Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: (Contemporary) Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: February 2010
Paperback: 368 pages
In less than twenty-four hours Meghan Chase will be sixteen. Countless stories, songs and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset.
But Meghan suspects that it won’t be that way for her.
After all, Meghan has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined….
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan’s life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she’s known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and a pawn in a deadly war.
Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
Stand alone or series: Book 1 of the Iron Fey trilogy
How did I get this book: Review Copy
Why did I read this book: Ana and I have had our eyes on The Iron King since we first heard about it back in February – and when we were contacted to review the book and interview the author, we jumped at the opportunity!
Meghan Chase doesn’t expect anyone to remember her sweet sixteen (her stepfather can barely remember that Meghan exists, and her mother is always distracted) save her half brother, four-year old Ethan, and her best friend and neighbor, Robbie. But on the eve of her birthday, strange things begin to happen. First, there’s the incident in the computer lab while Meghan is tutoring the hottest guy at school, culminating in her complete humiliation. Then, there’s the loyal family dog that, completely out of the blue, attacks Ethan and has to be put down. And finally, after the attack, Ethan seems to change. Even the solid Robbie, the boy Meghan has known forever is not what he seems. Meghan soon learns that a changeling has been left in her younger brother’s place, and that she must venture into a world she never knew existed – the realm of faerie, called “the nevernever.” With the fey Robbie (or, rather, Robin) as her guide, Meghan learns she herself is half-fey and the daughter of Oberon, king of the Seelie Fey, and finds herself entangled in the threads of fey politics. If she means to save her brother, and herself, she’ll have to face opposition from all sides – including a coldly beautiful fey princeling of the Unseelie named Ash, who has already tried to kill Meghan before.
The Iron King is a bit of a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, this is an entertaining novel with a few great ideas (in particular, the emergence and story behind the Iron Fey). Ms. Kagawa has also mapped out the trilogy wonderfully, moving the plot of this first book deftly and ending the novel on a tantalizing hook for the next book in the series. On the other hand, The Iron King suffers from a lack of originality and a lackluster “love story.”
In terms of plotting and worldbuilding, there really isn’t too much ground that hasn’t been covered in the faerie/contemporary fantasy realm, so in defense of The Iron King, it’s not that the world is bad. It’s simply been done before – and to be perfectly fair, if I hadn’t read so many new faerie type stories, I would probably have enjoyed The Iron King much more. The realm of Nevernever is populated by famous fey faces throughout literature – Oberon and Titania, Mab and Robin Goodfellow (aka Puck). Ogres and trolls and cheshire cats and mermaids, you name it, it’s here in The Iron King. None of these elements are really used in any new way though, so while the world makes sense and Ms. Kagawa’s descriptions are more than apt, it all feels very…familiar. Even the storyline with a girl that thought she was mortal discovering she is fey has been done many times before, and, in most cases, better (see Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Need by Carrie Jones, Wings by Aprilynne Pike).
In that same vein, the main characters of The Iron King also feel a little stilted and familiar. As a heroine, I loved that Meghan is very much a teenage girl – her heart is in the right place as she tries to save her half-brother, and she clearly doesn’t know anything about the fey, her past, or how faeries tend to like to make nasty power bargains. Over the course of the book, however, Meghan’s helplessness becomes grating (but this, perhaps is simply a matter of personal taste). Ash is basically interchangeable with any other broody-mc-brooderson, hot, paranormal dude from any number of paranormal books. The romance between these two characters, in my opinion, felt forced and ridiculous. I found myself scratching my head, wondering why these two characters fell in love. From disdain and hate, Ash suddenly is vulnerable and in love with Oberon’s half-human welp because….? (And on this note, is there really a “love triangle” in this book? Puck, as fun as he is, hardly seems to be in the picture) The other thing I have to confess to being exhausted of (and incredibly icked out by) the eons-old sexy dude falling in love with…a fifteen-year old girl. Again, this is a matter of personal taste, and I think I’m safely in the minority – so fans of these sorts of tropes and romances will doubtless be pleased. Despite my tepid feelings towards the main characters, I do have to say that Puck is very…pucklike and awesome, and I did enjoy seeing the celebrities of the fey realm in this book. Oberon and Titania are written wonderfully, and true to form.
I should mention that there was one shining moment of originality in The Iron King which swayed my underwhelmed reaction to the book up until that point. I *loved* the idea of the Iron Fey and their backstory.
“Puck, didn’t you tell me once that the fey were born from the dreams of mortals?”
“Yeah?” Puck said, not getting it.
“Well, what if these things –” I jiggled the metal insect “–are born from different dreams? Dreams of technology, and progress? Dreams of science?
Fascinating, and more original than anything else in the book (even if this concept has also been done before in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods).
(Of course, Meghan then goes on to say, “What if the pursuit of ideas that once seemed impossible — flight, steam engines, the Worldwide Web,” which had me giggling for a good few minutes. The Worldwide Web is one I haven’t heard since eighth grade)
The only drawback to this new iteration of the fey? The uncomfortable and poorly planned “message” behind the Iron Fey. From what is in the book, there’s this uncomfortable impression that ‘Technology MUST BE STOPPED AT ALL COSTS! Because it is EEEEEEVIL!’ Which, let’s face it, is a little bit silly. Perhaps this is something that will be addressed in future books? I’m intrigued enough to find out.
All that said, all my gripes aside, I enjoyed The Iron Fey and will most likely pick up the second novel in the series, just to see where Ms. Kagawa takes the story. There is potential here, however rough and buried it may be.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
Ten years ago, on my sixth birthday my father disappeared.
No, he didn’t leave. Leaving would imply suitcases and empty drawers, and late birthday cards with ten-dollar bills stuffed inside. Leaving would imply he was unhappy with Mom and me, or that he found a new love elsewhere. None of that was true. He also did not die, because we would’ve heard about it. There was no car crash, no body, no police mingling about the scene of a brutal murder. It all happened very quietly.
On my sixth birthday, my father took me to the park, one of my favorite places to go at that time. It was a lonely little park in the middle of nowhere, with a running trail and a misty green pond surrounded by pine trees. We were at the edge of the pond, feeding the ducks, when I heard the jingle of an ice cream truck in the parking lot over the hill. When I begged my dad to get me a Creamsicle, he laughed, handed me a few bills, and sent me after the truck.
That was the last time I saw him.
Later, when the police searched the area, they discovered his shoes at the edge of the water, but nothing else. They sent divers into the pond, but it was barely ten feet down, and they found nothing but branches and mud at the bottom. My father had disappeared without a trace.
For months afterward, I had a recurring nightmare about standing at the top of that hill, looking down and seeing my father walk into the pond. As the water closed over his head, I could hear the ice cream truck singing in the background, a slow, eerie song with words I could almost understand. Every time I tried to listen to them, however, I’d wake up.
Not long after my father’s disappearance, Mom moved us far away, to a tiny little hick town in the middle of the Louisiana bayou. Mom said she wanted to “start over,” but I always knew, deep down, that she was running from something.
It would be another ten years before I discovered what.
My name is Meghan Chase.
In less than twenty-four hours, I’ll be sixteen years old.
You can read the first three chapters online HERE.
Additional Thoughts: As we mentioned earlier today, book 2 in the Iron Fey series, titled The Iron Daughter is out in stores this August. Here’s a rundown of the story:
Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan Chase has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen.
As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.
Worse, Meghan’s own fey powers have been cut off. She’s stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly.
But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can’t help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.
But there’s more! On June 1, there will be a free novella available in the Iron Fey series, titled Winter Passage. From Julie Kagawa:
Julie has a FREE novella available online only, WINTER’S PASSAGE, available June 1, 2010. It’s a continuation of Meghan’s story that you won’t find in print! “Meghan Chase used to be an ordinary girl…until she discovered that she is really a faery princess. After escaping from the clutches of the deadly Iron fey, Meghan must follow through on her promise to return to the equally dangerous Winter Court with her forbidden love, Prince Ash. But first, Meghan has one request: that they visit Puck–Meghan’s best friend and servant of her father, King Oberon–who was gravely injured defending Meghan from the Iron Fey.Yet Meghan and Ash’s detour does not go unnoticed. They have caught the attention of an ancient, powerful hunter–a foe that even Ash may not be able to defeat….An eBook exclusive story from Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series.”
Make sure to check it out, via the series’ official website.
Rating: 6 – Good, Recommended with Reservations
Reading Next: Spells by Aprilynne Pike