The Iron Queen
Before I start, I just want to say that having read the last two books in this series consecutively I've now had Black Sabbath's Iron Man stuck in my head for over a week... Also, The Iron Daughter is the third book in a series and this review therefore contains spoilers for the previous two books (reviews of which you can find here and here).
OK, now on with the rest...
The Iron Queen is the last in the Iron Fey series (or is it?...more on that later) and is really pretty darn good. We last saw Meghan and Ash being vanquished from the Nevernever to pursue their (finally resolved) love in the human world. Not ideal for Ash, really, but pretty good for Meghan who at first thinks that she's gotten exactly what she wanted – a get out of faery free card. Obviously, it quickly transpires that this is not the case. The Iron Fey are still intent on taking over Tir Na Nog, destroying the Seelie and Unseelie courts in the purpose and creating havoc with the human world's environment while they're at it. Meghan realises that she can't really just stand back and watch and so heads back into the fray, with Ash at her side.
Meghan really steps up to the plate in this great installment of Julie Kagawa's hugely original series. She's matured a lot and is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with – not that she always realises this. I appreciated the selfless way that she went about attempting to help the faery courts and also loved her continued ability to stand up to their leaders. Another aspect of Meghan that really worked in this book was her desire to learn to fight – taught by Ash. She doesn't find it effortless (yay for someone actually having to work up a sweat in paranormal YA) but does get to kick some ass as the story progresses. Her relationship with Ash is slightly less angst ridden in this book and her attitude towards him also shows increased maturity even while Puck still lurks hopefully in the background.
Ash, however, bothered me a bit in this book. Overall, he's a much better character – he's less brooding, less angsty and less cold. I liked this – he's a lot more attractive when he's chirpy. However, clearly at some point during the storyline, he sneaked off and picked up the Edward Cullen book on How To Be A Good Boyfriend... He worries about being bad for Meghan, he ponders his selfishness at staying with her... he starts wittering on about his lack of soul. Meh. Meh meh meh meh meh. Ash – you are fine as you are and it's a pity that your author felt the need to include such Cullen-worthy behaviour. Again I say Meh. Ash's love rival Puck, is allowed a slightly edgier role in The Iron Queen. Rather than playing the jovial, loyal, love-sick best friend, Puck is unpredictable and angry that he might have been jilted in favour of Ash. This aspect of Puck's personality makes him far more interesting – on several occasions Julie Kagawa skillfully makes Meghan aware of how inhuman and ancient Puck really is.
Over the course of this series, the plot has been headed in one direction and one direction only and in The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa finally takes us to where I am sure we all expected to be. However, she does this with such wit, originality and flare that the story never feels predictable. The Iron Queen's strengths lie mainly in its second half which covers an arduous trek through the Iron Realm and a breathtaking battle involving all the Fae courts. I'm usually pretty good at working things out yet I never guessed who the mysterious new Iron King was and I was totally taken aback by Meghan's final stand off with her enemies. It's all terribly exciting and I stand by my previous assertions that the Iron Fey is one of the most original series out there at the moment, despite it's occasionally Twilight-esque love trysts. Julie Kagawa, as well as creating a new and refreshing aspect to Fae mythology also riffs on the inexorable march of technology, making her series not only fun but also thought provoking. Any book that encourages YA readers to think about the dangers of disposable culture should be championed.
So, is this the end for Meghan and chums? It would seem not. While Meghan's own story would appear to be over for now, we're still left with some of her compatriots who look to be setting themselves up for some questing. Questing for what? Well, that would be telling, suffice to say that The Iron Knight is coming soon....
The Iron Queen is available from 25th January 2011. Thank you to Harlequin for allowing me to review this copy via NetGalley.