Sunday, March 18, 2012

Quirk Review: The Iron King (The Iron Fey #1) by Julie Kagawa

Meghan Chase 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 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 heart.

I have not had good luck with fey/fairy/faery novels. Every one that I have read has been lacking in some way and I was very near to giving up on the sub-genre altogether. But I kept hearing about Julie Kagawa's Iron Fey series and how amazing it was. So I decided to give The Iron King, the first book in the series, a chance (by selecting it as my suggestion for my book club). Did this fey book suffer a fate like all the others?

Far from it.

I was a little worried when starting this book because the writing seemed a little simple and the characterization of Meghan, the protagonist, slightly stereotypical. But that changed quickly. The more the story goes along, the more Kagawa shows how amazing of a write she is. Her style is humorous and descriptive, giving you everything you need to imagine the events and the fantastical creatures in the story. You see exactly where Meghan is coming from and can relate, even when things get crazy.

The book is also full of action and once things get moving, hardly a moment of downtime. The action is described well, but it isn't overly drawn out. This was one of the things that really made me appreciate Kagawa's storytelling, how she summarizes the the unimportant parts of the story, the boring parts, if you will, and keeps things brief without making the reader feel like things are rushed or being skipped. For instance, every moment of Meghan's school day has no bearing on the story, so we don't go through every class with her. We don't find out exactly what she does moment-for-moment between important events when she's at home. When something exciting happens, we get the event, but it is written pretty true to how Meghan thinks when she's going through it, making it feel quick and immediate. This gave the story a great flow and kept the plot from dragging.

Meghan lives in Louisiana and Kagawa gives you a good sense of the woods Meghan has to walk through on a daily basis and her home life. When it comes to the Nevernever, where much of the book takes place, it is everything fey and amazing and scary that you can imagine. I liked that there was plenty of description without it getting too detailed. A lot is left up to the reader's imagination, which I enjoyed.

There are a few other settings that the characters visit, including a night club run by fey and a park in New Orleans. I liked these locations as well. Kagawa knows how to get the essence of a place across, even one that seems normal, in an interesting and engaging way.

As I mentioned before, Meghan at first seemed a little too much your typical teenager, with a good dose of naivete on the side. But she has one of the best character growth arcs I've seen in YA. She goes from unsuspecting girl to fierce heroine. I really liked her and enjoyed reading from her perspective and seeing her transform. Things are not easier for her, in fact, things get pretty difficult and terrible, and still she keeps fighting and overcomes. I liked how loyal and loving she was to her little brother and how she realizes her mistakes with her parents. She stays true to herself and is girl that keeps her word.

Puck, Meghan's best friend and one of the oldest fey around, was a fun character. He is definitely the trickster kind, but he is loyal to Meghan and you can tell his feelings run deep for her, so it will interesting to see what kind of trouble comes from that in later books.

Despite liking Puck as a character, when it comes to Team Puck versus Team Ash, I am decidedly Team Ash. He's confident, dark, dangerous, and I always enjoy that in a love interest. His personality has layers and he is the hero that is also truly vulnerable, which is something I don't see that often. I also thought the relationship between Ash and Meghan developed in an authentic way.

And while there are many other characters that could be mentioned, I want to shout out my love for just a couple more, the Packrats and Grimalkin. I loved the Packrats and thought they were great and very unique. As for Grim, I'm a cat fan and reading a cat character that talks and is snarky and pretty much says what I imagine my cat thinks all the time? Win.

This book had everything I look for in a YA novel. Action, adventure, mystery, swoon, and a great heroine who I can identify with and admire. I thought the fey aspect of the story would put me off, as it had done in so many other books, but Kagawa did a great job of making the fantastical feel possible.

The other amazing thing about this book is that while it has a lot of typical fey elements, the creatures, the Seelie and Unseelie courts, I was most impressed that Kagaway came up with the Iron Fey. I thought it was incredibly smart and loved how the Nevernever was near the Iron Court. It was so cool to see something so different from your typical fey stories and just made the novel that much better.

As someone who'd had not-so-great experiences with fey-based novels, The Iron King was way more than I ever expected and is the first fey book I've ever loved. You get your usual fey craziness but with a twist, an admirable heroine, some swoony fey heroes, and tons of action, leading to an amazing ending and (thankfully!) more books. Kagawa really impressed me and I look forward to reading the rest of the Iron Fey series as well as everything else she writes.

1 comment:

  1. I have also not had good luck with fae stories...and for me, this one wasn't that great either. I like the light funny boy so I preferred Puck even knowing my team was doomed.

    But I do have a recommendation for you: Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston is a great book that I've recommended to loads of people (with two more to make a trilogy)-check it out if you have a chance!


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