Title: The Falcon Throne
Author: Karen Miller
Date Started: April 21, 2016 Date Finished: June 17, 2016
Rating (out of 5): ★★★★
Every book has a story: Now that I’m back in the swing after a long reading slump, I hit up the fantasy section of my local library and eyed up the biggest, baddest books I could fine. Gigantic, hardcover, and containing words like “bastard” and “avenge” on the dustcover, it seemed that The Falcon Throne could be just the ticket for getting me back on the unicorn, as it were. Once it was clear that I was not going to finish any good amount of it in the borrowing period, I purchased myself a–thankfully–soft cover copy to lug around and take my time with. And I rather did take my time… but I finished it! Two in a row!
This night was an ending. His life, this life, was ending. Soon he’d be reborn. But as what, he didn’t know. He couldn’t see it. Not yet.
For such a huge book, The Falcon Throne tells quite a tight story. There are the rulers of Clemen and the rulers of Harcia, pitted against each other as tradition dictates, and the people of the Marches caught in the middle. In Clemen, Roric is the new duke navigating his way through power. In Harcia, the longtime duke Aimery struggles with loving his heir, Balfre, and frequently puts his son, Grefin, in a dilemma between obeying his lord and father and being loyal to his older brother. Even the other dramas are quite personal and intense ones–lovers torn apart by others’ political ambition, a young woman trapped in the gilded cage of her rank, an innkeeper protecting her children even from their own pasts.
It sprawls more across time than place. Yes, we ping pong between a few locations, but we stick close to home with main characters–all the better to watch them grow over the passing years. Some characters go from infancy to manhood, others navigate adulthood and power, and both are equally dynamic. It gives everyone a chance to fall and rise in their turn and foil each other even when they rarely, if ever, share a scene.
Puzzled. Regretful. A bleeding away of pain. Two men breathing. Two men breathing. Two men breathing.
The Falcon Throne follows the grimdark tradition of very grey characters. Still, you find yourself becoming fond of characters despite their transgressions. Balfre is violent and cruel and despotic, but he has a charisma, and I felt for the long years that he suffered without his father’s approval. Roric does his best to be just and kind, but what else is a man to do but harden when he is caught in the traps of powerful men who seek to control him? I don’t know that I can blame Miller over my own scruples for not being able to find a female character I could really root for. Perhaps there are many readers who took to the witch Izusa, the innkeeper Molly, or the reluctant duchess Lindara more than I did.
For all the 660 pages that came before it, the ending unfolds in a way I certainly would not have guessed. There is certainly still a lot of potential for these characters to possibly wisen and change, or stay the courses these long years have wrought for them. I can absolutely say that what compelled me most was the fascinating cast of characters living and breathing and growing in The Falcon Throne.
And now I shall go forth drunk on character-driven-epic-fantasy power!