Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Friday, July 22, 2011

Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #1
Pages: 280 (nook ebook version)
Published: February 2010
Source: won in a giveaway
Rating: 4/5

Tagline: Iron, ice, a love doomed from the start

Consider me a fan of this series! While it may be a bit premature to announce that after reading just one book of a planned four (with two novellas as well), by the end of this book I did not want to stop reading. Despite its flaws, despite my initial apathy towards the main character, I was completely won over by this faery tale with a modernday twist.

Meghan Chase is our female main character, a teenage girl of half-human and half Summer Faery lineage. She's special and unique and wonderful, but only in the Nevernever (aka Faeryland -  a name I hate and will not use for this review.) At home in backwoods Louisiana, she often feels ignored and neglected by her mother and stepfather. She has one friend, Robbie Goodfell to rely on and depend on in hard times (like in this book when her brother Ethan is abducted and replaced with a creepy creature that looks just like him...) Meghan's determined, very impulsive, intelligent but occasionally annoying. She thinks she's a lot more capable than she actually is -- such as when setting out to rescue Ethan she makes various stupid decisions leading to more than a few repetitive situations where she must be saved by another. The good thing about Meghan Chase is that she adapts and she learns quickly; she doesn't make the same stupid decision twice. Her flaws and faults make her a more fleshed out and real character, in my opinion. Once confronted with the facts of an alternate, hidden fae world, Meghan doesn't bore the reader with thirty pages of "but HOW?!" and "it's just so impossible" or some such nonsense. Instead she does what made me like her more and more as she is confronted with unlikely and dangerous situations: she constantly adapts and plans her next move.

Her best friend Robbie in turn on their quest is revealed as the beloved Robin Goodfellow of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. A living extension of the mythology of this world, of the idea that human belief creating and sustaining the Nevernever, its Courts, peoples, creatures, etc., Robbie has existed for hundreds of years because he is continually popular within human culture. As Puck, I liked the character much more than Robbie. His personality is much more fleshed out and real as opposed to the goofy best-friend stereotype he was in Meghan's mortal life. Puck's irreverent humor and whip-sharp sarcasm were a nice contrast to Meghan's more straight woman act. Sad as I am to say though, in this love triangle my support definitely belongs to the broody Winter Prince, Ash. Though a bit of their relationship is troubling (half the time he's either trying to kill Meghan or she thinks he is), I've always been a fan of the mysterious, strong silent type, a type Ash fits completely. I know I usually despise love triangles in YA supernatural stories, but I was genuinely fond of both love interests so I was not too harsh when considering the inevitable wishwashy back-and-forth to come. It also helps that the triangle doesn;t consume too much of Meghan's inner monologue; as of yet she views Robbie as only as best friend though I predict that will change within a book. I also was a bit miffed at how fast both Ash and Meghan went from "I think you might be trying to kill me and I don't trust you" (about 200 pages) to "Oh my god I love you" (about 30 pages). As much as I like each character, I want more credibility than that, please. Ash is a Winter Prince of the Unseelie Court and Meghan a Summer Princess of the Seelie Court - it's not going to be that easy for two kids to be together when their families are mortal enemies.

Outside of the characters, the author clearly has a vivid imagination and has let it run wild. The easy style makes for fast reading, so it's easy to get caught up in the action and miss the side allusions to a fully-realized and populated world. The author is very visually descriptive without trying too hard to make the words shine, so the focus is on what is said, rather than how it is said. Like the changeling who took Meghan's brother's place that was mentioned earlier. many creatures in this novel are pretty creepy and unsettling. The list of familiar and new-to-me malevolent creatures reads like a horror movie: ogres, goblins, kelpies, norrgens, wisps, redcaps, glaistigs, etc. All were unique and reminded me of fairy tales before they became glossed-over happily-ever-after tales, when they were dark and full of danger and no one in the story made it out as good as it began.

While not human and not monsters either, the fae population of both the 'good' (Seelie/Oberon/Titania/Summer) and the 'bad' (Unseelie/Mab/Winter) at large seem morally grey, with neither side acting particularly humanely nor kindly towards Meghan in her plight. While the Summer Court may not be as openly sinister as the Winter Court (openly stating how much the nobles would like to drink Meghan's blood is disconcerting) neither Oberon nor Titania is sympathetic. Titania is actually enjoyable madcap and malevolent towards her husband's daughter, further isolating Meghan in the only world she has felt at home. While I might have wished for more personality from Oberon or even a sliver of affection shown for his daughter, the overt animosity of Titania worked better to keep Meghan moving and plot advancing. I had hoped for more of Mab as well, but clearly she is to play a much larger role in further books. I look forward to how Kagawa will distinguish her version of the popular Winter Queen from all the rest.
This is an unexpectedly engrossing story. For one populated with old, well used characters and a familiar plot, the Iron King still manages to be original and completely fun faery tale. From vivid action sequences that pop off the page, to a modern-day twist on age-old lore about Fae themselves, I was engrossed in this story, this world and cannot wait to jump into the next book, the Iron Daughter.


  1. Loved it! I'm so ready for Iron Knight. Or, Iron Prince, as I for some reason keep calling it. Great review!
    Have an awesome weekend!

  2. Glad to hear there's not the usual "But this can't be, even though I'm staring right at it..." :)

  3. Courtney: I keep calling it the same thing. I think it's because they call him the Winter Prince so often in this series! I actually started these now because I got the Iron Knight on netgalley!

    That was one of my favorite parts, Libby - the emptyheaded denial issue drives me crazy so I was happy to see a girl with brains!

    Christina: I really recommend it!


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