Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Title:  The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Genre: YA
Paperback: 363 pages
ISBN: 0373210086
Summary: Meghan Chase has never fit in at her small-town high school, and now, on the eve of her 16th birthday, she discovers why. When her half brother is kidnapped, Meghan is drawn into a fantastical world she never imagined--the world of Faery, where anything you see may try to eat you, and Meghan is the daughter of the summer faery king. Now she will journey into the depths of Faery to face an unknown enemy . . . and beg the help of a winter prince who might as soon kill her as let her touch his icy heart. The Iron King is the first book in the Iron Fey series. (cover photo & summary from

Overall rating: 9/10 flowers 
To buy this book:  Powell's | The Book Depository | IndieBound | Amazon
Add this book to your:  Goodreads | Shelfari | LibraryThing | Visual Bookshelf

Urban fantasy blends deliciously with a spooky fairytale ambiance in Julie Kagawa's debut novel, The Iron King.   This book was much creepier than I expected it to be, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!  I love reading about brave heroines who are thrust into challenging circumstances.  I am also a fan of excellent world-building, particularly when that world happens to include a beautiful boy, a clever illusionist, and old grudges colliding with new rivalries.  This book was a lot of fun!

What I Liked:
  • The dark fairytale world.  From the eerily hazardous Nevernever to the dangerous fey-filled streets of New Orleans, it was easy to get caught up in the fabulously spooky atmosphere of The Iron King.
  • Ash!  Who doesn't love a dangerous ice prince?  Beneath his cold, handsome exterior lies an honorable and surprisingly gentle heart.  Plus, the boy can dance and is exceptionally handy with a sword.  ;)
  • Puck.  He is more than just a playful trickster.  It is impossible not to be charmed and amused by Meghan's devoted friend and protector.
  • The creepy creatures.  From nixies to gremlins to chimeras and goblins, this book is brimming with mysterious fey creatures & many of them are seriously scary.  There are several nightmare-worthy moments & characters to be found within the pages of The Iron King.
  • Grimalkin, a clever & snarky cat with his own agenda.  He reminded me of a cross between Lewis Carroll's mischievous Cheshire Cat and Tamora Pierce's intelligent constellation cat. 
  • The blending of traditional fey mythology (Seelie Court, Unseelie Court, Shakespearian fairies - Oberon, Titania, Puck, and Queen Mab) with totally new & intriguing elements like the Iron fey.  
  • The conflict that has been brewing between Ash and Puck since long before Meghan entered their lives, which is only made more complicated by their newfound rivalry & desire to help Meghan.
  • Lines that made me laugh in the midst of tense scenes.  For example, when Megan thinks "Good God, the Ice Prince was making jokes now; the world must be ending."
  • The first book, while leaving much to be explored in the rest of the series, is still conclusive enough not to be frustrating. 
What I Wished:
  • More Ash!  More Puck!  Okay, I suppose those two characters probably could not logically have been on all 363 pages, so I know this is a slightly unfair request.  But a girl can dream, right?  Luckily, there are two more books to come, so there should be plenty of time for Meghan to find herself dealing with forbidden romance & unrequited love (aka shirtless winter prince Ash & devoted 'I would've given everything for you' Puck).
  • I wanted Meghan to experiment with her abilities a little more.  Hopefully, more time will be devoted to that in books two and three.
  • A few of the human characters leaned toward cliches (the obnoxious jock & the snotty cheerleader), and they probably could have been reworked or developed a little further.
  • Occasionally, I wanted Meghan to be a little less naive or ready to jump into fairy bargains, but she'd generally redeem herself with her unflinching determination so I never held that character trait against her for too long. 
If you enjoy modern faery stories or traditional fairytales, I would highly recommend this book.  Fans of Neil Gaiman, Melissa Marr, or Holly Black should definitely check out The Iron King.  This book also has elements that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, The Neverending Story, and Labyrinth, so if you enjoyed any of those stories, you will want to pick up this book.  I am looking forward to reading the next two books in The Iron Fey series - The Iron Daughter (August 2010) & The Iron Queen (February 2011).  For more information about this series, follow the links below & watch the lovely Iron King trailer.  You can read the first three chapters of The Iron King online at The Iron Fey website.

Julie Kagawa's:  website | blog | LJ | twitter 

March update:   Blog with Bite is featuring reviews of The Iron King this month.  Click the banner above to read other bloggers reviews or to submit your own.


Jenni Elyse said...

Are Harlequin teens like their adult counterparts? Meaning, do they have a lot of racy moments? I think I'd really like this book. I just don't want to read anything too graphic.

Violet said...

Jenni - I am not sure about all Harlequin Teen novels, but The Iron King was definitely NOT racy. [*minor spoilers* A little bit of fully-clothed kissing is the raciest it gets. There are are a few slightly suggestive scenes, such as a moment when some immature HS kids spread a rude rumor & another in which a group of lecherous satyrs try to corner Meghan. But even those scenes are very brief & and are not graphic or explicit.]

Jenni Elyse said...

Thanks for the info. I don't mind some sex in books (e.g. The Other Boleyn Sister, Graceling, Fire), I just don't like too graphic if that makes sense.

Sarah said...

Thanks for all the info on this book. I really want to read it now. I sounds good. :)

Bekah said...

The book sounds as good as the cover, which I adore. Thanks for an excellent review.

Violet said...

Sarah and Bekah - I hope you'll enjoy The Iron King as much as I did! :)

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) said...

Great review and liked how you did the likes and dislikes-- and I too wanted more Puck.

Anonymous said...

Interesting layout for your review. I liked how you made yours stand out. Thanks for Reviewing with the BWB.

ParaJunkee said...

Hopefully this won't post twice...

Totally agree with Tina and Julie about the likes and dislikes, interesting concept and well laid out review. I was a completely head bobbing in agreement with all your points. I totally wanted Meghan to be like, "I am super half faerie chick," and blow a hole in the castle with a tree or something.

Emily said...

Great review! I can tell you put a lot of thought into your review. I think Meghan's experience in high school as portrayed in this book is interesting, and not one that shows up frequently in YA- it seems like a lot of YA characters are just adrift and ignored by their peers in order to advance the rest of the story, while here, I think Meghan's experience of being subjected to the bullying that shows up at the beginning of the book is not only a good conversation starter, but also explains why she was so willing to go after her brother and to leave the rest of her life behind at the end of the book. Thanks for participating in Blog with Bite!

Violet said...

My 5 Monkeys(Julie) - I have noticed Julie Kagawa hinting that The Iron Daughter is the book for Puck fans, so that makes me very happy. :)

TinaThank you! Participating in the Blog with Bite review process has been really fun! I look forward to doing it again.

ParaJunkeeThanks! I totally wanted Meghan to have that super-half-faerie-chick moment too! Hopefully we'll get our wish in The Iron Daughter or The Iron Queen. :)

EmilyThank you for your comments! You made several excellent points about Meghan's high school experience. It really was very different from that of a typical YA fantasy protagonist, and the trauma of being bullied and humiliated did definitely set the tone for why she wouldn't feel too depressed about leaving that life behind to go after her brother in Nevernever. And it helps explain her willingness to leave a second time in order to honor her bargain with Ash. I wonder if she will ever return to high school and a typical human life again. I can't really imagine that as a part of her future anymore.

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