Review: The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young-adult, supernatural/fae
Series: The Iron Fey #3
Pages: 295 (nook ebook version)
Published: February 2011
Source: won in giveaway
Rating: 4/5
Tagline: Summer fades
      Ice melts
      Here's what's left

In what was originally planned as the concluding book in the Iron Fey series, The Iron Queen neatly ties up most plot-lines, while creating enough new questions and emotions to trouble the reader long after the final page wraps up. Meghan, Ash, Puck and Grimalkin must once again team up, and struggle with each other and the forces of the Courts to save the Nevernever from the iron poisoning of the false king. This unlikely group of lovers, enemies, friends, and cats is the heart of all these novels; each character adds something unique and necessary to the mix. One of the things I love about this book is that in a world of harsh segregation and racism, it is a motley bunch from all three realms (Winter, Summer, Iron) that volunteers to save everyone, regardless of their affiliation. From the Court of Summer (Meghan herself, Puck),  and Winter (Ash),  and Iron (Ironhorse/Glitch/gremlins) and even the independent cait sith (Grimalkin) this group of individuals sets out to achieve what no 'normal' group of faeries would even contemplate.

In the third foray into this compelling and entrancing world, further glimpses of the Nevernever outside of the Summer and Winter Court are shown. Societies and cities (like the giant city of Mag Tureidh) are shown, and even become important settings for the novel. I appreciated the change of scenery in the story: in the first two books The Iron King and the Iron Daughter, the focus is mostly on the Iron fey themselves and the world they've created. The explorations of the group allow them (and the reader) a view into the Iron realm, Arcadia, Tir Na Nog, the wyldwood and everywhere else they must go. Each new place and denizen serve to illustrate how dangerous, alluring and just different from humans all the fey, Sellie/Unseelie/Iron are. With such a large and varied realm like the world of faery, Julie Kagawa teases and hints with details of a place that seems both plausible, interesting and above all, dangerous. Another thing I like about this author's style is that the details of this world are slowly doled out and revealed, making it appear that as Meghan discovers this world, so does the reader.

 Speaking of revelations, there is much more insight into the periphery characters than in previous novels. Ash is shown to have more sides than just the "broody, silent, sexy protector" he's been shown to be and Puck demonstrates his capability for more than just pranks and clever name-calling. The love-triangle issue is dealt with fairly quietly and easily, a fact for which I am most grateful. Meghan herself continues to grow and change in a strong character arc, that over several books, has impressed me greatly. In the first book, Meghan is a passive and almost weak girl. When taunted by her schoolmates Meghan cowers in the restroom. In the Iron Daughter, Meghan gains a bit of backbone; enough to confront to powerful faery monarchs. Here, in the Iron Queen, Meghan takes the initiative to learn self defense and "fight her on battles." While the line itself may be a bit hokey and cheesy, I can't help but love when a formerly passive heroine actually decides to change, to take charge and do something. Brava for Meghan. I respect her more for not simply standing back and letting her boyfriend protect her. Meghan's increasing confidence in herself, as well as in her intelligence has waxed large over these books and one of the highpoints of them. Another note about Meghan that I really liked: for a character that is so imbued with potent, unique power, Meghan rarely makes use of her glamours. This relatively human aspect, among characters that shift into birds and turn to ice, keeps Meghan relatable in an inhuman setting. The focus is on Meghan herself, rather than what she can do.

This novel certainly does not suffer from the slow start of book number two. Instead of introducing us to a new and unfamiliar place as before (the Nevernever in general, the Winter Court), the action launches straight from the first page. Picking up right after the final words and events of the Iron Daughter, the Iron Queen wastes no time in getting to plot and the huge problem facing the Nevernever and its traditional fae population. The battles between the Summer/Winter Fey and the Iron Fey are stark and bloody. Described with a gory and gritty feel, the battles came to life and resonated with each character. Mab and Oberon were impressive in battle; I did have hopes for more close scenes but since the main story is Meghan away from the central conflict, I cannot complain too much. The finale/climax was detailed in its superb execution and fulfilling, while managing to wrench my heartstrings and leave me lamenting several twists and turns I had not foreseen. The overwhelming message of this novel, and the ones preceding, is that family is who you love, not who shares your blood.

Though these books are not without problems and faults, I wholeheartedly have loved this series. I am delighted that there is a fourth book about Ash. I'm also intrigued that it is the only one not from Meghan's perspective; it will be interesting to see the Nevernever and also Meghan herself through another's, non-human eyes.


  1. This is on my read-someday TBR -- I too love the covers and have seen much squee-age. But I find I can't do too much of one genre and have been enjoying Melissa Marr's fairy court series at the moment. Still -- too many people like this series for me to ignore it!

  2. I'd wanted to read The Iron Fey series for a while! It probably would have been aaages before I got it and read it, but I won the first three in a giveaway. Woo!

    I read the first of Marr's Wicked Lovely series, and while I want to finish it eventually I didn't love enough to make seek out the sequels. And, now that I've read 6 (with the two novellas) fae tales by Kagawa, it will be likely even longer before I return to Ashlinn. Oh well!


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