Saturday, March 13, 2010

Book Review: The Iron King

TitleThe Iron King
Series: The Iron Fey Book 1
Author(s): Julie Kagawa
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher/Year: Harlequin Teen/2010
-Webpage: Julie Kagawa Home
-Blog: Julie Kagawa @ LJ
-Challenges Fulfilled: -Challenges Fulfilled: 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge,  1st in Series Challenge , Fantasy Reading Challenge , Becky's Book Reviews A to Z Challenge, 2010 Debut Author Challenge

Synopsis:  Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined…

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

Review:  Strictly speaking the concept for The Iron King is not a new one in recent young adult (or even mainstream) fiction.  Previously oblivious teen girl finds out that she's related, in some way, to the Fey Courts and her life plummets into danger, suspense and a shocking amount of violence.  The cast of Fey characters usually involve the usual suspects--Puck, Oberon, Titania, Mab--as well as the usual Fey creatures.  In this The Iron King does not surprise.

Instead Kagawa gives us a new type of Fey.  Its made clear, that like the traditional Fey this new 'Iron Fey' also draws power from and was created by human imagination and belief.  The exact science, if you can really call it that, of the Iron Fey I'll leave to everybody to read about, but there you have it.  The Fey are, with few (if any) exceptions extremely manipulative and cutthroat.  They don't believe in the literal meaning of a promise--several times Meghan is cautioned to reconsider her wording because the Fey created the notion of loopholes (which leads me to believe they're all lawyers or insurance people in the real world).  Sometimes she uses this to her advantage, but more often she's at the wrong end of the word choice and suffers for it.

I was rather pleased to see the inclusion of Grimalkin, or Cait Sith, in the series.  Kind of like the Cheshire Cat, Cait Sith are like cats--they go where they want, when they want and do things because they interest them.  Grim is really no exception, though several times he makes a bargain that benefits Meghan (or her quest) with only a vague 'I'll get mine back in the future' sort of response.  I don't think you can say he's Meghan's friend, or even ally quite frankly.  Temporary companion perhaps.

Ash, who runs all over the spectrum between good and bad, was definitely intriguing and showed potential, though his motivations are tainted by his association with Queen Mab.  His and Meghan's relationship later in the series takes a very interesting turn, but the end seems to put a shadow of doubt over it.  As far as Oberon and Titania and Mab go they're really no different then most society sorts--petty, ambitious and willing to tear hair out over the smallest slight.  Though in their case they are less likely to tear out each other's hair then they are to turn the other into some sort of rodent.

My favorite character Puck is in fine form.  I guessed who he was pretty quickly, but had a lot of fun seeing how he made menace without flashing who he is.  I was definitely digging Kagawa's depiction of the mischievous prankster and appreciated that she also matured him a little.

As the start of a series I think this is a wonderful debut.  It resolves only a handful of questions, but also poses intriguing ones.  The second book The Iron Daughter has a publishing date of August 2010--it can't come quickly enough!

Discussion Questions
1. What did you think of the feud between Puck and Ash? How do you think that might play out in the next two books?
Its not terribly surprising. Even if they were mortal I could see reason for a feud, so for the Fey? Who would go to War over every little thing? I think...I think that some sort of accommodation will be found between the two. Blood vow it may be, but its the Fey they live to find holes in the most airtight sentence. They definitely need some time to hash things out however. Away from Meghan. She just gets too upset over it.

2. Favorite scene or line from the book? Could you relate to any of the characters?
For pure amusement factor I think when Meghan comes upon her 'brother' and Robbie scares the living daylights out of him, that's a fun scene. I always felt my sister was switched at birth, it would explain so much yeah? I enjoyed the dance scene as well, especially Ash's parting line to Meghan. Stated so coolly and matter-of-factly, as if it was the weather. Oh Ash. I could relate with some of what happens to them, but not really any of the characters.

3. With whom did you identify with the most? And Why?
This sounds like Q2...On a purely wishful level I want to say I identify with Grim the most. Sadly I'm not as clever nor as self-serving as he is, plus I don't do cryptic very well. I'm probably most like Meghan at her most annoying however.

4. Did you find the concept behind the Iron King-being a technology fueled modern day faerie- original or unbelievable?
I think its entirely believable. Look now think of the Fey--whichever kind--as kind of being like mind over matter right? Just as a hypochondriac can make themselves sick by believing so fiercely that they are, the Fey come into existence because people believed in them so powerfully. Less than 200 years ago people were blaming sickness and dead plants on 'bad luck' and 'magic', so by that logic the land became saturated with that belief over the years. Now introduce a new kind of 'magic', technology. People believe that technology can fix anything, that technology is the root of problems, that technology will bring disaster. This belief is just as powerful as the old belief in magic and magical beings--so why wouldn't the same principle hold true?

5. Kagawa used a lot of mythical faeries in The Iron King, such as King Oberon, Queen Mab and Puck. Which fae from myth would you have liked to have seen added into the pages of The Iron King besides the ones she used?
I could have done with a lot more Kelpie action, the wee bit we saw of the Kelpie didn't please me none--you can never go wrong with Kelpie!  Aside from which Puck was a major factor and that's all I really ask for in a Fairy book.