Review: The Iron Traitor by Julie Kagawa

Saturday, November 30, 2013
Title: The Iron Traitor
Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: young adult, supernatural
Series: The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2
Pages: 348 (ARC)
Published: October 29 2013
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice.

After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as normal as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for; his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he's forbidden to see her again.

But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, normal simply isn't to be. For Ethan's nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan's and Keirran's fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan's next choice may decide the fate of them all.

Julie Kagawa takes a break from writing post-apocalyptic vampires and to return to her fae roots with The Iron Traitor. Picking up about a week after the events of the spinoff series' first novel (The Lost Prince), original protagonist's Meghan Chase's little brother Ethan continues his story with the author's trademark action, brisk pace, and creative worldbuilding. With solid writing and an authentic male voice, Kagawa eagerly jumps into an all-new adventure featuring her newest addition to the Nevernever -- the antagonistic Forgotten.

The book is at its best when it focuses on action and suspense. Kagawa has always been an author who can write the heck out of an action scene and that is prominently on display here (the epic battle with Ethan, Keirran, Ash, and Puck versus a forest spirit is particularly memorable). She struggles a bit with the first hundred pages. Not only is there a pretty detailed rundown on the previous novel (which was personally helpful but does weigh down the pace), but nothing much of note happens to anyone. It all reads like filler, like a set-up to the main attraction.

Once Keirran is finally found, the book takes off. Before, Annwyl, Ethan, and Kenzie were all hunting for him, and the book lacked a spark --- but once they're working together to hunt down a cure for the Fading Summer Court exile, the pacing and the action improve. Kagawa has room to breathe and her visual style of writing works well to foster a sense of place for both mundane and action scenes. There is a nice balance between the romance and real life for everyone involved. It's obvious that there will be romantic tension forthcoming, but it's kept to a minimum plot point.

As for characters, they are not as strong as they could be. Keirran and Ethan are probably the most rounded with Kenzie being the least dimensional. Whereas Ethan has grown past some of his immature behavior and prejudices, Kenzie is stubborn. And sick. That's really all there is to her in both these novels. Moving beyond one character to the group as a whole, there are surprising parallels between Kenzie/Annwyl and Ethan/Keirran. Annwyl's Fading (aka dying) mirrors Kenzie's sickness plotline pretty closely. It's also incredibly refreshing that there are zero love triangles in The Iron Traitor. For a YA novel that heavily focuses on two couples...well, that's unheard of. But appreciated.

Part of those enthusiastic four stars is down to pure nostalgia. While I do enjoy Ethan's story more on a technical basis, and Kagawa has improved greatly from her first efforts, the first Iron Fey quartet is my sentimental favorite. Kagawa is smart and is aware of her dedicated fanbase and thus throws in some fun cameos throughout the novel. Meghan, Ash, Puck, Grimalkin, and Razor all play various roles in the plot of The Iron Traitor. Most are either helping or chasing Keirran, Ethan, Kenzie, and Annywl as their go about their various quests throughout the novel, but their continued appearances are charming.

And as for the ending... well, if you know fans of the series that have read this I am sure you have heard EARFULS about it. All I can say is... that's one way to end a book. I may go insane waiting for the third novel, but sure, we can go with that, Julie Kagawa. It doesn't break my brain at all no I am lying tell me what happens because holy shit cliffhanger.

(This is the actual note I wrote down about how this book ended.)


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