Friday, June 18, 2010
Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa
In The Iron King, Julie Kagawa spins an enchanting tale full of myth, magic, mystery and adventure. The way Kagawa expands the faery characters from Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" into vivid and lifelike personalities is remarkable, especially when it comes to the character of Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck. Puck is one of the most entertaining and endearing characters in the entire novel. While remaining entirely recognizable as the troublesome trickster from "Midsummer," Kagawa makes him seem almost human and entirely lovable. Readers only begin to get a glimpse of the complexities that lie within King Oberon and Queen Titania, however, and their development in future books will hopefully be just as compelling and intriguing as that of Puck. The focus of the story, though, is heroine Meghan Chase - a slightly awkward, down-to-earth, teenage girl. Meghan is a surprisingly relateable heroine, in spite of her more-than-human heritage. Her trials and tribulations at the hands of the "popular crowd," her lively and loyal best friend, her family's ignorance of her existence - all of these will strike a chord with Kagawa's young adult readers. However, Meghan never becomes whiny; she is the kind of heroine who sucks it up and pushes on - an admirable and refreshing trait. As a result, she won't weary older readers, allowing people of all ages to be enchanted by this charming and carefully constructed story of imagination and adventure. However, I hope to see more of Meghan's inner thoughts in future novels - her true nature remains mysterious.
The premise behind Kagawa's Nevernever (the faeryland) is both brilliantly creative and seems to be an insightful portrait of modern disillusionment and the indelible mark technological innovation has left on our planet. This novel is thought-provoking, while never becoming preachy and always keeping the reader engrossed. The Nevernever is home to a host of mystical creatures - both the enchanting and the horrifying, and the novel possesses a delicate and bewitching balance between the haunting darkness that is often associated with the fey, and the atmosphere of a fanciful, coming-of-age adventure. Kagawa seems to draw on a myriad of imaginings - from the "pack rats," adorable gnomes reminiscent of the seven dwarves, to their frightening goblin counterparts, the redcaps, to the character who steals the show and calls to mind the Cheshire cat from Alice in Wonderland: Grimalkin. Grimalkin is Meghan's inscrutable guide, a cat full of sarcasm and dry wit. Kagawa is clearly a cat person, because she personifies the aloof and condescending attitude of a cat perfectly and hilariously. However, what would a faery tale be without the dashing hero? Enter Ash - sworn enemy of Meghan's best friend Puck and prince of the dangerous Unseelie court, the winter faery kingdom which rivals the Seelie court, domain of the summer king, Oberon. Ash is dark and definitely deadly; the first time Meghan sees him, he tries to kill her - but of course, this intrigue only heightens his allure. Kagawa develops their story slowly and tantalizingly, drawing the reader in and keeping them frantically flipping pages anxiously awaiting the romantic gratification. Even Team Puck fans will find themselves holding their breath as Ash and Meghan walk the tightrope between enmity and love, while still crossing their fingers in the hope that Meghan will realize the meaning behind Puck's thinly veiled quips. The Iron King is a truly captivating novel, holding something for everyone within its pages - whether readers are looking for romance, magic, mystery or life-threatening and never-ending adventure. The upcoming August sequel, The Iron Daughter, can't come quickly enough.
Click here to purchase The Iron King
Don't miss the recently released Iron Fey novella, Winter's Passage! Free to download until July 31, 2010.
Come back on Monday to read my interview with The Iron King author Julie Kagawa!