The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

vanishing throne

3 out of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book.

*Spoiler alert for the first book*

This is the second book in the Falconer series. It follows the adventures of Aileana, a young Scottish Lady who spends her days attending balls and parties, and her nights hunting and slaughtering faeries to avenge her dead mother.

In the first book, Aileana is mostly battling minor faeries who infest Edinburgh, going out every night to fight and train and coming back in the early hours of the morning to rest for another day of paying social calls and trying to attract a husband. The two worlds start bleeding together when her unreliable faerie trainer and ally Kiaran starts showing up during the day, offering enigmatic advice. Then faeries start attacking people during daylight hours and it becomes harder and harder for Aileana to keep being a respectable young lady and a warrior. Scandal threatens to upset her mundane life and a faerie uprising looms on the horizon. Aileana discovers she is a falconer, a gifted fighter, and humanity’s only hope against the faerie invasion.

The second book starts immediately after the first left off, with Aileana failing to defeat the faeries and Edinburgh destroyed. Aileana is captured and tortured by a would-be faerie king while Kiaran and his sister search for her.

This second book was not as enjoyable for me as the first. The charm of the original came from the tension between Aileana’s life as a lady and her life as a Falconer. That was the main conflict of the story and I really enjoyed watching a character try and reconcile two different parts of herself that were so at odds. It also really concentrated on Aileana as a daughter who had watched her mother’s murder at the hands of a faerie, and her relationship with her estranged father. The first book presented Aileana as a complex character, a daughter, best friend, warrior and inventor, where the second cuts all of those out but the warrior role. Aileana becomes a much flatter, much less interesting character. Her life as a lady is destroyed with Edinburgh and the book becomes a very standard fantasy, with a tough protagonist beating up the bad guys and discovering her own powers. The destruction of all of Aileana’s other alter egos and interests just made her much less of a person and more of a trope.

The cast also shrinks quite a bit and more attention is paid to the Aileana/Kiaran relationship while all other relationships vanish. There are a few new characters, but the relationships never seem to get far off the landing character. Nothing is drawn out or developed, and the only person Aileana seems to respond to emotionally is Kiaran. Suddenly Aileana is not a daughter and friend and ally, just a love interest. It is very unsatisfying.

The book has a lot of action, not much character growth, and not a lot of world building for a book that should contain quite a few fairy landscapes. I just felt that this is something that I have read before, many times. There are a couple of clever and funny quips, but not enough to make up for a fairly stale plot.

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