Review: The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams

Saturday, November 12, 2016
Title: The Iron Ghost
Author: Jen Williams
Genre: fantasy
Series: The Copper Cat #2
Pages: 544
Published: expected January 2017
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 4/5

Beware the dawning of a new mage...

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin - retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking...

The second offering in Williams' fantasy series about a trio of diverse and surly hero(in)es, The Iron Ghost is a worthy successor to the series debut The Copper Promise. The thrill ride of an adventure that began in book one is continued and expanded in book two, but this time there are new foes to join the old, new and intriguing places of the world to explore, and more danger than before. Every stake at play has risen as Wydrin, Sebastien, Frith and their allies work to defeat the newest evil arrayed against them.

I said it after the first novel and it holds true after the second: Williams is an author that is as talented at creating worlds as she is at crafting the people that exist within them. From her refreshingly diverse cast of heroes and heroines to her ominous and threatening villains, these are complex and interesting beings. Wydrin and Sebastien challenge each other as much as they cooperate but theirs is a partnership welded in blood and truth. Their relationship is ever-evolving and Williams puts them (and the reader) through an emotional wringer over the course. Sebastien isn't ignored and has the most romantic plotline of the three; he's the muscle of the group but he's also the most idealistic and romantic.

More than one new form of magic/magic system and creature are given life in The Iron Ghost; having defeated the dragon-god Y'Ruen and dispersed her dragon- daughter army  before does not mean there aren't still more dark forces at play. The author is imaginative and original when it comes to the magical systems and elements in her novels, both good and evil forms. The way the werken function and channel magic was interesting and creative way to use magic and introduce a newer conflict. Outside of that, there are also demons and wyverns, griffins, gods to contend with. It's a rich full world that Wydrin and Co live in, and Williams expands it more with each book.

This planned  trilogy is a bit lighter in tone and voice than a lot of adult fantasy I have read, but the humor is a nice reprieve and is also well-played in a book with so much fighting and strife. Wydrin would be nothing without her signature snark and her blades. Frith without his sarcasm and sardonic humor would be just another tortured-sorcerer hero, etc. The Copper Cat series has so far proved, with two books to date, to be both entertaining and memorable. It's a fresh set of stories and characters in a genre that sees so much of the same done over and over again; its inventiveness and diversity is impressive and distinctive.

There's a lot to love about The Iron Ghost for fantasy fans and for me in particular; it was the rare follow-up that did not disappoint. Characters I already loved are given more space to define themselves and to further evolve and also reveal their histories. Relationships between them are explored naturally, and aren't completely hetero-normative or segregated by race. It's also a series that features zero rape, which makes it a great read and rec for those beyond tired of that in their fiction. I am a big fan of how Jen Williams writes fantasy and the series conclusion, The Silver Tide, is going to be even more epic.

Above is the UK cover, which is the one I bought because DRAGONS (wyverns) and PUNS. Here is the admittedly good-but-lacking dragons US cover:


  1. I hadn't heard of this series before but book 2 sounds so good I have to get my hands on the first one as soon as I can, awesome review.
    -Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

    1. If you like fantasy, this is a great read! Go for it :)


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