Book Review by: Anouk Wiertz
The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Author's website: http://www.juliekagawa.com/
Genre: YA fantasy
Series: yes, the Iron Fey
Other books: two sequels, fourth book in the series coming out in september 2011, two novellas
Before the story starts there's an excerpt from further on, promising you adventure and rescuing yourneys. It certainly does not make a lot of sense, and it still doesn't when you come upon the the excerpt piece in the book itself. I'm not sure what the use of the piece is anyway, other than that it's trying to say 'I'm a cool book, read me!' I will give it that, it's a cool book, but not the best by far.
At first we get an intro into Meghan Chase's life, the main character. Apparently her father disappeared on her sixth birthday. Not left, disappeared. Into a lake. Mystery #1 to keep the readers interested. I expected this mystery to be solved in this book, but it wasn't, so again I am not sure why this is so important that it needs to be mentioned at the beginning of the book. This is the day she is turning sixteen. Meghan talks about your 16th being a magical age, that at 16, girls become princesses. Personally, I am pretty sure I have not become a princess when I turned 16. I hope this was meant to be sarcastic.
A paragraph later the boy Meghan is in love with gets introduced. One would expect this boy to be some kind of awesome, but other than a pretty face, there is nothing interesting about him. Meghan greatly emphasizes her small house, living away from the main world and not owning any nice clothes. It seems like the author is trying very hard to make everything about Meghan as normal as possible. She doesn't appear to be very happy with her parent and housing situation, but apart from the hardly-existent internet access, she doesn't hate it either.
All around, she's just a regular girl that hasn't found her place in the world yet. Not at home, not at school. Only later do we find out why, in her case, this is not so normal.
Right when she wants to leave for school, her four-year-old brother wants her to check for monsters. She doesn't really believe him, but it is still a little creeped out. Right when she thinks she IS seeing something, there is a thunder sound and she realizes she really has to go, so she runs for the bus. There is still a lot of tension and some flashes of things that may or may not be there. The creepiness is ended when she gets jumped, but it turns out to be her playful friend Robbie. Everything goes on as normal until the tutor hour comes around. The first bit of conversation goes okay, but when Meghan tries to switch on the computer, it comes to life and messages flash accross the screen. Students around think it is a joke, but it totally freaks out Meghan, especially when she thinks she sees another creature that disappears seconds later.
Weird things continue to happen. Unexplainable attacks, weird-shapes silhouettes, a behaviour turn-around of Meghan's little brother.. Then Robbie comes over, who is not Robbie, but Robin Goodfellow aka Puck. This is supposed to be connected to a Shakespeare play which I never read, so all this was a little confusing to me. Robbie gives Meghan a choice: drink some weird kind of wine that will make her forget everything that happened, or he will tell her what is going on, but she will have to live with it. Of course she goes for the second option. He tells her that he is a faery. The fey have their own world and also live among humans. For a reason that is not mentioned yet, Meghan is one of the 'special' people that would be able to see them if she knew how. She pushes Robbie to tell her how to get her real brother back when she hears that the kid in the bedroom is not, and he provides some options. There is some more (understandable) freaking out. Robbie tries to prove to her that he really is a faery, and after a while, the urge to save her brother wins over the weirdness of it all. They take the closet door into Faeryland and start their journey to find the real, hopefully alive, Ethan.
The part of the book till this point felt a little surreal, which was probably its purpose. Things do not make sense at all, though that gets better when you read on. Some questions get answered, and we finally get an explanation for the existence of faeries, which I think is a very good one. As we see more and more of the Nevernever, the surrealism turns into a fairytale, eventhough Puck tells us there are monsters lurking around and waiting to attack. The book reminds me of Divine by Mistake (P.C. Cast) and Inkheart (Cornelia Funke), but it still sounds original and well-thought out, which I think is a very strong characteristic of this book.
As for the characters, Meghan is not a very consistent person, and not a very reasonable one either. I couldn't relate with her wish to find and save her brother above all else, especially since she didn't seem to care all that much about her family at first. Another character later claims she gives up herself too easily for the people she loves, which, seeing as she's putting herself in life debts and life danger for her brother, seems to be true, it doesn't really come up in her thoughts until the point when she refuses to let someone, eventhough it is her enemy, die. I do not agree with a lot of the things she does, sometimes it's too much, sometimes too exaggerated, and sometimes she doesn't try at all.
The book certainly is full of adventure. After a while even a little too much adventure. If you like that, this is the book for you, but I got tired of it. There's hardly a moment of peace and quiet where characters just talked and nothing happened.
In general, I loved the description of the world and the explanations for why things happened, but didn't understand the motivations of the characters (except for Puck), why they did what they did, if they even had a reason.
I like the book, but it is not perfectly written, and not as awesome as I thought it would be. As this is the first book in the series, I am hoping it will get better, and as I read on, I'll let you know.