Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Publisher: Corgi Children's
Released: January 20th, 2010
Grade rating: B+
Freak.That's what they call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood at Ironbridge High School. A horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child left Donna branded with iron tattoos that cover her hands and arms - and magically enhanced strength, that she now does all she can to hide.Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, Donna finally accepts her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie - the dark elves. Aided by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout, Donna must save her best friend's life - and that means betraying one of the world's greatest secrets and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.
I think 2011 might just have to be called the year of Awesome UK Debut Novels. Karen Mahoney is just one more example of what we have to offer, and I'm so glad she got this book published. It's a great mix of dark fantasy and romance, and has already spurned arguments over which boy is better: Navin or Xan. Character debates are a good sign for books and, for that reason alone, I think Ms. Mahoney is well on her way to having a fanclub or two. It's also a book written by a UK author that has a US setting - something that, from experience, doesn't always work. Does it work here? Yes it does!
I went into The Iron Witch without knowing too much about it. I knew it was about wood elves and magic, but that's about as far as my knowledge went. Almost every page seemed to reveal a new plot twist or well-kept secret, and I'm grateful that I wasn't expecting any of it. The story unfolded at a riveting pace, and I couldn't even consider putting it down for the first 130 pages or so. I thought things tailed off a bit after that, but I was still captivated - I just had to know more about the wood elves and Donna's role in their plan.
Donna Underwood is an understated character, in that I didn't realise how much I liked her until I finished the book. She has low self-esteem due to circumstances explained in the book, but she doesn't let that stop her. I think as she faces more danger and sees her bravery firsthand, she understands that other people don't see her the way she sees herself, and that she doesn't have to put herself down so much. I thought that was a really good message for readers, even though Donna's situation is a little more out there than you'd find in real life.
The boys in Donna's life are what I've been dying to talk about here. It's no secret that I'm a sucker for a good love triangle /unrequited love, and in The Iron Witch you pretty much get both (there's definitely something building between these three!). Navin is Donna's dependent, funny best friend, and he's a cool guy. However, GIVE ME MORE XAN. I might be slightly biased because his name reminds me of a certain TV character I worship, but on top of that he's half-human half-something-I-won't-say, as well as being incredibly easy on the eyes, chivalrous and basically everything I want in a boy. He inspires the sighs, put it that way.
I'd previously never read a book about wood elves and alchemy, so The Iron Witch immediately got points for that, before I'd even turned the first page. Mahoney has researched everything she's written about in great detail, and her love of the subject shines through in her work. Her writing is contemporary and her characters believable, which makes a world of difference when reading urban fantasy of any kind. I really enjoyed The Iron Witch, and I'm very much looking forward to The Wood Queen. I want to know more about Xan's background and the wood elves, not to mention what will happen with the alchemists. Xan's history is something I felt was missing from this book, but I understand that maybe there wasn't time to delve deeper into his complicated character. Or maybe it was a clever ploy to leave us all wanting more...
The Iron Witch has managed to present original ideas in what is a crowded genre, and that's something worth noting. It's perfect for fans of all things magic, fey and urban, or just readers looking for a good story to escape into. It gets a big thumbs up from me!