYTHING. I would read an entire series about her.

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