Karen Mahoney's site
Series: The Iron Witch Saga #1
Copy obtained: ARC from the publisher, Random House Childrens Books
Publisher: RHCB (UK) Flux (US)
Release date: Jan 20th (UK) Jan 25th (US)
FREAK. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic - the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.
When the darkest outcasts of Faerie - the vicious wood elves - abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend - even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.
This 2011 debut novel on paper is not a book I'd love. It's centered on faeries (far from my favourite paranormal creatures), it's written in third person (I far prefer 1st), it's very rich in mythology/magic/alchemy (mix that with faeries and I tend to feel bogged down with information and don't enjoy it). And yet, I was very excited for The Iron Witch. Why? Because Kaz has had two short stories published before (in The Eternal Kiss and Kiss Me Deadly anthologies) which I completely adored. They were about completely different characters, but I loved the writing so I was very excited for Kaz's first novel despite all the potential factors against it. And I wasn't wrong, I did love The Iron Witch!
For those like me who prefer first person, Kaz makes is much easier to connect with Donna by having the occasional 'excerpt' from Donna's journal. Those little glimpses, and there are only a few, gave me the extra insight in to Donna's mind and her past that I needed to connect with her better, and through her the rest of the story. I did sometimes feel a disconnect with her, but I've got a feeling that was me being very sick while I was reading the book, than the writing itself. Donna is someone who doesn't seem to have a lot of confidence outwardly, but internally has a strength I love! She's an outsider, with just her best friend Navin for company. But Navin knows nothing of her 'other' side, the faeries, the alchemy, or that her hands are literally laced with iron after a horrific event in her past. I adored the friendship between the two, the loyalty, trust and how it changed throughout the book with the new troubles thrown their way. Donna is fiercely loyal, willing to fight as hard as she needs to protect those she loves, and it's probably my favourite thing about her.
The story itself is dark, twisting and yes, very rich in mythology and magic. But instead of finding myself switching off as things were explained and described, I found myself wanting more. I needed more, I wanted to understand all the why's and how's of how Donna's world works. It's so complex, and believable and brilliant! Little things kept being revealed and added throughout the book so it's not all given at once, so there isn't an info overload at any point. It's a fairly intense read, particularly the second half, but there are the odd lighter moments as well. The occasional semblance of complete normalcy which made me smile. It only happens a couple times, but I loved it.
There is a romantic plot to the book as well, in the form of Xan. I enjoyed the relationship between him and Donna, how it grew and the way they connect with each other. It's sweet and cute and manages to be pretty hot most of the time as well. Except, I don't entirely like Xan. It took me a long while to really warm up to him. He's mysterious. It adds a tension to their scenes, for me at least, which I actually really enjoy. But I'm curious to see where things go in book 2, The Wood Queen.
Overall it's a really great debut! Some fantastic world building, great characters and a twisting story that really kept me guessing! It's dark, mysterious, rich in secrets and mythology, and above all brilliant!! The ending in particular really stood out to me and left me hungry for more. There isn't a cliff hanger to it, but there may as well have been. I could have happily jumped straight in to The Wood Queen to find out what happens next because while there is a lot wrapped up within this book, there is still plenty left to be explained and explored. I highly recommend this book, especially if you're a fan of Fey stories and/or those rich in mythology. And even if you're not, read it anyways because it's a fantastic story!
If you want to check out the first couple chapters, you can do so here: