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Brunch Book Club Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

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iron kingMeghan 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.

Full confession time: I’m not a huge fan of fairies in YA books. I prefer my Fae (or Fey)  to be a little darker and a little more devious than they are usually portrayed in teen literature. Think of the Fae in Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, or even the Fae in Shakespeare. As a result, I went into this month’s selection with more than a little trepidation.

It’s always great to be pleasantly surprised by a book – and I was definitely surprised by this book! The Fey in this story are just as deliciously dark and devious as I enjoy them to be, and Puck was a perfect blend of both modern and Shakespearean mischievousness:

Thou speak’st aright; 
I am that merry wanderer of the night. 
I jest to Oberon and make him smile 
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, 
,,,But, room, fairy! here comes Oberon.

~ Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare, Act II, sc 1

Kagawa has a knack for a fast-paced story, and it is never more evident than in this first book of the series. I thought that she did an excellent job of setting up the situation and bringing Meghan into the world of the Fey so quickly, while still giving us a good feeling for the awkwardness and loneliness that she felt in her own world. I did feel that the brother (half brother?) was being set up for his own series – later research told me that I was correct, and I will be really interested in seeing how his story will play out, especially since his first experience with the Fey has not been particularly positive. I think, for an introductory book, Kagawa did a remarkable job of giving us enough backstory to make us feel comfortable with the characters and their roles, as well as enough action to keep us interested in finding out what will happen next. There’s a host of supporting characters in this book who are detailed enough to make me wonder how they will come into play in future books.

Especially intriguing for me was the dynamic between the Fey themselves. I enjoyed how Kagawa developed the ongoing battles between the Winter and Summer courts and between Oberon and Titania. It echoed the timeless stories of Zeus and Hera, and it was good to see that Oberon did care about Meghan in his own slightly twisted fashion as he attempted to protect her from Titania’s wrath. Puck was equally well drawn, and his role as Oberon’s minion was well played with a dash of trademark Puck-ish humour (no pun intended!). There’s a darkness lurking in Kagawa’s Puck, and the backstory between Puck and Ash will be very interesting to discover.

The introduction of the Iron Fey was a fabulous addition to the traditional lore. She makes some valid points about how our beliefs have shifted from the mystical to the scientific, and how our slavish dedication to electronic devices could very well lead to a rise of a new Fey power. What used to be feared is now revered, and I really liked that the Iron Fey were truly the unknown villains of the piece. Still, as before, there are many things left unlearned about the Iron Fey, and they will lead to major changes for Meghan.

The only false note for me lay in the Insta-Love (TM) between Meghan and Ash. For one thing, I felt for Puck, who had been her staunch supporter in both worlds, and for another there was no basis for this emotion beyond initial physical attraction. If I had felt that their connection was forged by fire, for instance, I might have bought into it a bit more — I was more inclined to believe the romance at the end of the story than in the first third. It was too immediate for me to really believe in it, and I hope that things will grow differently as the books progress.

Overall, I was completely engaged in this book, reading it in a single sitting and purchased the next two books in the series immediately after – unheard of behaviour when you consider I wondered if I might even finish the book at the beginning! I look forward to returning to the world of Ash and Puck and the Iron Fey to see what Kagawa has in store for us next.

Did you read The Iron King? Are you following our Brunch Book Club schedule? Be sure to comment below with your thoughts, and to link up your review when we post our Brunch Book Club recap in the next few days! Our next book will be The Madman’s Daughter.

The Iron King is published by Harlequin Teen, and was purchased for this readalong challenge. It may be purchased via Indigo, Kobo or your friendly independent bookseller! ISBN:  9780373210084, 363 pages. 

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