My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Warning: this review is lengthier than most of my reviews (and they are lengthy to begin with!) and contains teeny tiny spoilers.
The Iron King by Julie Kagawa is a story about a sixteen-year-old girl named Meghan Chase, whose kid brother Ethan gets kidnapped by otherworldly creatures. Faeries, in fact, seem to be the reason behind her brother’s abduction, and once she opens her eyes to the other world of Nevernever, a new adventure among the brightly coloured or possibly icy cold faerie courts begins. In a world where making deals and saying ‘thank-you’ is enough to be linked to someone for an eternity, Meghan learns who she truly is and faces a danger she never knew existed.
I’d heard many people talk about The Iron Fey series by Julie Kagawa and quite frankly, I hadn’t really heard anything bad about it. It was one of those series that got frequently mentioned by booktubers, and seemed to be on everyone’s to-read or read-shelf on Goodreads. So when I got the chance to buy the first two books in the series for a bargain price, I jumped at the opportunity, hoping I wouldn’t regret my decision.
I don’t necessarily regret my decision to buy the first two books in the series, but to say that I wasn’t exactly blown away is an understatement. Julie Kagawa has managed to create a very immersive, very detailed faerie-side of life and it’s all very well done, but at the same time I was presented with a main character I wanted to strangle. Meghan Chase was annoying and overall incredibly stupid. I don’t use these terms lightly, most characters in books make dumb decisions and then move on from them – not Meghan. She repeatedly did things that made me want to put the book down and faceplant onto my desk. “Don’t make deals or promises with faeries!” Meghan proceeds to make deals with faeries at least four or five times throughout the book (and after several moments of internal dialogue where she thinks, “Not the smartest thing to do, Meghan!”)
She was so incredibly unbelievably annoying to read about that around the 60% mark I felt the burning desire to not finish this book and call it a night. She was rushing through faerie-land to save her brother, yet nothing really showed how deep their relationship was: no fond memories, nothing. This combined with insta-love that, well, as the term implies, came out of nowhere and was based on absolutely nothing special, The Iron King gave me more than enough moments where I wanted to quit reading. I’m all for a cute, lovey-dovey romance, but at this rate I felt like my brain was suffering from the illogical background to it all. Prince Ash somehow falls madly in love with Meghan, even though she is frequently described as being plain and unappealing and wowee—the two of them dance once and after that, Prince Ash basically decides that – although he is bringing Meghan to his Queen and ruler eventually, he’ll help this girl instead.
I gave about minus fifty percent about their relationship – it came across as incredibly forced, predictable and the dialogue between the two of them was so cheesy, even I as a Dutch person (and thus usually a lover of cheese – really, it’s a thing) needed to put the book away and take a break. “You made me feel alive again.” Really? Really? On top of that, Meghan needed saving all the time – all the time. I was rooting for her to grow some faerie balls and become awesome, but it didn’t happen.
One of the side characters, Puck – Meghan’s best friend and a very important figure from the faerie courts—was amusing at first, but quickly grew bland and over the top for my taste. Then he (I think?) became the third pawn to create a lovely love triangle (that’s what it seemed like) and I just wanted it to stop. Grimalkin, the mischievous cat, was great, but he suffered from weird moments of inaccuracy in character in favour of Meghan. He tells her not to do something, she does it fifty times per chapter, and he’s not mad or annoyed – au contraire, he’s amused “and wants to see where this goes”. Really? Do you generally enjoy having your well-intended advice fall on deaf ears?
Right – that’s enough ranting from my side on all the things I didn’t like. I loved the world building and the world that Julie Kagawa presented us with. It was vibrant, well-detailed and for the most part, amusing to read about. I can always appreciate it when books offer you this other world where things that defy logic exist, and Nevernever was such a place. The royals in the faerie court were all very interestingly described and to me, they were the ones I basically wanted to know most about. I’m actually dying for a reunion between Meghan’s mother and Oberon, but I have no idea if that’ll happen in the future.
The writing style overall was fine, although there were a few sentences that made me go, “I did not just read that!” The prime example of this was Ash threatening to freeze someone’s testicles if they were to touch Meghan – cool, the faerie prince just threatened to freeze my privates. Yay! Like I said, weird. Besides that there were some errors – Meghan describing a man as looking like a homeless person, only to admit that she’s never seen a homeless person in her life. Eh?
Overall, I decided to give The Iron King 3 stars out of 5, mostly because of the very detailed world building and the potential that lies within it. I desperately hope and pray that Meghan will find her faerie balls between the end of book one and the start of book two – yes, I will be continuing the series, as I’ve heard the next books are a lot better – but if she doesn’t, her annoying behaviour might be a deal breaker for me.
If you are at all interested in faerie-related stories and you’re not afraid to go head-to-head with the main character, The Iron King could be an interesting read in which the real world and the world we cannot see merge together.