Good fantasy needs originality. It’s essential. The younger generation’s infatuation with fantasy has made booksellers crank out piles of trash novels and the kids take it in without question. If you walk down the pre-teen fiction aisle in a bookstore and flip through a few books, the same theme prevails in all: violence, magic, bad writing, and no backbone of a storyline. Originally Chanda Hahn’s Iron Butterfly series seemed to be going down the same path. But as Thalia’s adventure continues in The Steele Wolf, Hahn turns the storyline around and makes her book stand out of the crowd of teen fiction while giving the reader a cheerful and enjoyable tale.
Readers will find themselves more sympathetic with the themes in The Steele Wolf than with those of The Iron Butterfly entry. None of us have been tortured as Thalia was and the idea is hard to connect with, but as the plot progresses we find something shocking and easier to imagine: a girl who has lost her memory and has become a completely different person, only to return to a world she no longer connects with. Not only does Thalia’s story progress, but Kael’s also takes a definitive turn. His sullen hardness in the first book finally explains itself with heart-aching results. Hahn’s well-developed characters begin to find a driving force behind their quest.
Whereas The Iron Butterfly was a little unripe as far as editing and plot developing goes, Hahn straightens out some of the wrinkles behind the story in the second book. She cuts back on pointless action scenes and awkward interactions, and the result makes Thalia’s story more believable.
More than anything, Hahn makes The Iron Butterfly series comfortable to read. Sometimes authors can go overkill on dark magic and bad guys. In contrast Hahn focuses not on evil but on good. The cities are beautiful and unique; the inhabitants like the Valdyrstal clan from the mountains and the elf-like Denai arouse our sympathy and our respect. Hahn takes some of the concepts of Eragon, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Maze Runner and applies them to an entirely different theme. Although her influences are sometimes obvious she readjusts them and makes them her own.
The Steel Wolf shows some light-hearted fantasy that doesn’t rely on magic to carry out its message and purpose. Thalia is the perfect example of a young hero that kids can connect with. Hahn has succeeded in creating a unique book that should stand out on the shelves, and fans will await expectantly the release of her next book.