Title: The Iron King
Series: Iron Fey
Publisher: Harlequin Teen (2010)
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My rating: 4 of 5 stars
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.
The Iron King has been one of the best surprises to be found in my shelves this year. I decided to pick it up because the fourth part is coming up, my curiosity was piqued, and I thought it might be nice to read a Fairy Tale – a topic I've recently become interested in.
The result? One of the best Young Adult books I've read to date. And reading YA books is part of my job.
The narrative is a first person point of view, which tends to be controversial, but I personally enjoy the chance to see the world through another person's eyes – when it is well done. This is the case of Iron King: we discover a new world through Meghan Chase's eyes, and we're able to perceive the fear and the wonder as clearly as if it was our own.
Meghan, contrary to many other main characters in YA, does not adapt too fast to her new situation. She ignores everything about Faeries at first, and she makes mistakes and is lost and scared, as we'd expect her to. However, she learns from those mistakes, doesn't cling to her preconceived ideas and is open to evolution. This evolution always responds to events in the plot, so it doesn't feel forced. She has the right mixture of courage to overcome her fears and a motivation believable enough to face the obstacles instead of running away. I like her, and it is easy to empathize with her, and that is more than I can say in many other cases.
This book is, more than anything, an adventure. The goals are clear from the beginning, and action is always geared towards achieving them. The ply of the heroine is, as I said, understandable and the characters that appear in the book and help her or oppose her all have reasons of their own, beyond “because we need an evil guy-slash-sidekick-slash-love interest”.
Because there is also romance. Not as prominent as the main quest, but definitely present and definitely important. He is a prince, her very opposite, graced with unnatural beauty and a Byronic character. While it can be argued that the foundations of this love story are somewhat weak, I'd have to say: Prince. Handsome. Brooding. 16-year-old girl. Do we really need more reasons for this to make sense?
Another thing the author did in this series that I certainly enjoyed, other than write likeable characters and a solid plot with a nearly-adult take on Faeries, would be the winks to Shakespeare and Midsummer Night's Dream: Oberon and Titania, Summer and Winter Courts... and Puck as Meghan's best friend and greatest rival of the prince. Puck's personality was quite well developed, better even than the official “love interest”, and his comments made for a lightning touch of humor that was appreciated.
By the way, the talking cat is not ripped from Alice in Wonderland. It is, as every other type of Faery mentioned in the novel, the result of a research on folklore. It was a pleasure to see Kagawa's interpretation of caith sith, kelpies, redcaps, goblins, trolls, pouhkas, bogey men... A thorough job, indeed. The way she plays with the stuff of dreams, with the way technology is slowly killing imagination and with how the sense of wonder and belief are disappearing, and how she makes of this issue a central part of the novel underlying the main quest, is certainly worthy of praise.
Honestly, I look forward to read what else happens in the Iron Fey series. I would recommend you to read this first book and see if you enjoy it as much as I did. Do not let yourself be scared away by the fact that this is a series: this first book at least has an open ending, yes, but it also leaves you with a sense of “wholeness” that won't nag you if you decide not to pursue the collection afterward.
Though I don't see why you wouldn't want to read the next book.