Monday, April 19, 2010

Writer's Book Review: Julie Kagawa's THE IRON KING

Why I got this book: I won this book as a prize from Sharon at Sharon Loves Books and Cats. I thought the book sounded interesting at the time, but didn't really have plans to buy it. It was a dark fairy story, I knew that much, but that didn't seem to make it stand out from the crowd of dark fairy stories out there--and I'd read some bad ones lately, so wasn't too excited to pick this one up. BUT I WAS WRONG. OH SO WRONG. This book is totally addictive, with a fun story, awesome characters, and great twists.

Elsewhere on the web: Julie blogs here, and has a static website here. The original review by Sharon that first caught my interest here.

Five sentence summary: Meghan Chase has a typical un-fairy-tale-like life: a mom who sometimes breaks her promises, a step-dad who can barely remember she's there, a baby brother who's cute, and a friend named Robbie who's not just her best friend--he's her only friend. And if she half believe her brother when he says there are monsters in his closet, she can push them down. But when the monsters in his closet kidnap her baby brother--leaving a fierce and dangerous changling in his place--Meghan must enter the Nevernever, find the fairies, and get her brother back. She's got help--her friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow (better known as Puck), and she picks up a cat named the Grimalkin (think: the Cheshire Cat). Then there's Ash. He's definitely not her friend--he's a prince for the Winter Court, and plans to make Meghan a prisoner there--but Meghan can't help but be attracted to him as she faces the Iron Fey enemy.

So, what can we, as writers, learn from this book?

1. Consequences: This is my favorite part of the book. Really. I love how the characters decisions have serious and real consequences. When someone gets hurt, they stay hurt--there is no magic fairy tale cure. Titania, Queen of the Summer Fey, hates Meghan because of her link with Oberon, the King. Meghan eats fruit in the fairy land (which she's been warned not to) and the team loses and entire day while she recovers from its effects.

The best consequence is also a spoiler. Highlight the following to read. At one point, Meghan must go to an oracle to discover how to get to her brother. The oracle demand a price: a memory from Meghan. When the oracle exacts the price, we as readers don't know exactly what memory was taken. By the end of the book, though, it becomes apparent that the memory taken was of her father--and it doesn't appear that this memory can ever be replaced. It's gone for good.

2. Twists on Magic: At first, I was a little off-put by how typical the magic world was. The Summer Court and the Winter Court was nothing new--even less so if you've read Melissa Marr. But Julie had a reason for setting up the "typical"--she was laying the foundation for how different the other sort of magic--the Iron Fey--work. Julie was able to create a convincing world that twists from the typical fairy tale world by extending our expectations of fairy tales and spinning them into a new world. Because of this, the groundwork for why a new type of magic--Iron Magic--can exist.
3. Love Triangle: ACK! Another love triangle!!! But...this one's good. I mean, really good. It's not Jacob-Bella-Edward. Nononono. This love triangle is totally believable, and very heart-wrenching. On the one hand, you have Puck. Puck, the fun, flightly, prankster who clearly loves Meghan. And Meghan's inability to see Puck's love is understandable and not frustrating--I can totally see why she'd miss it. On the other hand, you have Ash, prince of the Winter Court. Totally cold, totally distant...totally hot. But he loves Meghan for her choices and her loyalty, making that love believable, too.

Look, guys, I don't like love triangles unless they're done well. This one is. It's as good a love triangle as Katniss, Peeta, and Gale.

Quibbles: I expected certain things from a modern fairy tale--the main girl character to be an outsider, reviled by cheerleaders, with no friends, etc., etc., etc. THE IRON KING started off in this fashion--which didn't grab my interest, because it was so expected. But I stuck with it because the writing was so addictive.

The Bottom Line: A fun, fun read. If you like your beach reads to have some thought behind them and still be a little steamy, totally go for this one.

PS: In case you can't tell, I'm TOTALLY TEAM PUCK. Which makes me sad--I think the book is pointing us toward Meghan and Ash being together, but I still want it to be Puck! Puck is fun, funny, and his love is based on years of being with Meghan. He's the best friend who fell in love. I *so* want him to be with Meghan in the end!
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