Meghan Chase has never fit in at her small-town high school, and now, on the eve of her 16th birthday, she discovers why. When her half brother is kidnapped, Meghan is drawn into a fantastical world she never imagined--the world of Faery, where anything you see may try to eat you, and Meghan is the daughter of the summer faery king. Now she will journey into the depths of Faery to face an unknown enemy . . . and beg the help of a winter prince who might as soon kill her as let her touch his icy heart. The Iron King is the first book in the Iron Fey series. (from GoodReads)
A day late and a dollar short is definitely how I feel in trying to review Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King. I have heard so many raves about this book from the blogosphere that I felt I really needed to read it for myself and decide if all the praise was earned. What I found was a lovely book with luscious descriptions, an imaginative alternative universe, and some unfortgettable characters.
The first characteristic that impressed me was Kagawa’s evocative and poetic prose. Her descriptions bring the world of the Faery sharply into focus through stunning sensory details and figurative language. For example when Meghan first enters Nevernever she describes ...
Enormous trees, so thick and tangled I couldn’t see the sky through the branches. A curling mist crept along the ground, and the woods were dark and still as if the forest was trapped in perpetual twilight. Here and there brilliant splashes of color stood out among the gray. A patch of flowers, their petals a shocking electric-blue, waved gently in the mist ... A warm breeze blew into the closet, carrying with it a shocking assortment of smells—smells that should not be together in one place. Crushed leaves and cinnamon, smoke and apples, fresh earth, lavender, and the faint, cloying scent of rot and decay. For a moment, I caught a tang of something metallic and coppery, wrapped around the smell of rot but it was gone in the next breath. Clouds of insects swarmed overhead, and if I listened hard I could almost imagine I heard singing. The forest was still at first, but I then caught movement deep in the shadows, and heard leaves rustle all around us. Invisible eyes seemed to watch me from every angle, boring into my skin.
Kagawa’s vivid descriptions occur through out the book, but they do not overwhelm the reader to the point of boredom. Instead they are carefully positioned between dialogue and action allowing the reader to experience surprise and wonder at the rich alternative universe that is an important backdrop for the plot.
In addition to The Iron King’s dazzling setting, Kagawa also delivers an assortment of wonderfully, diverse characters some of which should be familiar to anyone with knowledge of Shakespeare’s comedy, Midsummer Night’s Dream. Robbie Goodfellow, as the name suggests turns out to be Puck, the mischievous prankster sent to protect Meghan from those who would use her to gain power over Oberon, the fey king and Meghan’s real father. Puck’s presence in the story provides comic relief that is missed when he is absent from the action. Puck is also an important ally to Meghan as she faces a multitude of obstacles on her quest. I especially like the scene when Puck turns into a horse and ends up throwing Meghan into a tree. This was a very imaginative way for Kagawa to introduce Grimalkin, a grey cat, who also becomes Meghan’s ally, and is one of my favorite characters. Grimalkin has a superior intellect and frequently disappears and reappears (not unlike the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland). Grimalkin agrees to help Meghan find Puck and becomes another of her allies. Then of course there is the Prince Ash, Queen Mab’s youngest. Dark, handsome and coldly aloof, Prince Ash definitely is a love interest that I predict will heat up in the next book. Finally, there is Meghan whose strength, as the protagonist, is in her single mindedness towards rescuing her half brother and her ability to enlist the help of other characters in the book. However, I think Meghan has the potential to become a truly dynamic character as she grows more secure in her acceptance of being half-fey and realizes her fey powers.
Kagawa’s faerie world is richly detailed and the threat facing Meghan is much bigger than just the recovery of her half-brother. The plot is complex and lays a firm foundation for what could be an extraordinary series, which I for one am eager to read. I greatly admire the obvious research Kagawa did on the faerie realm and the unique ways she intertwined a variety of mythological creatures to populated her version of this world. If you have not yet read The Iron King, I urge you to put this one on the top of your must read list today because I believe that the series is only going to get better. Book two, Iron Daughter, is due to be released August 1.