First impressions: Meghan is a sweet girl, although somewhat invisible to the people around her. She's ignored or taunted at school, she lives on a hog farm thanks to her new stepdad, and she has a quirky male best friend who never lets her see where he lives. With her 16th birthday coming up, her life felt vaguely reminiscent of a Molly Ringwald movie (or, say, all of them).
Lasting impressions: Though the book felt like a mishmash of beloved ideas from lots of other sources, the ending was compelling enough to make me want to read on in the series.
Conflicting impressions: The plot lacked any kind of urgency for me. Meghan meanders her way through fairy land, and though time doesn't really exist there, I kept wishing for there to be a deadline of sorts for her to be up against so the story kept moving forward. Instead, it felt like it dragged at parts because she didn't know what she was doing, where she was going, or when she would eventually get there.
Overall impressions: If you like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Wicked Lovely, and A Midsummer Night's Dream, then you'll like this book. If you took these books/play/movie and tossed them in a blender, out would pop The Iron King. That isn't to say there weren't cool ideas here, it's just that certain scenes seemed to remind me of other material, which was both comforting and disconcerting.
Meghan Chase is having a rough go at teenagerdom, and her life is quickly thrown into new territory when she comes home on her 16th birthday to find her brother replaced with a vicious changeling. Her best friend Robbie Goodfell, that merry prankster, uses this opportunity to reveal his true self, which of course is Puck. He introduces her to the hidden fairy world where he exists because he lives on in the hearts, minds, and legends of the human world.
From here, we learn of Meghan's own ties to the fey, and she sets out to find her brother with the help of an often disappearing Puck, and a cat sidhe named Grimalkin. She encounters King Oberon and Queen Titania's Seelie/Summer Court, and also is introduced to Queen Mab and Prince Ash of the Unseelie/Winter Court. As she continues to fumble her way around the land of the fey, she makes a lot of mistakes and deals and as a result, starts to figure out how things work down here. She's resourceful, but too trusting and loyal - a fault Prince Ash warns her will be her downfall.
Ash is a bit of an enigma. I didn't feel I got to know him very well in this book. In fact, most of the characters seemed to be held at a bit of a distance, so I didn't truly connect with any of them. I liked Puck more because he's, well, Puck. I've studied Puck and Claudius more than any other Shakespearean characters, and he's very true to form here. I just wish he wasn't a gawky redhead so I could find him as attractive as the dark and dreamy Ash. So for this book, at least, I'm calling Team Puck.
Meghan wanders in and out of dangerous situations, back and forth between the fey world and the mortal world, and there is no sense of how much time she has to rescue her brother, Ethan. If there had been a timeframe in which she had to find him, I think it would have pushed the urgency and created real consequences for Meghan's failures. Instead, she got wrapped up in different battles and guessed her way toward finding him. She doesn't find out who has him, or why, until the last few chapters of the book. This was very off putting for the middle section when I wanted someone to have some information that would drive the story.
I did appreciate the world created here, especially the conflict between the courts and the introduction of the titular Iron King. I'm very curious how this war will play out and what role Meghan will fill in its battles, especially given the binding agreements she had to make with some of the fey while trying to rescue Ethan. I found the book enjoyable in the end, and the overall reading experience was above average, so I give it four stars, though I hope the next books live up to the hype of being better than this one.
Rating: 4/5 stars
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