Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa


April 13, 2012 by Heidi

Title: The Iron King [Amazon|GoodReads]
Author: Julie Kagawa [Website|Twitter|Facebook]
Standing: The Iron Fey #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Published: February 1st, 2010 by Harlequin Teen
Format: Kindle edition; 363 pages.  
Source: Borrowed from my local library.

Meghan has never really fit in–she’s the poor country girl at school, and her only real friend is Robbie, her poor country neighbor.  However, she realizes as she nears her 16th birthday, that there is more to it than not having the right clothes or money.  Her 4-year-old brother, Ethan, is constantly claiming to see monsters, and now Meghan thinks it might be more than childhood fear.  She’s seeing things too, and when Ethan is replaced with a changeling she gets Robbie to reveal some truths about the world of the fey.  He agrees to take her there and to assist her in retrieving her brother, but navigating Fairyland proves to be much more dangerous and full of truths than Meghan might be ready for.

It was inevitable when I picked up The Iron Fey, that I was going to compare it to Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely.  So please indulge me while I do so for a paragraph (you can skip it, you don’t have to tell me).  Going in, I have to admit I was worried that the series would be too similar, or that I just wouldn’t like this one as much.  Luckily, they were different enough I don’t feel as if I’ll be constantly comparing them (you know, other than this paragraph), and I did really like this first novel in The Iron Fey.  Where Wicked Lovely is written as more urban fantasy, I would categorize The Iron Feyas strait up fantasy with a contemporary setting.  The Iron Feyis less dark, but still presents the fey as creepy, mischievous, potentially scary, and was slightly more traditional in its lore.  It kind of felt like it was written for a slightly younger audience than Wicked Lovely, and followed a few more YA tropes, but I found The Iron Fey to be original, well written, and completely engrossing.  What sucked me in?  This paragraph here:

I hadn’t even touched the keys when the computer screen blipped on.  When I paused, my fingers hovering over the board, words began to scroll across the blue screen.  Meghan Chase.  We see you.  We’re coming for you.  I froze.  The words continued, those three sentences, over and over.  Meghan Chase.  We see you.  We’re coming for you.  Megan Chase we see you we’re coming for you.  Meghan Chase we see you we’re coming for you…over and over until it completely filled the screen.

Thereafter, the series has almost an Alice in Wonderland meets Labyrinth sort of feel, but you know, in a good way (I despise Alice in Wonderland, sorry world–but I love me some Labyrinth).  There’s even a dopey Ludo-like character at one point!  When Meghan’s brother is stolen (unfortunately, not by David Bowie) and replaced with a changeling, she’s determined to get him back.  Now, usually, when our innocent heroine encounters Fairyland and it’s rules, I groan.  Because most young ladies upon contact with fairies don’t listen to any of the rules and end up in trouble.  Not Meghan!!  Meghan, dear friends, is smart.  She may not know everything, or get everything 100% (because that would be boring and unrealistic), but she does listen.  She’s clever enough to not repeatedly make mistakes with the fey, and even to bargain with them intelligently.  This made me love her.  She was vulnerable and naive, but that doesn’t mean she’s stupid.  She doesn’t start out tough, but we are able to see her grow and strengthen throughout the course of her journey.
Now, there wasn’t an in-your-face love triangle in The Iron King, but you can see it coming like a mack truck.  I like that I honestly can’t predict which way the romance will go, and that makes reading yet another series with this trope doable.  Of course, I know what way I want it to go, but that’s besides the point…Additionally, I really enjoyed the entire cast.  Every character and creature was excellently described and well-written, and my favorite, by far, was the cat Grimalken.  For anyone who loves the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland, or enjoys the superiority complex of cats in general, Grimalken is the cat for you.
Finally, I loved the lore presented in this series.  It’s fairly traditional with Mab, Oberon, Titania, faery rules, etc, but there were twists that made the story both current and original.  I don’t want to say too much and give anything away (I can spoil this one in future reviews, right?), but I will say that when everything clicked into place I was enthusiastically surprised.  
Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Already checked out Winter’s Passage and The Iron Daughter!  
Recommended for:  Fans of Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, and Wicked Lovely, or anyone who enjoys fantasy and is looking for an interesting twist on Celtic mythology.
Real life repercussions of reading this book: Totes watching Labyrinth.  You’re welcome readers!

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