So this is my first Tuesday Review Day after a brief hiatus to finish up my English degree (Woohoo!!). Now that it’s all over and done with, I’m excited to get back to posting more regularly. For this week’s review I’ve chosen Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King. Normally I don’t go for fairies, but I figured, what the heck, and dove in.
I’ve never been a fan of the whole fairy/faery thing. I read Carrie Jones’ Need a few years ago and just couldn’t get Past book 1. Now, after reading The Iron King, my opinion has changed slightly. I almost want to say I loved it, but then I think of the things about it that kind of made me cringe and that “love” drops down to a “really liked.”
After 16 years of being a loser, “swamp girl” Meghan Chase’s world is turned upside down when she discovers that her life-long friend Robbie is none other than Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and that she is the half-faery daughter of King Oberon. After her little brother Ethan is kidnapped by evil fey and replaced with a changeling, she is forced to enter into the world known as Faeryland, or the Nevernever, to rescue him. There she discovers a world broken into kingdoms of Winter Fey and Summer Fey, led by Titania and Oberon respectively, and a land called the Iron Kingdom, which is unknown and therefore unimportant to the Winter and Summer fey. Because of this, Meghan’s mission to save her little brother turns into a much more dangerous mission than she expected, forcing her to face and attempt to defeat a very powerful king all on her own.
What I Liked:
1. The imagery was great. All of the descriptions of characters were very clear. I especially loved the way the Iron King was depicted – Bluetooth earpiece, robotic yet not. Also, the pictures painted of the different lands in the Nevernever were very detailed, and you could tell that the land of the Iron King had a lot of thought and imagination put into it. Although she probably could’ve avoided phrases like “the color of drowned infants” when describing her little brother’s changeling.
2. Her wording and use of literary devices was interesting. “As subtle as a thunderstorm” was one metaphor I liked, and icicles commiting suicide was another good one. Puck sometimes pulled off great quips, such as “Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?” I also found “mountains of forgotten technology” a great visual for the piles of antiquated technology Meghan found in the land of the Iron King.
3. At first I thought it was crazy that Meghan would even consider staying with the Iron King and becoming his wife. Insane. But as I thought about it a bit more, I found it very interesting. Meghan was a victim of bullying in her school. She was poor, not very pretty, and lived in the bad part of town. As she hashed things out in her mind, it made sense that she would consider one awful fate instead of another if it meant she’d actually mean something.
What I Didn’t Like:
1. The whole Midsummer Night’s Dream theme wasn’t used enough. A few of the same characters were used, and the strife between Oberon and Titania was definitely there, but it ended at that. It’s possible that the love triangle between Ash, Puck, and Meghan could be a nod to the triangle/square in the play, but it’s tough to tell. For all we know, Ms. Kagawa could’ve written a Master’s thesis on Shakespeare’s famous comedy, but that didn’t show through in this story. Because there was such little reference to the play, it almost seemed pointless to be referencing at all.
2. A lot of the book seemed unoriginal. References to Shakespeare aside, certain names – Nevernever, Faeryland, etc., just seemed like placeholders for something better than just never came to mind. Also, many aspects of the story were much like those in previously written works (think Narnia, The Labyrinth, The Hobbit, and Alice in Wonderland), making it come off less as an original adaptation and more of a cut and paste job. I do not think she stole other writers’ ideas, I just think ideas she had came off as unoriginal.
3. The foreshadowing wasn’t really foreshadowing, it was basically telling you, very loudly, that “THIS IS IMPORTANT! YOU SHOULD PAY ATTENTION!” Robbie/Puck’s incessant use of the nickname “Princess” for Meghan and her ridiculous obsession with her backpack and busted iPod were fine at first, but they got past the point of simple foreshadowing when they were repeated constantly.
My overall impression of this book was that it has a lot of potential. It ended with a great cliffhanger, so I’ll certainly be reading the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, just to see where it goes from here. I only hope that some of the slight sloppiness of the first book in this series gets cleaned up a bit now that the story has picked up speed. It gets 3. 5 stars because there was a lot about it that I thought was great, but also quite a bit that made me facepalm a bit.