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Book Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

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Meghan Chase might as well be invisible.  Ever since her father disappeared before her eyes at the age of six, Meghan has never fitted in at school or at home.  Her mother is always too busy for her; her step-father barely seems to remember who she is; and her classmates switch between ignoring and persecuting her.  She has but one friend, Robbie, but it is her younger brother Ethan that means the world to her.  On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, strange things start to happen, and Meghan is sure that she is seeing monsters out of the corners of her eyes.  She is sure that she is being watched, and things finally come to a head on her birthday when Ethan disappears and in his place is a vicious and violent changeling, a faery substitute.

Fighting waves of disbelief, Meghan soon learns that her brother has been taken to the land of the Fey and that she must venture into Faeryland or Nevernever to rescue him.  As she finally comes to comprehend why she knew so little about her friend Robbie and why she had never visited his home, she learns that he is is also Fey and that he had been sent to watch over her by King Oberon of the Unseelie Court.

The adventure takes Meghan into Nevernever where she is hunted by the Winter Prince Ash, separated from Robbie and kidnapped by goblins (and this all takes place within the first one hundred pages of the book!)  Travelling through enchanted forests and lands of perpetual winter, Meghan never tires in her quest to find and rescue her brother Ethan.  Along the way, she picks up some allies but more enemies than she can count, and the journey is full of danger and peril.

The iron King is a difficult book to review.  There is no doubt that I found it hard to put the book down and found myself sneaking more reading time than usual as I raced towards the end.  Part of the problem is that I found it quite hard to suspend disbelief, which is unusual as I’ve never seemed to have that problem with teenaged wizards, witches, vampires and werewolves before.  Growing up in England, we are quite familiar with the notion of elves, trolls, goblins and enchanted forests, but I somehow had trouble connecting with Meghan and with the story.

In fact, the story seemed to be a little too hackneyed or cartoon-like and, thus, I was not surprised when the characters landed up in the Storyland theme park at New Orleans City Park.  It finally made sense to me why I had been running through the entire book in animation in my mind. 

As I mentioned, I had difficulty connecting with Meghan, even though the book was written in the first person.  I felt irritated by the fact that Robbie was reduced in most parts to comic relief, and I found Ash’s character boring.  I must qualify that last statement: my favourite type of love interest has always been the skinny, black-haired knight who is aloof yet vulnerable.  If this is sounding familiar then you will understand my boredom, as it has just been done too many times in young adult romance novels lately.

Despite these difficulties, I reached the end of the novel and realised that I certainly want to read the sequel, The Iron Daughter.  Part of the reason is that many questions are left unanswered at the end of The iron King.  I did appreciate the need for a sequel though as it fitted in well with the storyline of regarding Meghan’s missing memories.  My hopes for the sequel are that having established the land of Nevernever and the various characters, Julie Kagawa could focus on some serious character development. 

It is entirely possible that The Iron King is just not my cup of tea, and I would recommend the book to lovers of fantasy or young adult romance, especially if they are seeking a break from vampires!  I would say that this is a book to borrow from the library rather than purchase although the beautiful covers do make them appealing to own.

Julia Kagawa has her own website and blogThe Iron King is the first book in a trilogy called The Iron Fey and the official website for the series is enterthefaeryworld.comThe Iron Fey series is published by Harlequin Teen in the US and Mira INK in the UK.

I rate The Iron King three out of five stars.

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About Mandy Southgate

Mandy Southgate is a blogger, serial expat and eternal tourist living and working in London. Aside from writing at Blogcritics, she blogs about travel and London at Emm in London, entertainment and media at Addicted to Media and war crimes, genocide and social justice over at A Passion to Understand. Mandy has continued to write for Blogcritics under the new profile Mandy Southgate.