Re-Review: “The Falconer” by Elizabeth May

The Falconer (American)The Falconer (Falconer #1) by Elizabeth May

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Heiress. Debutant. Murderer. A new generation of heroines has arrived.

Edinburgh, Scotland, 1844

Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, was destined for a life carefully planned around Edinburgh’s social events – right up until a faery killed her mother.

Now it’s the 1844 winter season and Aileana slaughters faeries in secret, in between the endless round of parties, tea and balls. Armed with modified percussion pistols and explosives, she sheds her aristocratic facade every night to go hunting. She’s determined to track down the faery who murdered her mother, and to destroy any who prey on humans in the city’s many dark alleyways.

But the balance between high society and her private war is a delicate one, and as the fae infiltrate the ballroom and Aileana’s father returns home, she has decisions to make. How much is she willing to lose – and just how far will Aileana go for revenge?

Three and a half stars

A long, long time ago (okay, back in 2014), Bibliomancy for Beginners did a hangout on Elizabeth May’s The Falconer. To say that Michaela–and especially Taylor–didn’t like it would be an understatement. I remember enjoying it, even if I didn’t love-love it. But, once the camera started going and we all started chatting, something about what I had loved got lost. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a HILARIOUS hangout and you should totally watch it. But almost two years later I have realized something important: I don’t think I was fair.

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Perusing Poetics: Say Nothing, See Nothing

I promise that this week’s post will be an actual intellectual piece of reading material. I promise. Read on and see.

This week we read two really awesome things, and I had so many things to say about both of them. First we read excerpts from Book of Rhymes: The Poetics of Hip Hop by Adam Bradley, and then we read an essay by Jerome Rothenberg from The Politics of Poetic Form: Poetry and Public Policy. My initial reaction was, “Oh yeah totally doing something from Bradley because the only thing that Rothenberg’s got going is A REALLY ANNOYING USE OF THE AMPERSAND AGAIN AND AGAIN” but actually … I was wrong.

If you’re into Bradley’s book, I do highly recommend it. But my rant about persona and Truth and all that jazz got sidelined when Rothenberg gave me this little quote:

“The hypothesis would be: I see through language. And its corollary: without language, I am blind” (13).

Now, the quote that I instantly connected to before this one was “‘a new language must be found’ … not only for the sake of speaking but of seeing, knowing” and I was like “YEAH THAT SOUNDS AWESOME” (12). Then the one in block quotes came around a few sentences later and then I was like, “Hang on. What?”

At first, I took a step back and said, “Uh, no.” Because what sense does seeing with language make outside of reading? (I should probably have explained that a lot of Rothenberg’s focus is on “‘wordless’ oral poetries” [14].) My immediate reaction is that when I see a red flower, it doesn’t matter if the person next to me can communicate our shared vision or not because we’re both looking at the same red flower. (Also, I am aware I am working under the assumption we are both in possession of our sight. That is not a slight against those with blindness but rather I simply relating my own thought process given my privileged of having my sight mostly intact.)

Now let me back up a little bit. You may or may not know that I was abroad last year. Though I lived in London, I traveled in Europe a lot. The favorite question for people to ask when I came back is which place I went was my favorite. I always hedged this question by replying that I loved everywhere I went, but I was just more comfortable in places where I could adequately communicate, like Ireland and Scotland. When I traveled to Paris, Barcelona and Italy, I always had at least one travel buddy who spoke the language we needed. It is this experience that I drew on to refine this “hypothesis and corollary” in my own mind.

See, when traveling to new country where you don’t speak the language, the inability to communicate does feel like a type of blindness and a sense of invisibility all at the same time. Especially on public transportation, you feel removed from reality in a sense. There is all this chatter happening around you, but you can’t understand a word of it. You can’t overhear a funny story someone is telling or engage with a shopkeeper about buying a silly souvenir. Sure, you can get by with pointing and playing charades, but it is the most physical feeling of living in an alternate reality that I have ever had.

This is especially potent when someone you’re traveling with DOES speak the language. They end up ordering for the group at dinner or getting directions or navigating the public transportation. This isn’t a bad thing; I’m forever thankful for my friends for this. I might have died from anxiety otherwise. But when someone else can jump into a dialogue before you can, the muzzling effect is deafening. Perhaps this is just me, being someone who is not accustomed to taking a backseat for extended periods of time–and really wanting to be in complete control of every situation–but that is the deepest truth I can admit about traveling in those countries.

Again, I don’t regret those travels. They were some of the most amazing experiences of my life. But this was also certainly a part of my experience. It just wasn’t something I connected with the act of seeing until Rothenberg said it. I think of the five senses as five separates. But the truth is, as with much of the human experience, nothing is separate. Everything we do or don’t do feeds into something else with simple cause and effect.

Och Wheesht and Get Oan Wit It!*

The fastest way to start this trip off with a bang is by starting in Edinburgh, Scotland. My school does a five day little add on trip at the start of the London semester that you can opt in to so you can explore this gorgeous city during festival season. I took full advantage of it.

Of course, there’s all the traveling to get there. I left my house at 7:30AM EST, boarded a connector flight at 11AM EST and landed in JFK at about noon. My plane to London didn’t leave until 7:30PM EST. Then it was seven plus hours to Heathrow airport, where we boarded a coach to the school center that took about a half an hour. Some waiting ensued, and our train to Edinburgh left King’s Cross Station at a few hours later. Five hours later, we showed up in Scotland, tired of traveling and everything else but unable to sleep because JETLAG. Do yourself a favor and don’t count my travel hours. They made me a little ill.

BUT. The next day the adventures could begin!

The school scheduled some events for us, but a lot of time was also left to ourselves, which you’ll soon see. Our first IMG_0783scheduled event was a bus tour around the city with a guide. I took way too many pictures of the architecture. Seriously. Like 60.

I’m not going to bore you with this day by day itinerary, don’t worry. But I can’t help but mention the fun times had at Camera Obscura, an optical illusion interactive museum, where we all shuffled through a mirror maze and screamed through the Vortex Tunnel. There was also IMG_0855the Edinburgh Dungeons, which I really didn’t want to go to but ended up having a great time. These two were choices by my friends, which were very, very good choices for attractions.

The school got us into Edinburgh Castle, where we had a fantastically sarcastic and also good looking tour guide. They also brought us to IMG_0816Arthur’s Seat, the hike of which I was not prepared for in any sense. (I was not warned to bring a mountain pony and sherpas. I was wearing knockoff Converse for goodness sake.) They helped us partake in the Film Festival, however the play we watched left even those majoring in the theatrical arts scratching their heads.

IMG_0868Thankfully, my friends and I got our own tickets to see Sh*tfaced Shakespeare. Ah, serious theatre.

And yes, there was some drinking of my own involved. Turns out I really, really like the UK acceptance of cider. Who knew?

I didn’t expect to love Scotland as much as I did; I don’t know why. I literally turned to a friend and said, “I hope I like London as much as I like Edinburgh.” After all, a majority of my four months was about to be spent in a city I had yet to see. As our train headed out of Edinburgh Waverly and headed towards King’s Cross, I could only cross my own fingers.

*Dear Sam – I swear this was the title of this post before I saw what you’d titled yours.