Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

Book: The Iron King
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release date: February 1, 2010
Source: Ebook purchased from Amazon
Series: The Iron Fey #1

Summary: (from Goodreads) 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.

First impressions: Meghan is a sweet girl, although somewhat invisible to the people around her. She’s ignored or taunted at school, she lives on a hog farm thanks to her new stepdad, and she has a quirky male best friend who never lets her see where he lives. With her 16th birthday coming up, her life felt vaguely reminiscent of a Molly Ringwald movie (or, say, all of them).

Lasting impressions: Though the book felt like a mishmash of beloved ideas from lots of other sources, the ending was compelling enough to make me want to read on in the series.

Conflicting impressions: The plot lacked any kind of urgency for me. Meghan meanders her way through fairy land, and though time doesn’t really exist there, I kept wishing for there to be a deadline of sorts for her to be up against so the story kept moving forward. Instead, it felt like it dragged at parts because she didn’t know what she was doing, where she was going, or when she would eventually get there.

Overall impressions: If you like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Wicked Lovely, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then you’ll like this book. If you took these books/play/movie and tossed them in a blender, out would pop The Iron King. That isn’t to say there weren’t cool ideas here, it’s just that certain scenes seemed to remind me of other material, which was both comforting and disconcerting.

Meghan Chase is having a rough go at teenagerdom, and her life is quickly thrown into new territory when she comes home on her 16th birthday to find her brother replaced with a vicious changeling. Her best friend Robbie Goodfell, that merry prankster, uses this opportunity to reveal his true self, which of course is Puck. He introduces her to the hidden fairy world where he exists because he lives on in the hearts, minds, and legends of the human world.

From here, we learn of Meghan’s own ties to the fey, and she sets out to find her brother with the help of an often disappearing Puck, and a cat sidhe named Grimalkin. She encounters King Oberon and Queen Titania’s Seelie/Summer Court, and also is introduced to Queen Mab and Prince Ash of the Unseelie/Winter Court. As she continues to fumble her way around the land of the fey, she makes a lot of mistakes and deals and as a result, starts to figure out how things work down here. She’s resourceful, but too trusting and loyal – a fault Prince Ash warns her will be her downfall.

Ash is a bit of an enigma. I didn’t feel I got to know him very well in this book. In fact, most of the characters seemed to be held at a bit of a distance, so I didn’t truly connect with any of them. I liked Puck more because he’s, well, Puck. I’ve studied Puck and Claudius more than any other Shakespearean characters, and he’s very true to form here. I just wish he wasn’t a gawky redhead so I could find him as attractive as the dark and dreamy Ash. So for this book, at least, I’m calling Team Puck.

Meghan wanders in and out of dangerous situations, back and forth between the fey world and the mortal world, and there is no sense of how much time she has to rescue her brother, Ethan. If there had been a timeframe in which she had to find him, I think it would have pushed the urgency and created real consequences for Meghan’s failures. Instead, she got wrapped up in different battles and guessed her way toward finding him. She doesn’t find out who has him, or why, until the last few chapters of the book. This was very off putting for the middle section when I wanted someone to have some information that would drive the story.

I did appreciate the world created here, especially the conflict between the courts and the introduction of the titular Iron King. I’m very curious how this war will play out and what role Meghan will fill in its battles, especially given the binding agreements she had to make with some of the fey while trying to rescue Ethan. I found the book enjoyable in the end, and the overall reading experience was above average, so I give it four stars, though I hope the next books live up to the hype of being better than this one.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

11 thoughts on “Review: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

  1. Do you feel that this book is somewhat reminiscent of The Princess Diaries? I haven't read it yet, but it sounds awfully similar to the beginning of Mia Rinaldi's story.

  2. Glad that despite some of your issues with this one you still enjoyed it overall! I had trouble getting into this one initially and connecting with Meghan or Puck, but by book 2 I was hooked and then I was an emotional mess in book 3, so maybe the next couple books will have a similar effect on you. Fabulous review:)

  3. Yay, so glad you finally got around to this series! I was pretty 'meh' on this first book, and I didn't think it would be a series I would grow to love, but the next two (three now, heh) definitely had me completely in their grips. I hope you enjoy them!

  4. Sounds a bit derivative which tends to annoy me. But it's good to hear that the ending was well done. From all accounts I've read, the next books are major improvements to this one!

  5. You know, I hadn't really thought about it before, but you're right about the deadline thing. I remember being so bored when Meghan was stuck in as a slave in that kitchen. I kept thinking, when is something going to happen! I think you'll find that book 2 picks up in action scenes. P.S. Team ASH!

  6. For me… the books got better as the series went along. I agree with what you said about this book. I was total Team Puck in this book but all in all… I ended up being Team Grim! I just love that cat. 🙂

  7. @Lissa – I actually haven't read The Princess Diaries, so I can't say for sure how similar they are. Maybe I'll have to investigate…@Amanda – Congratulations! I look forward to your review!@Jenny – Everyone seems to feel the same way, so I'm definitely going to push through and keep reading. @Stephanie – I think I'm one of the last people to read this one!@Aylee – It actually wasn't as annoying as I thought. I mean, even the summary made me think this wasn't exactly new ground, but somehow Kagawa made it work. @Missie – Yes! That part was one of the worst offenders. Did we really need that scene? What did that get us, or Meghan? Nada. There was no need. There were a lot of times like that where the journey itself seemed like nothing but filler.@Melissa – Oh how I love Grim! He is absolutely wonderful. I wish he was my cat.

  8. I love all those stories you mentioned, so I should really enjoy this. It's been sitting on my shelf for half a year now… :/

  9. I felt the same way about the characters. They just felt a little thin and undeveloped. They get better. I HATED the beginning of the second book and Meghan drove me nuts in that book. But…The Iron Queen was badass, I thought. 🙂

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