As the first book, The Falconer, opens, we find a young lady – our heroine, as it happens – at the refreshment table, listening as other young ladies gossip about the possibility of her murdering her mother and/or being insane. So, an auspicious beginning to an entirely epic tale. A tale which includes legends & fairies and fae – although, really, some of these fairies resemble nothing so much as demons and hell hounds, dragons and vampires, if you’re asking me – and those that fight them: The Falconers. (All women, btw, so score one for the ladies. Except that Ailenna (or Kam, as she’s often called), our heroine, is the last Falconer, so that kind of sucks.) But the author makes a point of showing how the patriarchal society of that time period (think Lords and Ladies, Almacks lemonade and Regency romances) limits Kam’s life and how much of her life – of any woman’s life in that society – was still decided by the men in her life (in Kam’s case, a mostly absent father). May also manages to get around to giving that idea a great big middle finger salute, as the story progresses, so that alone is worth sticking around for.
In the sequel, The Vanishing Throne, we find our heroine left in the aftermath of that battle (SPOILERS): Dealing with her capture, their loss, and what comes next after you loose all the demons trapped in a special kind of purgatory back upon the world. And one of them decides to torture you for information that he thinks you have that he needs. The torture is particularly grim – not overtly violent or grotesque, but so cruel and evil that I had to put the book down for a little bit and take a breather after the opening few scenes. Because May does such a good job of describing the despair that Ailenna/Kam feels, that I could feel it. (Similar to how I felt the first time I read J.K. Rowling’s description of Dementors, having experienced depression, and known that blankness firsthand. It was that kind of creepy nothingness that made me have to take a pause in this book, too.)
There’s a ton of action, fight scenes and what have you, but… I don’t particularly care for those? (Yes: I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy, which tends to have a lot of fight scenes, but: I read them to get to the better parts.) The better parts, to me, are the supporting cast of characters, the quality of the dialogue, and whether or not I care about the people who populate this story. And, boy did May deliver on that: The supporting cast includes (but is not limited to) a sprite-like fairy who has temper tantrums, drinks honey till intoxicated, and lives in Kam’s closet; a big shot, former-bad-guy fairy who teaches her how to hunt the fae in the first place (classic Bad Boy, only even worse, because he’s an actual – former? – mass murderer); her best friend Catherine, who comes to her defense in the ballrooms and believes her when she can’t explain why she disappears from yet another rout; Catherine’s brother, and Ailenna’s betrothed, Gavin, who’s a reluctant seer; and so many more. One of my particular favorites doesn’t even appear until book two, but when Aithinne does show up, she does it with gusto, and she remains a memorable character throughout. Not to mention lots of other fae, creatures I’ve never heard of before, and all of Kam’s inventions (she’s got a total steampunk vibe happening).
Kickass heroine, A+ supporting cast (including an antagonistic love/hate to the point of ultimate snark relationship), two published books to speed-read through, and dialogue that is both powerful and entertaining:
“I admit to being somewhat unclear on the function of human tears,” she says. “So we’re sad about this? Should I menace someone?” In lieu of a response, the only thing I can manage is something of a half-laugh, half-sob, because they’re alive and I haven’t felt like this in so long. “For god’s sake, Aithinne,” Kiaran says, his voice rumbling through his chest, “put the blade away. You’re not going to stab Kam’s idiot friends.” Then, after a moment: “On second thought, the Seer really serves no purpose . . .” “Oh, shush.” I look up at him, whisking the tears off my cheeks. “Don’t ruin this. It helps if you don’t speak.” Then I press my face back into his chest. “And if you stop responding to my hug like I’m torturing you.” Kiaran makes some attempt to relax, but he could use lessons in hugging. “
In short, the stories comprise the heroine’s quests, for healing, for revenge, for redemption: A real Chosen One tale that I’m itching to read the conclusion to, so it better come out soon, is all I’m saying. (The Fallen Kingdom, book three in the series, is listed as “expected publication 2017”, so that’s something to look forward to next year, at least.) The fact that The Falconer was May’s debut novel? Well, that’s disheartening to me as a writer, but so promising to me as a reader: I definitely want to read more of the worlds she creates in her mind. Add it to your list for CBR9.