Title: The Iron King

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!

Review:

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

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18 Responses to Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

  1. Adrienne says:

    Ya first! Actually I am surprised at the review-I felt the opposite about the book as really loved it. Yes, it has been done before (as countless other UFYA story lines). I didn’t see the triangle between Puck and Ash, only between Ash, the courts and Meghan. And I didn’t feel that the message of technology is evil was jammed down our throats; only that in Fey’s own arrogance, they thought they were top of the food chain.

  2. Angie says:

    Well, Thea, this was a DNF for me. I just couldn’t get into the characters. Like you, I had a very tepid reaction to them. And the rest wasn’t unique or intriguing enough to keep me going.

    I’m glad it held your interest long enough to finish it, though. :)

  3. Marg says:

    I definitely agree with your review. I liked the book but was far from loving it. The romance was kinda ridiculous, for sure. I did not see how Ash could be “in love” with Meghan…even infatuation would be a stretch given the fact that he doesn’t know her at all and barely even spends any genuine time with her…and let’s not forget the fact that his goal is to capture her for his evil mother. He goes from enemy to temporary ally to love interest in warp speed. I would have preferred for Puck to be the love interest, since he was Meghan’s best friend and protector and their relationship had a plausible foundation onto which a romance could actually be developed. Moreover, Meghan’s interest in Ash is totally superficial…the only reason she falls for him is because he’s hot, which I suppose is understandable for a 15-year-old, but it still irks me…I like my heroins to have more depth to their feelings, thoughts and motivations, regardless of age.

  4. Ana says:

    I fall somewhere between Thea and Angie on this one. I was really hard to finish the book and I nearly didn’t, I just carried on because I wanted to see the pay off about the Iron Fey.

    I loved the IDEA of the Iron Fey but felt the message to be TOO in-your-face (sorry, Adrienne, gotta disagree with you on this one :-) )

    And Marg, completely agree with you on the romance as well. WHY were they basically exchanging love vows this soon? I think this would have been better if developed over the course of the novels which makes me think, that perhaps Puck is the end game here.

  5. KMont says:

    I’ve got a review of this one coming up. I was a little frustrated at some parts, but ended up enjoying it. I’m looking forward to the next. It’s not insanely complicated, but I kind of liked the twist to the story, that of the Iron Fey.

    I don’t read that many fairy YA books though, or adult for that matter, so this all may seem more fresh to me as a result.

  6. Zanzando says:

    I read The Iron King about two weeks ago and I loved it a lot.

    Anyone who has seen “Labyrinth” (or read/seen “The Neverending Story” for that matter) will not be terribly surprised by the bare bones of the plot, but: the following titles of the trilogy lead me to believe that there’s more to it. (That and the prophecy as well as Dagda’s words to Meghan (oh and her being a computer whiz!). At least I assume it was supposed to be Dagda.)
    See also: “Technology is EVIL” Obviously it isn’t.

  7. [...] to my To-Be-Read lists from reviews posted by Ana & Thea at The Book Smugglers.  They also reviewed The Iron King, and gave it a lower rating than I did, and it seems like the comments are either loved it or had a [...]

  8. [...] overall message of the book is a bit off-putting, though, much thanks to The Book Smugglers for pointing it out. It seems like the real enemy that everyone seems to be pointing to in the book [...]

  9. Thankyou for the good review. I like reviews that are able to (tastefully) talk about what the reader did not like about the book as well as the good parts. It gives me a more well-rounded idea of what to expect when I read it.

  10. Alessandra says:

    Well, reading this review was certainly refreshing. It was so hard to find one which wasn’t so totally positive, or even ecstatic 8)

  11. Justine says:

    I’m really missing out aren’t I?! Ive been eying this too ever since I heard about it…but I just can’t seem to buy it! Maybe I should soon :P

  12. TDF Pamela says:

    I’m chiming in way late on this one, but I’m so glad to hear that the romance just didn’t jive for someone other than me. I just finished this book and honestly, I cannot buy into the Ash and Meghan thing. Ash is a cardboard cutout character, and it really made no sense to me that he’d suddenly fall for a teenage girl (which is also one of my pet peeves, though I guess not being a teenager really handicaps my tolerance of that sort of thing).

    I personally enjoyed the familiarity of the faery story, and I liked this book (and the sequel) better than I liked the Wicked Lovely books. I, too, am hoping that something unusual will happen with the Iron Fey, since progress is inevitable. Maybe Meghan will find some way to convince them all to live in peace.

  13. [...] Elsewhere The Story Siren Dark Faerie Tales The Book Smugglers La Femme Readers TDF Pamela The Discriminating Fangirl, who is more likely to answer to Pamela if [...]

  14. Ally says:

    I don’t get what the fuss is. There is a perfect triangle! Puck is the best friends the one she has known forever and Ash is something new and dangerous. Ash falls for Meghan because she reminds him of Ariella, his lost love. Maghan has a bubbly spirit but an unbreakable will. She is stubborn in a good way and knows what she wants. I fel in love with this book and everything about it. If you take the mythical asspect away from all this you can see that this book is like many teen lives. A triangle, an adventure, and a big secret. Yes, there have been many books with faeries and such but who else would be creative enough to come up with giand ironhorses or pack rats, or even the stuck up, over protective Mab. this book is unique and everybit addictive ive read every book in the series and i cant wait for Ms.Kawaga’s next series to comeout! :D

  15. Skyla says:

    I read The Iron King and i absolutly loved it i think tat this book would be for all people who like adventure, other world, and just a dash of romance. :P

  16. Devin says:

    :D :-) best book

  17. Karina says:

    I thought Iron King was an amazing book. However, i found the beginning to be a little boring and tacky. it became much more interesting the moment Meghan arrives in the Nevernever. Overall, it’s one of my favorite.:D

  18. Megan says:

    I love this book so much it made it to the top of my best book page. However I really thought that it was going to be a dumb book so I decided to read it because I got bored and once I got to the part where Meghan saw a little person in a computer screem and it smiled at her with sharp teeth, I knew the book was just starting to get magical. I’m so greatful that I read this book I believe in fairytales and I hope someday my world will become one too.THANK YOU!!!!!:D

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