Saturday, August 13, 2011

Iron Knight (review)

4/5 stars
The Iron Knight is the 4th in the Iron Fey series. I've tried to keep the spoilers for the previous book minimal but they're hard to avoid.
I've enjoyed the whole Iron Fey series. But I've tried not too think about it very hard. I was surprised that I liked anything produced by Harlequin. I'm openly non-romance (even my friends are surprised I liked this series). But I do love faeries and epic stories of sacrifice. I've been reluctant to analyze these books because I didn't want to stop enjoying the series.

They're a unique take on faerie. Julie Kagawa's creation of the Iron Fey was a brilliant and bold move (I mean come on, who messes with faerie lore?). At time she's a little too descriptive for my taste (I like things sparse) but she's created a compelling version of faerie that I've enjoyed exploring. Now that I've finished the whole series, I'd really like to revisit The Iron King at some point and try to figure out what grabbed me. I tried to look back at past reviews but it turns out that I've never reviewed any of the books, just gave them four stars and moved on.

I'm ecstatic that the first book of the Iron Fey series that I'm going to review is The Iron Knight. This is my type of story. Faerie quest, friendship, unbeatable odds and an impossible task. YES PLEASE. I think it's the best of the series!

This book follows the adventure of Ash "emo-kid" Winter Prince and Puck "anything for a laugh" Summer Jester. From the opposite sides of Faerie Courts, sometimes friends, often enemies, they are a great combination. Puck never lets Ash fall too deep into the mope, and Ash carries the story's heavy heavy heart. They balance each with banter and bickering like a cute old married couple.
"Hey, iceboy, you okay? You've got your brooding face on again."
This story has the vibe of a classic faerie quest. Following Ash's POV is a nice change and allows us to get a deeper look at faerie itself--the politics, the heartaches, what it means to be fey. Even though we've seen the fey behave badly in past books, the main characters have come across as almost-human. But this book really delves into Ash's past. It finally deals with the Ash vs. Puck rivalry, but goes beyond that. During his search for a soul Ash must face his past actions and his inhumanity. He is an Unseelie fae. He is a monster. This is what I've been waiting to see from Ash--to know who he is and to understand the darkness he's trying so hard to control.
"I didn't want to remember the laughter, the easy camaraderie, between myself and my once closest friend. Because remembering Puck as something more than a rival only reminded me of my vow, the one spoken in a flash of despair and rage, the one that had turned us into bitter enemies for years to come."
Exploring Puck and Ash's relationship is probably the most rewarding part of this book for people who have followed this series. When they finally confront their mutual demons it does not disappoint. You see the cost of one mistake on a friendship for both Ash and Puck, and how their regrets have haunted them ever since. Knowing their story makes them both more compelling and more real than they've ever been.

I really love a good book about faerie, and this book is VERY good. But there's one thing that doesn't jive with me. Not just with this book, but with all of these faerie love stories. If faeries have no soul, how can they love? I think this book had an opportunity to address that topic and part of me wishes it had delved deeper into the question. As I read about the former friendship of Puck and Ash, their shared past, both of their love for Meghan, they don't seem soulless at all to me. They seem hurt, damaged and remarkably similar to humans.

But that might just be me and my understanding of love interjecting itself into the story. Maybe this is a topic that's impossible to address, one of the mysteries of faeries that mere mortals cannot grasp. I don't know. But for ancient soulless faeries, both Ash and Puck felt remarking real in this book.

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