The Iron King
Rating - ⭐⭐1/2
"MY NAME IS MEGHAN CHASE.
In less than twenty-four hours, I’ll be sixteen. Countless stories, songs and poems have been written about this wonderful age, when a girl finds true love and the stars shine for her and the handsome prince carries her off into the sunset.
I DON’T THINK IT WILL BE THAT WAY FOR ME.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan Chase’s life, ever since her father disappeared when she was six. Ten years later, when her little brother also goes missing, Meghan learns the truth—she is the secret daughter of a mythical faery king and a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she’ll go to save someone she loves, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.
THE IRON FEY"
The Iron King is a YA fantasy novel and the first installment in The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa.
This was not my jam, bread, or butter. In all honesty, a 2.5 rating may even be a bit higher than I think it deserves. Two things about this mainly put me off - the unoriginality of the story and the bad character development.
This just felt like a hodgepodge of other forms of media. Whenever a new place or scenario would come up I would go, oh, that's exactly like insert book or movie here. Because of that, this felt like a very 'been there, done that' kind of book and I found myself bored and irritated. As for the bad character development, none of the characters were used effectively in order to drive the narrative, and Meghan by herself was enough to turn me off from liking this book.
Now, in order to fully explain what I didn't like about this, there may be some mild spoilers.
The one thing I am grateful for is the fact the writing made it pretty easy to breeze my way through this as quickly as possible. The pacing and layout of the narrative just didn't really work. First of all, the story was a bit repetitive. The same scenario would happen over and over again just with a change of scenery.
Second of all, the build-up of the plot both took way too long and ended too quickly. You went through half of the book before the actual main conflict was starting to get focused on. And, by the time it started to ramp up, it was over. It was just a lot of wasted space and potential.
As for the text itself, the random usage of capital letters was a bit weird. When one specific character would speak, they would speak in italics for some reason and it didn't really make much sense. The fact that the character was horse...a horse that apparently likes to belt out his words made it all the more strange.
Finally, one aspect of the format of the book that bothered me was the fact that there were chapter subtitles. You may be wondering why that is a big deal and, well, it is because the chapter more or less spoils what is going to happen in that chapter. I don't want to be told ahead of time where the direction of the chapter is going, I want to read about it and be surprised and engrossed.
Alright, let's start with the beginning. The story starts with the revelation that our main character, Meghan's, father disappeared. With a setup like that, I was expecting this story to be a journey where she goes to either find him or to figure out what happened to him. That was not the case, however, as her father was barely mentioned at all in this. Maybe it will be covered more in the following books, but I felt a little bit mislead.
The actual conflict of the book is kick-started when Ethan, Meghan's younger half-brother, gets switched with a changeling and she must venture into the fey world to get him back. As a starting note, I was a bit mad about the fact that this aspect was revealed at the beginning of the chapter because the subtitle was labeled as 'the changeling''. If you want to have an impact on your writing, maybe don't spoil what is going to happen before it actually does?
What follows storywise was like, as I said in the intro, a hodgepodge of several different books and tv shows. Having to venture into a new land to find her stolen brother sounds like it was taken straight from Labyrinth, or Spirited Away. It is also made clear that this takes influence from A Midsummer Night's Dream. There was also one scene that was extremely similar to one in The Hobbit. I am not the biggest fan of retellings, so the fact that I could pick out all the similarities was disappointing.
Moving back to the main story, the main conflict of the book is only brought up about halfway through with the mention of the Iron King. This felt like the only thing in the book that was at least a little bit original, but that doesn't mean it was good. The conflict was so bland and it was over way too soon and way too conveniently.
There were also small details in this book that felt very unnecessary. At the beginning of the book, it is made clear that Meghan isn't like the other girls in school because she is a farm girl. She is ostracized because of that and because of an incident that results in something straight out of A Walk to Remember.
Now, there are two things wrong with this scenario. First of all, we have girl-on-girl hate between Meghan and the cheerleaders solely to set up the fact that Meghan is more special than she thought she was. Second of all, the entire school scene was not needed at all as it was completely forgotten after the fact and thus added nothing to the narrative but a poorly used cliche.
Another small detail that made me question why on earth it was in there in the first place, was the casual mentions of rape. Initially, I was a bit more understanding as it was first brought up while talking about satyrs, who are known in mythology to be very sexually charged beings. The casualness of it threw me off though and was made worse by the fact that Meghan at one point was almost dragged away by one with I assume the intention to rape her. That scene was just thrown in there and then left there, and thus had no reason to be there.
Staying on the same train of thought, there were small mentions of animal neglect and cruelty that (again) were thrown in there and not mentioned again. The family dog tried to save Ethan from being replaced by the changeling, and the parent's response was to bring the dog to a pound. Ethan's friend who takes on the form of a toy bunny was found with its head torn off. I don't get why these details were necessary.
Due to the influences, this story pulls from, the world-building is pretty simple. That is mainly because few aspects are actually original so there wasn't much there to develop. There were a lot of fey elements that were included in the world such as names being powerful, food binding you there, and iron being a weakness.
Elements of Celtic mythology such as Tir Na Nag and a Cat-Sìth. I will admit I was a bit confused with the addition of the Cat-Sìth because it was spelled like Cait Sith, so I thought they were talking about the character from final fantasy and not an actual fey creature. That was my bad though and I will give the author some props for at least doing some research.
The Iron Fey, unfortunately, confused me a bit. I just couldn't wrap my head around how they are able to exist in the first place considering that iron is poison to them. Maybe it was explained and I missed it, but it just doesn't make logical sense to me. They also somehow managed to fly under the radar for their entire existence which seemed improbable.
And now we come to the characters, and I guess the best place to start with is Meghan, our heroine. She was at best frustratingly daft, and at worst, completely useless. I knew right from the beginning that she was going to fall on my list of female main characters who neither deserve romantic attention nor do they deserve to have anything interesting happen to them.
Pretty much all she did for the entirety of the book was cry, get mad, and get herself into situations which she needed to be saved from (hence why I said she was useless). She was completely out of her depth and was just not able to clue in to what was happening around her. She kept making decisions without realizing the consequences of them because she was in a completely foreign land. I wish that she would have had some development, especially when it came to her role in the final battle, but that just didn't happen.
Moving onto Ash, the love interest, he had the potential to be interesting but was more or less reduced to just a love interest (and not a very good one). He and Meghan had pretty much no chemistry whatsoever and, as a result, their romance felt forced. I get the dynamic the author was trying to go for here, but their connection was so bland that it didn't work. I found that there was more chemistry between Ash and Puck than between Ash and Meghan.
Speaking of Puck, let's move on to him. He is Meghan's best friend who was more than he let on to be. He also had some potential, but once I got a whiff of him being a leg of a love triangle, I was no longer happy. I also felt like he was not used to his full potential as his appearances were sporadic before he stopped appearing at all.
Finally, we have the big bad, Machina. Bad name aside, he was a really weak villain. He was mostly absent up until the end of the book, and when he did show up he did his villain monologue before he was defeated embarrassingly quickly. I consider the villain to be the main driving force of the story, so when they are absent for most of it, I find that it makes the story less engaging.
Grimalkin, the Cait Sith, was probably the best thing about this book. He reminded me very much so of the Cheshire cat (and he was a cat) which I did enjoy.
This was an overall disappointment even if I went into it without any expectations. The story was nothing new and the characters were too bland to drive it. If you are looking for something with similar vibes, I would suggest that you go and watch Labyrinth or Spirited Away instead.