THE FALCONER

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I’ve noticed through my query-reading experiences that many aspiring authors have a hard time being original. There are so many vampire romances, demon-slaying paranormals, angel stories, faerie mythologies, etc. But the important thing to remember is that it’s perfectly okay to write these. So long as you have something original to add to the genre (and you clearly and interestingly express that in your query).

I give you The Falconer by Elizabeth May.

This is another one of “those faerie books”, but I was intrigued because rather than being set in America or England, The Falconer is set in Scotland. That, combined with the steampunk technology, made me want to buy and read this book.

Little did I know that these aren’t even what really set this book apart from the others. Setting is such a minor thing when compared to plot and character.

The Falconer is awesome because May is an expert with plot twists and engaging fight scenes.

Plot twists, by definition, are unexpected and often exciting. That’s their function: to throw the story in a different direction or to reveal a previously unknown fact. But May produces them in such a way that they amp up the tension and provide greater conflict.

At first the reader is led to believe that the entire purpose of the story is for Aileana to avenge her mother’s death by killing the wicked faerie who murdered her before her eyes. But that’s not the big picture at all—and accomplishing such a task proves to be harder than Aileana could have ever realized. That’s all I can say without revealing any spoilers. So go read The Falconer to see for yourself how May pulls these incredible twists off.

It is said that each scene in a story should accomplish more than one thing, and The Falconer does this effortlessly.

Anyone who has taken a writing class knows that blow-by-blow fight scenes are rarely the way to make a fight scene engaging. Such a style makes the writing feel staccato, unrealistic, and even boring. But May’s writing style is so engaging that she’s not only able to give us blow-by-blow fight scenes at times, but she also combines that with sections of telling (as opposed to showing) to string her fight scenes together. Just when Aileana defeats a faerie, a dozen more will take its place. The scenes never finish when you think they will. And May uses that to pull more tension out of the scenes. It’s incredible.

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Books with Daggers–They’re a Thing

This week I thought I would do some book recommendations. I’ve been reading a lot lately, mostly within historical YA. So if you’re writing in this genre or love to read it, listen up.

Graceling Cover

Wikipedia

First up, we have GRACELING by Kristin Cashore. This was one of the first YA high fantasies that I ever read. It changed my view of books. We have this amazing female protagonist who is an assassin being controlled by her uncle, the king, to do his dirty work. Some of the people have magical abilities, called “graces,” and Katsa is graced with killing. She meets Prince Po, who is graced with fighting skills, and together they leave their lives behind to perform a task more worthy of their talents. Like save the kingdom. Lots of action. Lots of plot twists. A beautiful romance. GRACELING is wonderful.

Maid of Secrets cover

Book Swoon

Next we have MAID OF SECRETS by Jennifer McGowan. This book focuses less on the romance and more on the political intrigue of the Elizabethan Era. Meg is an orphan who has made a living picking pockets, until she gets caught by a nobleman. Rather than get sent to prison, she is forced to serve Queen Elizabeth as a spy. Meg is blessed with perfect recall, which makes her ideal for overhearing enemy conversations. Jennifer McGowan manages to seep you into the era without taking away from the storytelling. Lots of sneaking, thievery, and play acting. MAID OF SECRETS is lots of fun.

Defy cover

Goodreads

DEFY by Sara B. Larson is my most recent “dagger book.” I bought this one on a whim at a conference I went to several months ago. So glad I did. The kingdom has been at war for years, and everything that the people have goes to the cause. When the border villages are raided and people are killed, the orphans are brought to the palace. The boys are taken to train for the army, while the girls are sent to the breeding houses to make more boys for the army. When twins Alexa and Marcel are orphaned, Alexa cuts her hair and pretends to be a boy so she can go into war training with Marcel and avoid being a prostitute. Years later, Alexa, the prince, and a fellow guard are kidnapped—naturally a love triangle ensues. Figuring out everyone’s motives is the fun part of this book. No one is ever as they seem.

Throne of Glass cover

Goodreads

Sarah J. Maas’s THRONE OF GLASS also features a female assassin. Celaena was sent to the salt mines for her crimes, until the prince releases her on the condition that she be his champion. Up against various killers, thieves, and spies, Celaena must compete to become the king’s assassin or return to the mines. But when her fellow competitors start dying, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for her life. Very romantic. Very action-packed. Lots of great dialogue and character interactions.

Dark Triumph cover

Goodreads

Last is probably my favorite book of all time: Robin LaFevers’s DARK TRIUMPH. This is another assassin book, but it’s so much more than that. The victims of violence at the hands of men are sent to St. Mortain’s convent, where they are trained to kill for their god. Sybella has a dark past—she’s been hurt deeply by the men closest to her, but she is sent on an assignment to the house of her own father—the very man who has tormented her for years. This book is beautiful. Not only is it about finding a will to live after living through hell, but it’s full of romance and danger and deceit and betrayal and basically all the other good things to be found in books. Go read the first book about Ismae, GRAVE MERCY, then crack open DARK TRIUMPH.

The Falconer cover

Goodreads

The Winner's Curse cover

Goodreads

Coming up on my reading list are THE FALCONER by Elizabeth May, which is described as “The first volume of a trilogy from an exciting new voice in young adult fantasy. This electrifying thriller combines romance and action, steampunk technology and Scottish lore in a deliciously addictive read” on the cover, and THE WINNER’S CURSE by Marie Rutkoski, “a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.”

So go get in some good reads before Nano takes over your life!