We love the epic fantasy Julie Kagawa has crafted in her Iron Fey series. In July the first book in the series, The Iron King, was our group read title, and we discussed the characters — and, OK, a lot of Ash vs. Puck. Everyone hated and then fell back in love with the “Hot Boy with a Sword” Prince Ash in The Iron Daughter. (We also named it one of the Best Books of 2010.)
Now, with The Iron Queen not far off, we managed to get Kagawa to agree to answer a few of our questions. Read on for Meghan, Ash, Puck and The Iron Queen (no spoilers). (We posted our early, spoiler-free review of The Iron Queen yesterday.)
Vampire Book Club: Unlike so many of the YA faerie books released lately, the Iron Fey novels are more epic fantasy than typical teen paranormal romance. We still get plenty of love, though. Tell us, what did you most want readers to take away from the series?
Julie Kagawa: I grew up reading the works of Terry Brooks and J.R.R Tolkien, so they introduced me to the grand, sweeping, save-the-world plots. I remember the way those books made me feel; how you could get so attached to the characters you felt everything they were going through. I hoped I could create the kind of characters readers fell in love with, feared for, and cheered alongside with when they triumphed.
Vampire Book Club: In the Iron Fey series you incorporate characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream into the faery world. Were you nervous early on about reactions to using characters from a classic?
Julie Kagawa: Well, I knew that comparisons would be inevitable. But the faeries from Midsummer Night’s Dream are everywhere in literature now, and Shakespeare himself wasn’t the first to use them. It’s like saying all vampire stories copy Bram Stoker if they so much as mention Dracula.
Vampire Book Club: Aside from Shakespeare’s multifaceted fae, what other works inspired the Iron Fey series?
Julie Kagawa: Aside from the authors I mentioned, I get a lot of inspiration from anime and video games. Gamers and otaku might see hints of Squall Leonhart and Heero Yuy in Ash, Tasuki in Puck, and Sephiroth in the Iron King. (I wear my geekdom proudly.) But I’m also inevitably drawn to stories of heroism and sacrifice, where everything seems hopeless, where the heroes triumph in the end but at great personal cost. Some of my favorite endings are the ones in The Return of the King, Dragon Age Origins, and Fushigi Yugi.
Vampire Book Club: It’s clear you’ve significantly researched fae mythology, and incorporated those we hear about more often like redcaps and satyrs. But each member of the Iron Fey is your own creation. Which was your favorite Iron Fey to design?
Julie Kagawa: Probably Ironhorse. He was an interesting character from the very start, with his own set of moral codes and honor. (Also, it was fun making him speak in all caps, lol.)
Vampire Book Club: In the upcoming third book The Iron Queen, our girl Meghan decides she’s done letting the boys fight for her and asks Ash to teach her to fight. She’s used glamour as a weapon before, why did you give her a sword this time?
Julie Kagawa: Since most of the fey fight with weapons, it seemed only logical to give Meghan a sword. It was also a natural extension of her personal growth; she is done with letting others fight her battles, so she’ll need something to take the fight to them.
Vampire Book Club: What would you single out as Meghan’s biggest growth during the series?
Julie Kagawa: At the risk of being spoilery, I’d say it’s when he realizes that she has a responsibility now, that the needs of the many outweigh her own, and what she has to give up to achieve that.
Vampire Book Club: Ash’s cold exterior melted significantly in The Iron Queen. Were you just trying to win over the crazies on ‘Team Puck’? LOL
Julie Kagawa: Uh-oh. *Dives under table to hide from Team Puck* LOL. No, I love Puck, I really do. Puck is my snarky boy; the story wouldn’t have been the same without him. But I had a very clear character arc for Ash from the very beginning. His transformation wouldn’t have had as much an impact if he didn’t start out cold and cruel. I know many were ready to strangle him in The Iron Daughter, but Ash had a lot of stuff to work out before he got to where he is in Iron Queen.
Vampire Book Club: Similarly, we see Puck in a new – kind of bitter – light. Was it important to remind us Puck isn’t just clever tricks?
Julie Kagawa: It was, but mostly I wanted to keep the story realistic. (Or as realistic as a story with magic and faeries can be.) Puck’s character has always been portrayed as a happy-go-lucky prankster, but in legend, he has a dark, jealous side as well. If he showed up unchanged by everything that happened to him, it would’ve felt unrealistic. He might be fey, but he has feelings too.
Vampire Book Club: In The Iron Queen, we hear the story of lovers ruined by the fae. Was sharing it an act of love or sorrow from Ash?
Julie Kagawa: A little bit of both, but also to cast an ominous air over another couple involved with the fey, a bit of foreshadowing if you will. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Vampire Book Club: The ending of The Iron Queen wasn’t something we predicted. It’s a smart ending, though, and definitely works. Bold moves like that have to make you antsy for the release. Are you ready for it?
Julie Kagawa: I think so. ^__^ The Iron Queen will be the conclusion of Meghan Chase’s story, the accumulation of everything that led her to this point. When the final page is turned, everyone will know that she has finally found her destiny.
Vampire Book Club: You recently announced that The Iron Queen isn’t the end of the Iron Fey books. Will The Iron Knight, the beginning of Ash’s story, be the first in another set of three books?
Julie Kagawa: Not at this time. I can’t say much about it, but originally Queen was supposed to be the very last book. Finis. The end. I wasn’t planning on a fourth book…but I’ll tell that story after Iron Queen has been released.
Vampire Book Club: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Julie!
Julie Kagawa: You are welcome! Thanks so much for the interview!
We loved The Iron Queen (our review), and highly suggest you pre-order this one. You’re going to get answers.