Sunday, January 6, 2019

Lengthy Rambling Review: The Iron King

The Iron King

by Julie Kagawa
Book 1 of The Iron Fey

~ Goodreads ~

Rating:  3.0 Stars

Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.

Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six.  She has never quite fit in at school or at home.

When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.

But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war.  Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, 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.

So here it is, a lengthy review that I hadn't been planning on making so lengthy.  But a side rant proceeded to write itself and I decided not to change anything.


You know that one story you always wanted to write?  That one about a young girl who felt out of place in her own world?  Who didn’t seem to fit in with her family or her school mates?  Who always felt like there was so much more out there?  That there had to be more to her life than just being an invisible teenager?  And then she falls through some magical portal, meets strange people and creatures, and finds out that she’s from another world altogether?  And not only that, but she’s a Faery princess who possesses powers she never dreamed of?

Yeah.  That book.

That’s the book I always wanted to write ever since I was a teenager.  Aside from the Faery princess bit, of course.  My own brainstorms had other elements.  But it was pretty much the same concept.  I’m just not a good writer, is all.

And so this is why I read so much.  I’m in an eternal search for that perfect book (or rather, all of those perfect books, plural) that I always wanted to write, but never managed to get around to writing.  My imagination is limited apparently.

Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King may not be that perfect book I always dreamed about writing, but it comes pretty darn close -- at least to a certain extent, it comes pretty close.  If there were things that I would change to make it my own, with my own input and preferences, I probably would.  But otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed The Iron King.

From the beginning of the sample chapter I read, to actually borrowing it from the library and diving into the rest of the story, I was hooked.  The writing style is smooth and the pacing is steady.  Events came together so quickly that I was actually glad I didn’t really have much time to think too hard on them (reading leisurely is so much more fun than looking for things to analyze and make note of for future review writing references).  And, of course, by a certain point, I realized that this book is one that DOES need to be read in leisure rather than having a review post in mind.

The Iron King is magical, creative, exciting, fast-paced, and so, so much fun.  I do love a good adventure in Faery land, and Meghan Chase’s adventure starts as such, where you follow her “through the rabbit hole” (so to speak), and get to see and experience all the strange happenings as she is chased by monsters and enemies, meets new allies and friends, before she lands in the presence of Lord Oberon of the Summer Court Fey, only to find out the biggest secret about her own life.  I especially liked the little Goblin excursion where Meghan manages to get herself out with a little bit of wit and creativity.

And meeting Grimalkin -- that was the highlight of my journey alongside Meghan.


But that seems to be where everything sort of ends.  I was looking forward to an adventure with fairy-tale fun, magical obstacles, testing trials… you know, all the goodness that a hero or heroine has to go through to become stronger and develop a sense of kinship with the land and her companions.  The moment that Meghan encountered the Summer Court, it seems that her own adventure dwindled in significance to become “the narrating spectator” who just also happens to be the driving force in getting everyone else to act.

I appreciate that she’s brave (she came to a dangerous world in order to save her little brother after all).  I appreciate that she’s got a heart of gold.  Yes, her heart is in the right place.  And we still get to see some adventurous trials and obstacles.  But I had been hoping there would be more of those Goblin excursion moments.  That Meghan wouldn’t end up being delegated into the “damsel in distress” role where she spends so much of the last 50% of the book crying, hiding, and being fearful that she becomes virtually useless.

But don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate her.  She DOES redeem herself by the end of the book, which I’m relieved about.  I just wish she could have had the opportunity to explore her own powers a little bit more rather than having to be rescued time and time again, over and over again.  I mean, I’m all for the hero rescuing the damsel in certain situations -- that’s fine.  And it’s not like I think the girl should be the savior and the badass all the time.  But at the very least, she should be able to take care of herself and not have to rely on others for protection all the time.  It’s a crippling effect for her and will make it hard for me to root for her success if she’s always being rescued and always hiding behind her prince.  I honestly kept hoping for more instances where she’d get kidnapped or taken away or stray off and be forced to help herself get out of trouble.  I wouldn’t mind if Grimalkin were there to advise her along the way.

But she just keeps getting rescued, time and time again.  On top of that, she has no sense of tact -- either that, or she’s naive and doesn’t listen to the facts of danger.  I don’t want to say she’s stupid, because she’s still adapting to the fey world.  However, it seems like she so easily steps into danger without a second thought as to what she’s doing, once again requiring a rescue from one of her two bodyguards.

If you’re going to make rash decisions, at least be able to follow through with a save for yourself if things don’t work out.  And if your rash decisions have created trouble before, maybe stop and think about future rash decisions before acting?  Just a thought.

There was a moment that I actually “WHOOPED!” in excitement.  Nearly 50% into the book when she’d been fearing everything and letting everyone walk all over her, and getting herself into troublesome situations, she finally stands up and tells her two bodyguards to “Sit down and shut up.”

I must admit, I was ecstatic.  She was finally finding her back bone and taking charge… but of course this little respite lasted a whole of one chapter before she started hiding and crying and being fearful of everything again.  I mean, she strengthened herself up a little bit, but it didn’t seem like it was enough.  She went back to being the fragile princess who needed protection.

But enough about Meghan, because I could go on for ages if given the opportunity.

Of all the characters introduced in this book, I do feel that Grimalkin is my favorite.  A sensible, wise, manipulative cait sith who knows what he wants and can get himself out of trouble without forethought.  I found myself hoping to see more of him throughout the book (glad that we did) and hoping that he’d become like a loyal adviser and good friend to Meghan throughout the series.  His presence is excellence and he points out a lot of Meghan’s own logic fails that made me at least see that these weren’t simply problems with the writing, but that Meghan is just plain naive and maybe a little tactless.  Is this on purpose, I wonder, then?  Or were we going for making Grimalkin a snide, blunt, bitchy character and he just happens to have the same line of thought that I do concerning our main characters’ actions?

But whatever, The Iron King was an adventurous, magical journey and I loved it as such.  Meghan was a big hindering factor in my full love of this book, but I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt that, given time, she’ll be the kickass heroine I’ve been looking forward to following.

The rest of the characters were pretty standard fare: Ash is the broody warrior and potential love interest; Puck is the playful best friend and potential suitor who is obviously in love with Meghan even if he doesn’t show it; then there are the standard evil villains, the parental figures who don’t understand their own children, the few side characters who don’t really get much scene time…  And then there’s Grimalkin who is just so much awesome rolled into a furry, fuzzy puff of cat!

I’m already moving onto the second book, The Iron Daughter and with all of my hope, I really want the adventures to continue magically.  I really, earnestly enjoyed a lot about this first book, even if I have a single ranty complaint about it -- while it may seem like a big problem for me since I put a lot of influence on the main female character, it honestly wasn’t that big of a deal.  Setting aside the three-plus paragraphs I just wrote about it...  It didn’t really deter my enjoyment of the book overall, honestly.

Anyway, I’m getting a slight feeling of mopey forbidden love at play in the stirrings of the first few chapters of The Iron Daughter, where it seems we’ll spend some time pining after each other…  Ash and Meghan, that is...

Which, speaking of romance…  Am I the only one who feels that the Meghan/Ash love relationship developed a little prematurely?  I mean, I saw it coming.  They were obviously the OTP of the series, but the two knew each other for very few days, and the entire time Ash was either trying to capture her to offer up to his Queen Mab to use against Oberon, or he was trying to kill her best friend.  And otherwise, he was being quite the cold, posturing ass, making threats and insulting her like she was dirt.  Sure, he saves her a few times, and apparently she’s managing to melt his cold exterior.  But I’m not sure that merits much of a “I can’t live without you” type of relationship.  I would have settled for a “first stages of dating” lustful attraction and respectful admiration with a side dish of “you’re cute, let’s get together” type of romance.  But we fell into the extreme end of this romance, in my opinion, almost too quickly.

I mean, these two could barely keep up with a lasting friendship, no less be in love with each other.

Then again, I’m far removed from teenage years… though that only means that I can see why Meghan would throw around her emotions so easily.  It’s Ash that I don’t really understand -- prince dude has been around for hundreds of years, apparently, and had a heart-wrenching love story of his own before he met Meghan.  And suddenly he’s all over her like she’s his oxygen or something.  Then again… love is a funny thing and maybe I’m just not seeing the romance of it all, and I’m clawing too much for logic outside of emotions.

Go figure.  Maybe I missed something.

This review was originally posted at Goodreads in September 2013.

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