The Iron Fey by Julie Kagawa is a six (seven if you include the three short stories in The Iron Legends) book series in which the Faerie world is overtaken by a new race of fey who are born out of humans’ fascination with technology. Only one ‘normal’ girl – Megan Chase – can save both the human world and the Faerie world from these new poisonous creatures, and fall in love during the process.
The Nevernever (faerie land) is split into two courts, Summer and Winter – or Seelie and Unseelie, depending on who you talk to – and its inhabitants generally like to cause mischief and misery to unsuspecting humans. Megan ventures into the Nevernever when her younger brother, Ethan, is taken by the Iron Fey and ends up having to deal with faerie court politics, an identity crisis, and the good old trope of a love triangle (which could all be resolved if people just communicated!).
Splashed across the covers are the reviews claiming the series to be “the new Twilight” and for “fans of Snow White and the Huntsman” which gives you an indication to the market they were trying to appeal to, the narrative and also the series’ age. In honesty I found the books, especially the first half of the series up until The Iron Legends, to be a bit bland and predictable. The plot definitely got more interesting after the first two and a half books when the stakes were higher and Megan was more of an interesting character but in general the characters were just a bit two dimensional for me. In its favour, I will say the world and the premise was really good and I enjoyed the idea of new fey being born from technology and the intertwining of ‘known’ fairies from culture, but unfortunately the world was let down by its inhabitants. If you want your faeries to be darker with a bit more substance, I would turn to Holly Black’s novels instead.
So let’s get down to the good stuff! Ash and Megan’s relationship. I just didn’t believe it. I couldn’t pin point where and when they fell in love. Like they hated one another and then suddenly they were in love. And Ash is your classic angsty boy – and angsty boys are hard enough to date without having to save the world as well! I’m also annoyed that it took Megan an age to decide to learn how to fight her own battles instead of letting Ash and Puck fight for her, and over her, whilst she just hid. And being scared to ask your boyfriend to teach you to fight because he was “overprotective” (read: controlling) is just the worst. Ash only agreed because he couldn’t “protect her forever”. Eurgh. As the books go on though, Megan does get stronger and takes ownership and responsibility for her actions so there is a bit of development there. But basically, all of the bumps in Megan and Ash’s relationship were down to just poor communication – Ash never spoke to Megan, never explained the way he had to act in the Winter Court, his home, and just expected her to be okay with the fact that he ignored and belittled her because “showing emotion was a weakness”. He never even tried. Eurgh. Also, Megan – just so you know – when a boy (even if he is a pretty, immortal fey) says he has a “bit of a possessive streak” when it comes to relationships, you better stop, drop and roll the flip away from him because that boy is no good for you! That’s not romantic behaviour, you deserve better. But not Puck because he’s insufferable and still refers to you as ‘his’ Princess.
A disclaimer – Ash does redeem himself slightly when he learns a bit of empathy and compassion but I still don’t like him.
This sort of possessive relationship behaviour is actually present in all of the male characters throughout the series – which isn’t great! But Ethan at least, in the later books, does try to learn from his mistakes and listen to his girlfriend but still sites his “paranoid” and “overprotective” nature whenever he tries to stop her from doing literally anything!
I think Grimalkin is my favourite character – mainly because he’s a cat – but also because of his general disdain for all the other characters and his exasperation for all of their questions and reliance on him. He summed up how I was feeling a lot of the time whilst reading the books!
As you can probably tell from what I’ve already said, this is a series which is built very much upon the relationships of the characters and the plot comes from the decisions the characters make in order to be with one another. The books from Megan and Ash’s perspectives round off the events nicely, and of course there is a happy ending waiting for them. The second half, called The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten, are from Ethan’s perspective. As this is only a two book arc, there is less of a build-up and the ending is not one which ends the series. That’s not to say it isn’t a great ending – it is and fits with the characters’ motivations. And, although alluded to several times throughout the series, still comes as a shock. The last book, The Iron Traitor, does end rather abruptly though. I found myself two chapters before the end thinking was there enough space to resolve everything? And the truth is there wasn’t but that was never the point. Which, for the second half of the books, is the perfect ending.
If you start reading the series, stick with it. I feel like I have been overly harsh with this review and I did actually enjoy the series – I did read all seven of them so they must have done something right! They are an easy read and although they stay rather safe in terms of themes and the general relationships of the characters, the narrative arc becomes more substantial and challenging for the characters.
Tl:dr – I found these books to be predictable and relied too much on tropes but they are enjoyable and easy to read. All the problems in the narrative wouldn’t be issues if the characters just talked and listened to one another.
Reviewed by Nicola Wallace