Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Iron Witch (Iron Witch #1) by Karen Mahoney

The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Series: The Iron Witch, #1
Published: February 8, 2011
Publisher: Flux
(290 pages, paperback)
Summary: 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.
My thoughts: I've read a lot of harsh reviews of The Iron Witch, and honestly, I'm surprised. I really loved it and I think it was one of the more original urban fantasy novels that I've read in a while. Donna would be your average high school outcast--except the reason she's an outcast is because she has magically, er, "enhanced" hands and arms which cause her to have to wear gloves all the time and have super-strength. I loved that Donna was so strong--physically and mentally--because she was never one for the damsel in distress stereotype that gets on my nerves. The romance and relationship aspect of the book was a little bit stereotypical though, I have to admit. I liked Xan, I really did, but it felt like the writer got a little lazy when it came to his and Donna's connection. The character I really liked and would like to see more of is Navin. I'm convinced he's connected in more ways than just through Donna, and I'm anxious to see where Mahoney goes with that story line.
This book was kind of a quick read, not only because the writing was simple and to-the-point, but because the plot moved at light speed. Despite the originality of it (I liked the alchemy aspect; you don't hear much of that in YA), the story seemed somewhat lacking in a few of the non-magical aspects. I'm not sure if this counts as a spoiler, but just in case, spoiler alert: For instance, I'm completely confused as to whether Navin sees Donna as more than a friend. I didn't get that feel, but apparently other readers did. If so, I think I'm on Team Navin. end spoiler. Other than a few predictable parts of the story line, it was a really great plot. And while the actual writing aspect wasn't great, Mahoney makes up for a lot of that in descriptions of the faeries and Donna's alchemical world. I always love stories with awe-worthy details.
The characters were well-written and, besides Donna and Xan's rushed romance, had realistic relationships and actions. Navin, who quickly turned into my favorite character, had a great reaction to learning about the faeries (I won't go on a rant on how important reactions are in YA, but they are important!) and he was a great best friend for Donna. I'm looking forward to the Wood Queen almost solely because of him. Donna, while definitely a strong protagonist, has her weak moments, but they were well placed and seemed real-to-life. Xan, who was also a great character, provided some relief from the heart-pounding adventure, and also, he was funny. Besides being incredibly gorgeous and half-fey, he had a sense of humor (swoon). The other characters weren't focused on much, but they were an okay background to the real action.
Overall, The Iron Witch was a great read. It had romance (albeit not amazing romance), an original plot, and realistic characters. It was nearly unputdownable at points and I really enjoyed everything from the love scenes to the action scenes to the revelations about Donna's secretive life. It might not have been my favorite read of 2011, but it was a solid read, and I don't think there was much I could improve upon in it. I'm dying to get The Wood Queen and I'm looking forward to reconnecting with the characters from this one. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a fleshed-out urban fantasy.
Covering the Cover: I think we can all agree this cover is gorgeous. It's just so pretty and symbolic and shows Donna so well.
Characters: 4 stars
Plot: 4.5 stars
Writing: 4 stars
Overall Rating: 4 stars


Elaine said...

Great review!

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Liz Tea said...

I need to pick this one up - I've wanted to read this one for a while now, admittedly because of that gorgeous cover. But I was kind of put off by all the negative reviews its been receiving. :-P But, I'm actually a little more excited about it now. ;D

Jo said...

I have been curious about this, and had it on my TBR list for a while. I think I'll pick it up from the library and see how I like it. Nice to read your review!

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