What I really enjoy in a good book is total immersion; the kind that makes you forget your concerns, that actually leaves you feeling relaxed. Karen Miller’s The Falcon Throne did this while flaying me emotionally. I dear reader, may even have required tissues at some point. I enjoy being emotionally manipulated when it’s done well and I felt that Miller was masterful in getting me to love and hate the various characters, to break me by breaking my favourites.
Comparisons will be made to GRR Martin and the back cover blurb on my ARC mentions Abercrombie and Canavan.
It’s not as drawn out as A Song of Ice and Fire, and while the cast of characters will probably scare readers of mainstream fiction (it includes a Dramatis Personae), the scope felt a little smaller than what you’d expect from “he who kills all his characters”. Where real similarities can be drawn between Miller and Martin though, is in the ruthlessness they treat the characters you come to love.
The comparison to Trudi Canavan is apt as well, structurally I found it exceedingly sharp, well paced and when I put it down I was hankering to get back to it. It’s not quite thriller paced, but I certainly felt like the story moved.
The Falcon Throne is its own book though. For your 600+ pages you get 4 tightly woven plots that deliver a wealth of conflict and one larger story arc that hints at what the rest of the series will be about.
Roric, a bastard reluctantly slays his tyrannical cousin, helped by disgruntled Lords who have had enough of living in fear. A widowed duchess struggles to hold onto power in a man’s world. Power will corrupt brotherly love and set the wheels of war turning and always, there is the presence of a power moving in the shadows that plays these personalities like pawns.
If you are looking for high fantasy, you won’t find it here. There’s greed, ambition and trusting fools. There’s war, pestilence and sorcery. If you are squeamish when it comes to the suffering of children, or with sexual violence used against either gender you might want to pause – these are not overwhelming elements but The Falcon Throne isn’t a Disney fairytale. I’d rate it as one of my best reads of the year and would expect Miller to join Rowena Cory Daniells as one of our best women writers of Grimdark.
Enter this tale at your own risk, Miller will slip the dagger under your guard and twist. You will feel pain.
This review was based on an advanced reading copy.
This review is part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2014. Please check out this page for more great writing from Australian women.