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The Iron King

Review

The Iron King

When 16-year-old Meghan Chase discovers that her four-year-old brother, Ethan, has been kidnapped, her flight to rescue him leads her into the Fey. The Nevernever is a domain of unreality, a land of faeries where her friend Puck came from. Inspired by A Midsummer Night's Dream, THE IRON KING reclaims many of Shakespeare's famous characters; these are faery folk --- Puck (Robin Goodfellow), Queen Titania, Summer King Oberon and Winter Queen Mab. At the heart of the dark fantasy is a tender romance between the half-mortal girl and a terrifying winter prince. But by her side is Puck, the mischievous summer creature who seems to have laid an equal claim to her heart.

As Meghan turns 16, the veil to the Fey begins to lift. She's now seeing Fey creatures, frightening and monstrous, around her. After Ethan had been telling of a creature in his room, Meghan and Puck find that the boy has been replaced with a horrible changeling. Puck knows for certain this thing isn't Meghan's brother as he too comes from the Fey. Desperate to rescue Ethan, Meghan and Puck enter the Nevernever through a door in his closet.

With Meghan's first steps into the wyldwood, a dangerous journey begins from which she can never truly return. But there is no time for this to really sink in as terrifying creatures immediately pursue them. The first (and not the least frightening) is the intimidating and handsome Prince Ash. On the hunt with his dogs, the winter prince spies the two of them in the woods and seems determined to kill them both. With the prince still in hot pursuit, Meghan finds herself separated from Puck and then captured by flesh-eating goblins. She's absolutely at the mercy of the creatures here, having nothing but her wits to save her. Pleading for aid, Meghan finds it from an unlikely immortal and is finally reunited with Puck in the summer kingdom.

Upon her arrival, Meghan discovers yet another secret: she's the half-breed daughter of King Oberon. Meghan always thought her father had been human, so Oberon's claims are understandably disturbing. Strangely, the sovereign of summer seems detached from his own daughter yet concerned for her safety. Having transformed him into a raven, Oberon now holds Puck captive and intends to keep Meghan prisoner as well.

Meghan's search for Ethan compels her to escape from the summer kingdom, running straight into the hands of Prince Ash. Desperate to save Ethan, Meghan makes a bargain with the cold hunter: She'll deliver herself willingly to his queen in return for his help. Not long after, Puck shows up on the scene, and he and Ash are determined to duel to the death. Their duel ends only when Meghan is kidnapped by minions of the Iron King, and both Ash and Puck come to her aid. With Meghan's discovery that the Iron King is the one who has imprisoned Ethan, they all set off together. Soon Meghan finds she's the only faery creature who can save both her brother and the Fey.

In tone, this novel is intense and imaginative, with an unreal atmosphere that continues to surprise and disturb. The Fey here are not harmless and lovely creatures; it's definitely a darker place than you might expect when thinking of faeries. The beings are largely malicious or mischievous, and no human rules apply to any of them. This darker interpretation of the Fey is one of the most creative and appealing aspects of the book.

Another clear strength of the novel is its brightly drawn characters. As a heroine, Meghan is emotional yet strong and ultimately steadfast in her integrity. She's the kind of person you're delighted to read about and really want to see happy. Both Ash and Puck are wonderful characters, too, and about as polar as they can get in personality. But my favorite is Meghan's Fey cat, Grimalkin; he's a such strange thing, ultimately seeming good but not always clearly so. As a character, he seems not unlike the Cheshire Cat.

As the first in a trilogy, the IRON KING surpasses the greater majority of dark fantasies, leaving a lot for readers to look forward to. The story is complex and the atmosphere is distinctive and charming. The romance is well done and adds to the mood of fantasy. For those who relish in the kind of unreality of A Midsummer Night's Dream or Alice in Wonderland, this is one book you really won't want to miss.

Reviewed by Melanie Smith on February 1, 2010

The Iron King
by Julie Kagawa

  • Publication Date: February 1, 2010
  • Genres: Urban Fantasy
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Harlequin
  • ISBN-10: 0373210086
  • ISBN-13: 9780373210084