Meghan Chase’s birthday is tomorrow. Sweet sixteen. It rolls off the tongue promising magic, romance and opportunity. It’s the age when girls become princesses and go to dances. Sixteen is when a girl is supposed to find true love while the stars shine for her and a handsome prince carries her off into the sunset. All the stories say so.
Meghan does find magic on her birthday, but it’s nothing like the stories talked about.
Instead of romance and happily ever after, Meghan finds her four-year-old half-brother replaced by a changling from the Nevernever. With the help of a very familiar fey, Meghan will have to venture into the treacherous world of fairyland to rescue her brother. Her mission will take her to the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. It will challenge everything she thought she knew about magic, fairies, and her own past. If Meghan can survive the Nevernever she might be able to save her brother, but there’s no escaping the truth in The Iron King (2010) by Julie Kagawa.
The Iron King is the first book in Kagawa’s The Iron Fey series.* It joins the ranks of many paranormal romances released for teens, not only by Harlequin Teen.** The blurb from the back of the book is filled with massively huge spoilers. You have been warned.
Kagawa’s premise here is really interesting. She blends elements of urban fantasy, traditional fairy lore, and even steampunk in an original way with a lot of potential for a great story with truly exciting characters. But for all that promise, The Iron King never really pulls itself together into a cohesive book.
The story is interesting and will have a lot of appeal for anyone who loves paranormal romances*** and fairies. But, for some readers, the flaws will outweigh the appeal.
Meghan narrates the story in the first person and her voice is very erratic. It’s also very repetitive with whole phrases being used verbatim again and again in the story. The descriptions seem to have too many adjectives to qualify things instead of just showing them to the reader.
Meghan herself is also very inconsistent. One minute she is completely believing everything she hears about fairies, the next she doubts the efficacy of fairy glamour. She is constantly told to be careful and follow certain rules and she constantly ignores them. She often contradicts her previous opinions throughout the story.****
The plot and Kagawa’s depiction of fairyland is almost enough to let Meghan’s inconsistency slide (the landscape of the Nevernever is one of the strongest aspects of the story). Almost. Until you get to the romance aspect of this story.
The Iron King is really thin on romance (like it doesn’t come up until halfway through the story thin) and, once again, inconsistent. Meghan’s supposed love interest is one dimensional and unconvincing. She keeps talking about how beautiful and sexy he is, but at a certain point you (or me anyway) begin to wonder who Megan is really trying to convince.
That isn’t to say The Iron King won’t have its fans. Indeed, it already does; this might be the only negative review you see out in the blogosphere. Inconsistencies and annoying aspects aside, The Iron King is reminiscent of Twilight and will find a lot of fans in readers looking for somewhere to go now that they’ve finished with Bella and Edward.
*I think this is a trilogy but it also might be a longer series and the third book is the only one in the works right now (the first two are already out).
**They published The Iron King if that wasn’t clear.
***I’m starting to think I don’t and actually just like the more traditional fantasy/urban fantasy tropes. But that’s me.
****She also does an old fashioned about face as the story progresses. In the beginning of the novel, Meghan bemoans being poor, saying: “I wish we weren’t so poor, I know pig farming isn’t the most glamorous of jobs, but you’d think Mom could afford to buy me at least one pair of nice jeans” (page 11). Later, on page 141, Meghan completely contradicts her earlier frustration saying: “My whole life, I had worn ratty jeans and T-shirts. My family was poor and couldn’t afford designer clothes and name brands. Rather then bemoan the fact that I never got nice things, I flaunted my grunginess and sneered at the shallow rich girls who spent hours in the bathroom perfecting their makeup.” So that sneering would be everywhere except for on page 11 then?
Possible Pairings: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto, War For the Oaks by Emma Bull, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by C. S. Lewis, Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston, Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Wings by Aprilynne Pike, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, The New Policeman by Kate Thompson, The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff
Exclusive Bonus Content (In which I rant and might have a spoiler or two): As you might have noticed from the above review, I didn’t love this book. Part of it was legitimate problems with the story and the characters. But part of it also that I am so over the paranormal romance genre.
Meghan’s best friend, it turns out, is Puck. He is funny and loyal and risks everything repeatedly to help her rescue her brother. And as soon as the sexy and gorgeous Ash (that would be her designated love interest) comes onto the scene, Meghan throws it in his face.
Oh and Puck pretty clearly loves Meghan. After Meghan makes a really dangerous deal with Ash, Puck is upset. He shouts at Meghan: “You don’t need his help! Don’t you trust me to keep you safe? I would’ve given everything for you. Why didn’t you think I’d be enough?”
And then Meghan proceeds to be extremely confused as to why Puck would be so upset. Really? (I am the queen of missing or misreading signals and I think in her situation even I could figure out why Puck was upset. Of course, I also love Puck so maybe that’s a bias?)
I’m so sick of the girl in books falling for the dark, broody bad boy who wants to kill her (literally Ash says he will kill her if he’s told to by the Unseelie Queen) when the funny, helpful boy is RIGHT THERE willing to risk everything for this girl who offers nothing in return.
To be fair, Kagawa tries to stack the decks by making Puck the irresponsible-prankster-who-takes-things-too-far (and is in a feud to the death with Ash) but he was honestly one of the only shining aspects a book that proved to be deeply frustrating.