The Iron King
by Julie Kagowa
Review by Sesana
Three out of five stars
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.
she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a
mythical faery king and is 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
I really did want to like this book. I'd be very happy to find a YA book/series about the Fair Folk that really hit the mark with me. It may be out there, but this wasn't it.
Kagawa definitely knows a few things about fairies, and that's kind of a drawback. There was just so much stuff that she wanted to include, and it meant that many things were given really short coverage. Early in the book, a kelpie shows up just long enough to be menacing, and is never mentioned again. It makes for a repetitive book. Fairy creature shows up, is described, vanishes from the story. Over and over.
By the same token, most of the book can be described as "Meghan gets herself into trouble, gets immediately rescued by somebody else". It's very Perils of Pauline after awhile, and it loses any and all dramatic tension. I also didn't appreciate that I was over 60% done with the book before Meghan first made a positive contribution to her own survival. And I just can't connect with a lead character who doesn't do any leading.
And there's a lot of borrowing. I don't mind an author taking bits and pieces from legends, folklore, and myth. That's what they're there for, in my opinion. I'd never criticize an author for using established bits of fairy lore, like the Summer and Winter Courts. Sure, they're verging on cliche, but it works. But I'm not comfortable with a book taking a lot of elements from a single source that isn't mythic. I'd bet good money that Kagawa has seen Labyrinth at least as many times as I have, because she takes a lot of elements from that movie, including at least one major plot element. I love that movie, too, but I would have much rather seen a lot less of it.
But in Kagawa's defense, the writing is actually fairly good. The general thrust of the plot makes sense, and I believe Meghan's motivations. And although it's obvious from very early on that there will be a love triangle in the series, romance is kept firmly on the sidelines for the vast majority of the book, and there's no instalove in evidence. I've seen far worse. And then there's the iron fey themselves, a really great concept to build a fairy series around. There's definitely promise for the series.
But I don't think I'll be sticking around. While Meghan isn't exactly unlikeable, she still doesn't get enough agency. That might improve in later books, but this one just wasn't enough to make me need to keep reading.