Book Review: The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller

The Falcon ThroneThe Falcon Throne by Karen Miller

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 1 of The Tarnished Crown Quintet

Publisher: Orbit (September 9, 2014)

Author Information: Website

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Falcon Throne introduces readers to a kingdom torn apart by a centuries-long feud between two neighboring duchies, Harcia and Clemen – all because of a conflict that happened long ago. In the distant past, two stubborn and power-hungry royal brothers fought for rule, and the resulting rift caused the land to split into the two dukedoms. Now Harcia and Clemen are on the brink of war again with the tensions threatening to boil over, fueled by the lofty ambitions of men on both sides.

Okay, so follow along with me here: in Clemen, the tyrant Duke Harald is feared and hated by his nobles, and inevitably a rebellion led by his bastard-born cousin Ederic and backed by Ederic’s foster lord Humbert swiftly puts an end to Harald’s reign of terror. Believed to be among the casualties is Harald’s infant son and heir Liam, but in fact the child was whisked away to safety by his nursemaid, who intends to raise the boy until he is old enough to take back his stolen throne. Meanwhile over in Harcia, Duke Aimery has two living sons, his hot-tempered heir Balfre as well as the younger and more level-headed Grefin. Balfre has dreams of being the supreme ruler of a reunited kingdom, which would require bringing Clemen back into Harcia’s fold by brute force if necessary. Aimery, recognizing his heir’s dangerous ambitions, would like nothing more than to have his favorite son Grefin succeed him, but you can also be sure Balfre isn’t going to let anything – not even his own father and brother – stand in his way.

First I just want to put it out there that The Falcon Throne is my first book by Karen Miller, but from what I’ve heard about her previous work, I can’t say this is what I expected. I’ve seen reviews of her other books, especially her Godspeaker Trilogy, that have intrigued me with their discussion of controversial characters and bold subject matters. Readers seemed to either love or hate those books, but at least they sounded very different and intriguing. I think I’d expected The Falcon Throne to go in a similar direction, but that didn’t quite happen. Despite the twisty plotlines involving court intrigue, lordly politics, and the unpredictable consequence of shenanigans by pathological schemers, the story and themes aren’t really groundbreaking or anything to write home about.

And yet, I really enjoyed this book in spite of myself. Looking at the fantasy genre, I’ve noticed that in recent years the classic elves and dwarves seem to have been largely replaced by squabbling noble houses and psychopathic royalty. With Game of Thrones fever taking the world by storm, I suppose it’s really not that surprising to see writers hoping to ride on the coattails of its success by emulating its style or concepts. I don’t know if this was Miller’s intent, but I definitely sensed some of those vibes while reading this. Nothing wrong with that, though! Not especially with her obvious talent for writing fully-realized characters and intense sequences.

However, as much enjoyment as I got out of this book, Miller doesn’t quite push things over to mind-blowing territory. Don’t get me wrong, the story was certainly addictive – enough to make getting through 670-ish pages of this ARC not feel like a chore at all. I am still surprised at the speed I gobbled up this book. But like any lengthy epic, it has its ups and downs. The characters are great, but I was largely unaffected by any significant events that happened to them, and even unexpected character deaths didn’t always have the desired impact. Here and there were also several patches with borderline information overload that I was tempted to skim, but I have to make it clear that for the most part, these rare hiccups in the story were made up for by the wonderfully executed dialogue between characters and action-filled fight scenes.

In case you’re still wondering about the validity of the comparisons of this book to Game of Thrones, I would say those descriptions are pretty apt. It’s certainly in the same vein. Still, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I always hesitate to compare anything to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire…simply because nothing out there is like George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Certain series like that or Harry Potter are just so big they defy comparison. But quite honestly, it wouldn’t be fair to The Falcon Throne to make that comparison either. Without a doubt, this book can stand on its own. Some of its themes might ring familiar to avid readers of epic fantasy, but I’ll be the first in line to admit I can’t resist these kinds of stories, and Karen Miller brings her own unique and elegant touch to The Falcon Throne.

4 stars

A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Orbit Books!

19 Comments on “Book Review: The Falcon Throne by Karen Miller”

  1. If the reviews stack up in the positive column I may want to read this. Unfortunately Empress is still in my head, which is not a good thing. AIEEE!

    I do like court intrigue though.

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  2. I tend to pick-and-choose my epic Fantasy with extreme care; the story needs to be incredibly remarkable in order to convince me that the 600+ pages are worth my time. From your review, I can definitely see the similarities between this story and GoT, however for the time being I think I’ll stick with Martin over Miller.

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    • I definitely should take that kind of attitude with my epic fantasy – it’s getting harder to read and to stay caught up with like every series out there, especially with the size of some of these tomes!

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  3. OK, this humongous book has been glaring at me from my night stand, waiting to be read. I had seen some mediocre reviews, and am quite distracted with Liveship Traders at the moment, but really glad to hear positive things from you about it! I had read somewhere else that there’s not much new in this, but I’m not sure I care a whole lot about that. Sometimes its nice to just read a fantasy book, even if much of it is traditional. Its like a comfort read.

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    • I don’t mind “nothing new, nothing groundbreaking” either, as long as it’s entertaining and written well! Glad to see I’m not alone in feeling this way.

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  4. Aaarggh, I don’t think I can take another humongous book at the moment. Although I do love it when a book makes you like it in spite of yourself. This does sound good – why do you do this to me and my tbr!!!
    Your description kind of makes me recall having similar thoughts when reading Trudi Canavan for the first time recently (Thief’s Magic). I enjoyed the book but it really wasn’t what I was expecting.
    Lynn 😀

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  5. I’ve also heard good things about Miller, but I’ve never read one of her books. This one looks complicated to my sleepy brain. I like the twistyness and politics. I’m sorry that it wasn’t as good as you were expecting. I wondered when the Game of Thrones esque books would hit the market. I’m surprised there aren’t more of them. Sounds like there’s nothing special about this book, but the author’s talent carries the story anyway. I agree, some books are just non comparable. Nice review! 🙂

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    • I think we aren’t seeing as many because very few authors would be able emulate that style or emulate it well. Like I said in my review, I really think ASoIaF is in a league of its own, there can be no other series like it. Karen Miller is a great writer, so she definitely comes close, even though her work doesn’t carry the same “oomph”. For sure I will continue this series, and probably go back to read her previous books if I have time.

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  6. It seems like you weren’t entirely sold on this one but I gotta say, your descriptions of twisty politics and fight scenes make it sound like a lot of fun 🙂

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