In The Falconer Elizabeth May took my city and turned it upside-down. In The Vanishing Throne she destroys it.
After Aileana’s failure to re-imprison the faeries under Arthur’s Seat, they tear across the world, destroying Edinburgh, Glasgow and beyond. When Aileana escapes Lonnrach’s captivity, she returns to the barren remains of a once-great city, but the threat is far from over.
The Vanishing Throne is missing some of my favourite aspects of The Falconer, like the interplay between Aileana’s public life as a débutante and her secret life as a faery slayer. Scots know faeries aren’t just a story now, and they have bigger concerns than balls and afternoon tea. There’s less, too, of the steampunk aspects, because human society has been so destroyed by the faeries that their inventions are nowhere to be found. The result is that in many ways the visceral feel of the book is different from that of The Falconer, but it’s so stunningly crafted that the transition from Victorian steampunk to historical fantasy is seamless.
Ultimately, however, it wasn’t the Victorian society or steampunk elements that made me fall in love with The Falconer, but the characters and treatment of faery lore, and on both those counts The Vanishing Throne more than delivers. As we as readers must adapt to the new, more fae world, so too must characters like Catherine, who didn’t even know the fae existed prior to their rampage. In a way, Catherine comes into her own in this book, no longer constricted by the confines placed on a woman in Victorian high society. Catherine’s compassion and resourcefulness were apparent in The Falconer, but they’re pushed to their limits in The Vanishing Throne, revealing new depths to her character. Similarly, we learn more about Kiaran, but in this case, it’s his past. The Falconer laid hints about his backstory, and the payoff in The Vanishing Throne is well worth the wait. We not only learn why Kiaran hunts faeries, by why Derek hates him so much and even a bit about his family history.
In The Vanishing Throne we meet Aithinne, Kiaran’s sister who has been imprisoned under Holyrood Park for millennia. And I adore her. She’s determined and tough, with a brilliant (if occasionally unintentional) sense of humour. She is also a deliciously morally complex character; she looks out for Aileana but is still irrevocably fae. The fae of the Falconer world all share a degree of bloodlust, drawing on the faeries of Scottish myth; even Derek, who gets drunk off of honey and binge-mends Aileana’s dresses, has a sociopathic side, offering to mutilate Gavin after he upsets Aileana. Aithinne, and her history with Kiaran, brings another layer of nuance to the fae, both showing Aileana that they are not wholly heartless monsters while at the same time reinforcing that they are not, and will never be, human, with everything that entails.
The Vanishing Throne is the perfect sequel to The Falconer. Delving deeper into faery lore, it pulls the reader – and its characters – further into this magical, creepy world of faeries and Falconers. If you loved The Falconer, raged at the cliffhanger ending, then you won’t be disappointed.
Nicola lives and reads in Edinburgh, which is, thankfully, faery-free – or so she hopes. You can find her on Twitter.