The Vanishing Throne
by Elizabeth May
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…
I received an eARC of The Vanishing Throne from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
It’s been quite a while since I read the first book in this historical fantasy trilogy, The Falconer, and I’m ashamed to say this second book has been waiting on my NetGalley shelf for a few years. I did have to read a quick summary of the first book, just to remind myself who some of the side characters were and remember some of the finer points of the plot, but for the most part I had a lot of fun with this sequel despite it taking me a while to pick it up.
The Vanishing Throne moves this story from historical fantasy into the realms of alternate history. This isn’t a 19th century Scotland we can recognise, because this is a Scotland that’s been by hit by what’s essentially a fae apocalypse following the events right at the end of The Falconer. The story opens in the fae realm, where Aileana is being kept prisoner, and we find a rather different girl to the one moulded by bloodlust and vengeance that we met in the first book.
This is very much a middle book. We get answers to a lot of questions we have about May’s version of the fae, and the falconers themselves, but everything in this book is leading up to whatever is going to happen in the third and final book. I did find the plot a little confusing and convoluted at times, though. Some parts in the middle really dragged, with not a lot actually happening, only for the ending to feel quite rushed. In fact I felt like the climax of this novel happened over the course of about three pages when it easily could have been stretched out, and I think it would have made more of an impact that way.
That being said, there was a lot about this book that I liked a lot. I love that May lets Aileana be sad and guilt-ridden, and lets her sit with her feelings and work through them. The whole world Aileana knew isn’t that world anymore, so it’s to be expected that Aileana doesn’t really know what her place is in it.
I enjoyed Aileana and Kiaran’s relationship a lot more than I expected to in this book, too. I never disliked them, but I definitely felt like I got them in this book and I’m so glad that May still refused to go down the love triangle route with Gavin. The only thing that made me a little uncomfortable had to do with Catriona, the falconer Kiaran loved years before whom we learned about in the first book, because Aileana gets a little jealous of her – and jealousy is a perfectly natural emotion, so I get it – but Kiaran essentially ended up having to say that he didn’t love Catriona as much as he loved Aileana so that Aileana would believe his love for her.
I get that Aileana’s only 17/18, and I can understand not wanting to be second best, but it rubbed me up the wrong way a little. It’s possible to love more than one person during your lifetime (even more so if you’re an immortal fae) and I don’t think characters need to pit their lovers against one another like that.
Thankfully, Aileana’s relationships with some of the other women were a lot more positive, and one thing I remembered being frustrated about in The Falconer was how often Aileana was the only girl in the room. We got to see more of Catherine, Aileana’s best friend, in this book, and I love the young woman she’s grown into. She’s such a genuinely good friend, someone who has Aileana’s back no matter what, and I’m so pleased we got to know her better.
I actually thought it was really interesting how, through Catherine, May broached the idea of an apocalypse in the 19th century making inter-class marriages possible; Catherine has a romance of her own in this book, and there’s no way she even would have met this man if life the way she once knew it had continued.
We also got to meet Kiaran’s sister, Aithinne, and her friendship with Aileana is probably the best thing about this book. Catherine will always be there to support Aileana, but Aithinne can understand her in a way a lot of other people can’t and I loved how quickly they became friends. Women supporting women is everything I want in my fantasy, thank you very much.
Just like The Falconer, The Vanishing Throne was a lot of fun to read. I’m definitely interested in completing the trilogy, but I can’t deny that I’m in no great rush to get to it. If you love books about the fae and you haven’t tried this series yet, though, I’d recommend picking it up!