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The Iron King - Julie Kagawa
I think that it would be very apt to call me a Book-a-holic, or book obsessed, or even a book nerd! Any of these titles, I am happy with, as it is very true. I love emersing myself into different worlds and forgetting my own problems for a time, and love hunting for new books.
I came across this set of books on Goodreads.com after a number of my friends gave glowing reviews. I was very lucky to be able to pick up the book at my local Works discount bookstore for the small price of £2.00, though due to my very long 'to-read' list, it sat on a pile in my room for quite a while before I finally had the time to pick it up and begin reading. Once the book got going, I had to kick myself for waiting so long to read it!
WELCOME TO THE NEVERNEVER
"Time to switch to decaf, princess. If you're going to shriek at every bogey that jumps out and says 'boo', you'll be exhausted before we reach the edge of the woods"
Something has always seemed a little odd to Meghan Chase, ever since her father vanished into the lake when she was a young girl. She had never really fit in at school, and her step-father barely even notices she is around. Her little brother sees monsters under the bed, and a dark stranger seems to be watching her from afar. All this, though, is the least of her worries....
Everything Meghan has ever known is about to change, and her best friend knew it was coming!
"Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined."
And this story is one I could never have imagined! Although the premise spoke of mystical beings, I never even saw this one coming!
All her best friends weird over-protectiveness becomes very clear to Meghan when her birthday rolls past and she begins to see strange things out of the corner of her eye. Things get even more scary when her little brother changes...literally! Soon Meghan is thrown into a world she only knew through books, a world in which she believed to be one of fantasy, one which only existed within dreams and nightmares. As she ventures through the closet (no, nothing like the Tales of Narnia!), she realises her life will never be the same again.
Faeries exist, and Meghan soon finds out that she is not only part fae, but also the daughter of a once believed mythical faery king - you may know the name - King Oberon! That's right, we have entered the Midsummer Nights Dream world! These faeries were not just stories, but real beings that grow from the imaginations and beliefs of humans. This was the part I did not see coming! At first, I was amazed and almost shocked, though once I read further into the story, I realised that this world, although explored in Shakespeare's words, is nothing like the one I had experienced before. Do not be concerned if you are not a fan of Shakespeare or his works, this is something completely and utterly different.
Meghan soon finds herself in the midst of a deadly war, and realises that it is not only hers and her brothers life at stake, though the question is, how far will she go to save someone she cares about, and what when saving one person you love may harm another person you could love...even if they are trying to kill you!
I have read a few novels which deal with characters falling through the veil from the real to the fantasy world, and striving to get back home again, and have had mixed views on these books. This particular book blew me away, though. It incorporates everything we have come to know about the Fae, and throws so much more in to the mix as well. Of course, this book is certainly not without its flaws. One main flaw in my opinion actually goes alongside the part which I find fantastic. As I have just mentioned, the world within these pages are excellently thought out, with so much thrown into the pot to create such an exciting world filled with hustle and bustle and pure imagination. It is wonderful, though at the same time it is also extremely crowded. I love the busy world with the fantastic descriptions, the many different characters who have both been seen in other books and films as well as completely new ideas, and the exciting action which occurs throughout the book from beginning to end, though I feel almost exhausted when reading as everything is happening all the time, all at once. There is absolutely no space to breathe! This is not a terribly bad thing, though if these aspects had have been spread out a little bit more, then I feel that the journey through this book would have been so much better.
The story itself, forgetting the over-crowdedness, flows brilliantly and pulls the reader right in from the very start. It has the mixed feel of fantasy meeting fairy tale, and is written in such a way that you are able to read and read before realising that hours have gone past. At times, there is a slight feel that the author has tried to extend the book by adding twists and turns which did not really need to be there, and this, alongside some small inconsistencies, are frustrating, though due to the story being so fantastic, you barely notice these small flaws unless you are like me and pick books apart when reviewing!
What can I say about the characters? Well, when your favourite character happens to be a cat, what does that really say about how the rest of the characters are written? Actually, quite a lot! If the cat has a fantastic personality (do not forget, this is faery-land - the NeverNever to be precise, and cats can talk!) then the main characters must be brilliant, right?
Although we meet a whole host of different characters, we are drawn to only a few main characters which are consistent throughout the book. All of these characters are strongly written, though it did take me quite some time to really start believing in them. One thing which stood out for me which did not help with my belief in the main character, is the extremely quick way she accepted everything about the fantasy world and her part in it. Yes, she questioned it slightly, though if I were her, I would be laughing my socks off for weeks before I would even begin to start believing it all enough to step into a closet with a seemingly insane person! Once we are past this stage, though, the characters do settle down in their personalities much more and by the half way mark, I did start caring about them more and more. They are not the most fantastically written characters I have come across, though they really do fit into the story well. Even with the flaws, it is like they just fit into the world this author has created.
As you may have guessed, there is a love triangle that appears within this story, though for the main part of the book, you barely even register it is there. Shipping fans will certainly be getting out their pens and voting, though, as for the reader, it is easy to sense where this triangle will be heading, though of course, the main character is unaware of both hers and others feelings - typical! Did I do any shouting at the book to make my husband give me funny looks? Not really. I do not think I felt any overwhelming feelings towards this triangle until near the very end, and by then, my brain was completely full up with the huge amounts of information I had just pulled from the book that I really had no room to spare for any extra thoughts! Perhaps I will feel different in the second book. Time will tell!
There is a small amount of predictability in this story, though I found it difficult to see where a lot of the story was going as there was always so much going on and I was never able to order my thoughts enough to work out exactly what was going to happen until it was right on top of me.
This book best falls into the Young Adult - Fantasy genre, though you will also find many other aspects within the pages. Perhaps the author wanted to match the crowded world in the pages to the genres, as you can find aspects of humour, urban fantasy, science fiction, magic, supernatural, and romance all working alongside the main fantasy heading.
I think I need a lay down after reading this!
So what makes this book any different to other books along these lines?
I do not think I have ever read a book like this before. Yes, it does have many flaws, though the fantasy mixed with fairy tale is simply amazing. The storyline alone is something that stands out as different, though add in the numerous characters and creatures and you have yourself something very unique. Of course, there will always be some similarities to other stories as there is only so many different things in the world to write about, though this author manages to bring something new out of something old and it had me hooked in right from the word go.
One thing which I find very important in a book is the ending. A story can be written perfectly, though if the ending is wrong, then it gives me a really terrible feel to the whole book, almost as though I feel my time was wasted reading it, even if I did enjoy the rest of the story.
So how does the ending of this book compare?
I had mixed feelings about the ending. It was a perfect roundup of the story whilst leaving it open enough to want to go on and read the next book, though having got used to the hustle and bustle of the exciting (if slightly over-done) action on every page, I had expected the showdown at the end to be much more than it actually was. There was no real explosive end to this book which was a little disappointing, though perhaps it was only due to the excitement throughout the rest of the book that made it seem less action based. It did round everything up, though, like I said, so it was not a terrible ending, just a little unsatisfying.
The story was 363 pages long, with a few pages at the end to give us an insight into how the authors mind works which was quite interesting.
"Grimalkin yawned and licked his whiskers. 'Not dead,' he replied. 'Hardly dead. But she changed her name and appearance so many times, even the oldest fey would hardly remember her. She likes to keep a low profile, you know.' Puck frowned, knitting his bows together. 'Then how is it you remember her?' he demanded, sounding indignant. 'I am a cat,' purred Grimalkin."
Yes, there are some flaws in this book, and there is the whole issue of the over-crowding, though I urge you to look past all of these and you will find a fantastic novel full to the brim of fantastical creatures and amazing worlds that, until now, only appeared within your dreams and nightmares.
I absolutely loved this book and am looking forward to reading the next one to see where the story leads us.
This is the first book in the Iron Fey series which contains four books with numerous novellas in between.
The RRP on this book is £6.99, though you can buy used copies on Amazon for as little as £2.20. The Kindle book is currently selling at £4.18
Sixteen-year-old Meghan is the outsider at school and her only friend is happy go lucky Robbie. But even he isn't as he appears. As Meghan finds her beloved baby brother changed beyond recognition, he reveals himself as Puck, the mischievous elf of A Midsummer Night's Dream fame. Leading her into the dark and dangerous world of the Fey to find her stolen brother and exchange him for the violent changeling left in his place, Meghan is to discover more shocking truths about herself and her heritage and discovers a world she didn't even know existed. But Megan finds herself caught up in a dangerous battle between the Seelie and Unseelie courts and soon comes to realise no-one in the Never Never can be trusted. Not only that but a new, stronger fey are threatening to wipe out Faeryland and are determined that Megan will help them.
I'd read a lot about The Iron King from fellow US bloggers last year, loved the sound of it and added it to my wishlist. Sadly though I never actually got round to it then, a big mistake I now realise, having just finished in preparation for it's UK release this February
Ok, so take every Fairytale you ever read or saw on TV, mash them all together and you have The Iron King. I absolutely loved this book, whose magic and mythology wrapped itself around me and held me captive throughout. While I've never actually read A Midsummer Night's Dream (although I now absolutely want to now, and see the play) which the story centres around, I was reminded throughout of many others including Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, while the imagery had me constantly thinking of the film Labyrinth.
I really, really liked Meghan. She's very naïve to begin with, a loner who doesn't fit in at school and nervous about pretty much everything. One of the main lessons she has to learn during her adventures with the fey is not to take individuals at face value and to never put herself in any of their debt. I loved how she developed throughout the book, growing stronger and surer of herself. Puck is a charming and fun character and provides lighter moments, and I adored Grimalkin, one seriously snarky and sly wise old cat (yet I still get the feeling he's really a good guy) But oh Ash...dark, dangerous and devastatingly handsome, the Winter Prince had my heart racing. There's a lot of romance in this book without being the main focus and taking over the story...it's like an undercurrent, an atmosphere. I loved it.
Aside from the magic, mythology, action and adventure, what I really loved was Julie Kagawa's creativity with The Iron Fey. The idea is that Fey are born from our imaginations and dreams, and as that fades, so does Faeryland. But our obsession with industry and technology has created another breed of Fey, the Iron Fey, and their very existence threatens to wipe out Faeryland. I thought this was extremely clever, with characters such as Virus, Machina and armies of Gremlins and Bugs. It was also quite sad, as it drives home what our need for technology does to nature. It's a very current issue told in a fascinating way and certainly had me thinking about what we really do stand to loose in the future.
The Iron King is a breathtaking journey from start to finish and I enjoyed every single page. It's an action packed adventure with a racing pace, which will have you turning pages frantically. It's packed with magic, myth and romance and is so captivatingly vivid, I was daydreaming about this book at work and desperate to get back to it. I laughed, cried and held my breath in awe while reading and was sad to reach the end and leave the story. The ending sets us up nicely for the second book in the series, The Iron Daughter, which I can't wait to get my hands on. The Iron King is without doubt one of, if not the best book set amongst the fey I've read and I highly recommend it.
Published in the UK by Mira Ink February 2011
Thanks to the publishers for providing me with a copy for review.