Julie Kagawa lost me as a potential fan from the beginning. Reviews from fellow book bloggers had led me to believe she was this highly original writer, spinning lush fairy tales that had readers swooning left and right. But the start of The Iron King was the most depressing book beginning I have read in a while. I knew from the start: this was not going to be a five star book for me.
Maybe saying this proves that I am outgrowing this type of YA or something (which sounds horrible no no no I don’t wanna outgrow any YA I love love love YA), because I simply cannot relate to a pathetic teenage character with no spark of personality such as Meghan Chase.
Okay, I get it: you’re not popular because you’re poor and … NO! You are unpopular because you feel sorry for yourself constantly and you make no effort to be anything other than invisible.
Here’s the thing about unpopular people in high school, coming to you from someone who was one too: being unpopular does not mean having no friends (the ‘unpopulars’ tend to stick together just the same as the populars do). Being unpopular does not mean having no hobbies. Being unpopular does not mean being as boring as chalk.
It’s later explained that her stepfather kept forgetting about her because she’s half fae, but yeah Meghan, that’s still no reason why you have no life and only one friend who is secretly your faerie bodyguard. Kagawa could have written her as an introvert artist, as a devoted vegetarian, as a girl who secretly loves rap music and wants to be the next Dr. Dre – I don’t care, just give that girl something to work with!
Then it is revealed that Robbie is Puck (shocker!) and everything starts happening really quickly, leaving the reader little room to get to know the characters. It felt like they were always running from one threat towards another.
The pace of it made most of the encounters seemed random and fleeting, losing all meaning. It’s almost as if Kagawa wanted to show off all the creatures in her world, without thinking about whether or not they were needed to further the story.
Don’t get me started on the romance. Am I the only one who felt like it made no sense? Not even in the ‘girl, you are so dumb’-way that Hush Hush made no sense, but literally: how is this a romantic development? How are they suddenly ‘in love’? I had no idea where all of that was coming from, because I have not read a single sentence that would explain their connection. They hardly even talked?
I guess I feel this book was really lacking in downtime. I wanted to get to know the characters! Now I only know the way they fight, the way they flee. I needed more scenes like the one with the faerie berries (were they berries?) in that abandoned icey mansion. Con-ver-sations. Plenty of banter, sure, but hardly any exchanges that felt real and open and honest. I really missed that in this book. A connection between the characters and a connection from them to me.
I was not a fan of the talking cat either. As I said in the beginning of this review: even a big YA fantasy fan such as myself draws the line somewhere. I’m not into high fantasy, maybe that explains it.
The Iron King was just a bit too much of a fairy tale for me, with forgettable characters and little depth. Which is too bad, because I really like the idea of the Iron fae and how they came to be and it did get a little better towards the end. Maybe part 2 will be more to my liking?
Random afterthought: the chapter titles were unnecessary to me. I did like the swirly thingies at the beginning of each chapter though – pretty.
Disclaimer: I read this book in Dutch and I admit that I am usually more negative in reviewing a translated work than the original English ones.