Review: The Iron King

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa. Harlequin Teen. 2010. First in the Iron Fey series. Review copy from publisher.

The Plot: Meghan Chase, almost sixteen, lives in the middle of the Louisiana bayou with her mother, stepfather and four year old half-brother. Maybe it’s the oddness of having had her father disappear when she was six; maybe it’s living on a pig farm and being poor; maybe it’s not having any of the technology (like cellphones) that her stepfather dislikes; maybe it’s that her only friend is Robbie Goodfell, the school’s greatest prankster — whatever the reason, she doesn’t have many friends. Her crush on cute Scott Waldron ends disastrously.

Could it get any worse?

Why, yes. Meghan starts seeing things. Doesn’t think they are real, until her little brother starts acting strange and it turns out — well, nothing is what she thinks it is. Fairies and otherworldy things are real, her brother has been replaced with a Changeling, and to save him she has to enter the NeverNever, the world of faery. A dangerous world with dangerous creatures, because it turns out? Her good friend Rob is actually Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck. Her father is Oberon, King of the Summer Court. Which means she is half-faery and a princess. Also, it means that Oberon’s wife, Titania, isn’t too happy she exists. Then there is this whole other court, the Winter Court, ruled by Mab.

And just as it gets more confusing and dangerous, enter Ash. Mab’s son. Someone who makes Meghan’s heart race.

The Good: Let’s just get down to it, shall we? It’s Team Puck versus Team Ash.

On the one side, Puck. Minuses: he was sent by her father to keep an eye on her. Has been half-lying to her about her identity for years. And those jokes can sometimes get on one’s nerves. Pluses: he’s her best friend. The person she can absolutely trust. He knows his way away Faeryland and he’ll help her, no matter what. He’s a fighter, he’s loyal, and he’s cute.

On the other, we have Ash. Minuses: the Winter Court and Summer Court are long-time enemies, so he’s her built in enemy. He’s sworn to kill Puck, in a “cannot take it back” way. Dark, moody, edgy, not very communicative. Not to be trusted. Pluses: He’s Mr. Hotty from Hottyville who just sets her heart a-racing.

Me? I say date Ash, marry Puck.

I’m trying to figure out when to put my spoiler warning. Like triangles, with two very different but equally interesting people? Read The Iron King. If it’s all about the world building and you want an otherworld that has both the dark and the beautiful things from ancient stories, tales, and myths come to life, read The Iron King. In addition to Puck and Ash, there is Grimalkin, a talking cat, sirens, goblins and more.

But what I really liked about this book is something that is a bit spoilery. Don’t want spoilers? I warned you!

As in Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement, belief matters. “Doorways to the Nevernever tend to appear in places where there is a lot of belief, creativity and imagination. Often you can find one in a child’s bedroom closet, or under his bed.” Children (like Meghan’s younger brother) can see and talk to those from the Nevernever because they believe. At one point, Meghan is told she can tap into her half-faery powers to become invisible if she just taps into that power. Personally, that seems the worst thing, because the minute you doubt…oops. It doesn’t work.

In The Iron King, not believing can have consequences: “Mortal disbelief has always taken a bit of the Nevernever.” It turns out that belief can have consequences, also. Mortals and their belief in science and technology have not just “taken a bit of the Nevernever”, it has created new type of fey, the Iron Fey. The Iron Fey have kept their existence secret from their traditional, older brothers and sisters. What’s interesting is that iron — science and technology — have always been fatal to the fey. So here are a new fey that are both immune to the dangers of the mortal world, and themselves are dangerous to their fellow fey.

The Iron King ends on a cliffhanger: to save her brother, Meghan has made sacrifices and promises. Promises that must be kept. Her future survival is a bit of a question mark. So, to, is the future of the fey and what will happen now that the Iron Fey are no longer hiding. The story continues in The Iron Daughter and The Iron Queen.

7 thoughts on “Review: The Iron King

  1. This is absolutely one of my favorite series. I’ve read through the other two and it just gets so so much better. Team Ash/Team Puck aside I really thought the characters and the story was interesting and this comes from a girl who has never been a big fan of high fantasy. This was about as high as it could get for me and I still loved it. Kagawa had such a way of weaving pieces of reality into the fantasy elements. Fantastic read.


  2. Michelle, I have the other 2 books and look forward to seeing just where the author goes with this world

    Brandy, it is a great cover; the ones for the other 2 are just as terrific.


  3. Interesting theme of belief versus non-belief. I appreciate your comments about mortals and their science and the new type of fey, “Iron Fey.” Interesting-sounding book, if a little out of my reading comfort zone.


  4. Rachel, what’s even better is that 3 of the books in the series are now out! I love being able to just read straight thru a series and not have to wait long between books.

    Bev, Michelle/Galleysmith said something kind of similar — she’s not a fantasy reader but she enjoyed this fantasy. I haven’t read the next 2 books yet, so I have to see where the author goes with the belief/non belief consequences.


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