Ed. note: The Iron King is this month’s group read for Vampire Book Club. If you haven’t started yet, read this review. It’s without spoilers!
Rating (out of 5): 5 stars
Julie Kagawa has crafted a vivid world in The Iron King, the first book in her Iron Fey series.
Meghan Chase doesn’t fit in. She lives on a farm and her family doesn’t have the money to spend on status symbol clothes. The popular kids pick on her. Her best friend Robbie is the only one trying to put Meghan first. Being in the crosshairs of the popular high schoolers doesn’t compare to what she finds when she returns home on her sixteenth birthday. Her half-brother Ethan has been kidnapped and replaced with a violent changeling. He might look like Ethan to everyone else, but the changeling is really a troll child, who has no problem sinking his teeth into whomever is nearby when he doesn’t get a snack quick enough.
This is the beginning of Meghan’s introduction to the world of faeries. The veil is lifted and she now sees how they live in our world, but moreover she enters theirs. Someone in the faery world has taken her brother and she will find him. In order to do so, though, Meghan must accept truths about herself, the world around her and her destiny.
First adjustment? Her best friend Robbie is really Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, a summer faery in King Oberon’s court. The names sound familiar? Of course they do, many of the court faeries we meet in The Iron King are from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Kagawa does this purposefully and embeds the reasoning smoothly into the story. More often we see young adult novels name-check classic works — whether to inspire young readers or to please old lit professors is tough to say – but the use of characters from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is pivotal to the plot and the world of the Iron Fey series. Remembrance of faeries is what sustains them. Being in a venerable classic has made these faeries near immortal.
That may not be enough, though, as the mortal world’s craving for advancement and technology turns our focus away from dreams of nature to those featuring machines. If the summer and winter faeries are forgotten in our world, they will cease to exist in theirs.
In addition to all the new beings, visuals and rules of Faeryland, most creatures there know who Meghan is and that she holds power. Unfortunately, she’s not willing to accept that she may be half-faery and royalty. This truth makes members of the Unseelie Court her enemies. One of the winter princes, Ash, has the chance to capture her, but ends up making a deal to help Meghan. That wouldn’t be complicated if Ash weren’t so gorgeous, so mysterious and if Meghan didn’t catch glimpses of wonder in his eyes.
In addition to the overarching quest to find Ethan, Meghan ends with two delicious faery guys at her side: Puck, who remains loyal to Meghan despite chastising by King Oberon, and the winter prince Ash. The guys, of course, hate each other, but find themselves agreeing to a truce in the name of protecting Meghan. (Ed. note: we will leave our thoughts on the fae love interests for a book club discussion later this month. Make sure to join our weekly The Iron King discussions in July.)
The Iron King is a masterful opening to an epic fantasy series. Kagawa describes the characters and world of Faeryland so clearly and succinctly readers will easily visualize the realms of both King Oberon and the Queen Mab. (You’ll be picturing that dark prince Ash and the redheaded Puck, too.) The vast world, new creatures and epic quest could be aligned with The Lord of the Rings, but with a better love story.
The sequel The Iron Daughter will be released in August. The book is at the top of our August reviews list. If you’ve already finished The Iron King and are impatiently awaiting book two, download the Winter’s Passage novella before July 31 to tide you over.
Still need the book? Order The Iron King for $7.99 from the publisher