The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Aren't these titles a bit spoilery, anyway?

I feel like my ill-person grump has affected my reading of this one, somehow. I remember the first book, The Iron King, being rather good fun and a well-done fairy/faerie drama in the same vein as Twilight, only with character development and plot texture that Twilight somewhat lacked. I enjoyed reading it. I didn’t enjoy The Iron Daughter nearly so much. I shall now try to tell you why. Yeah, this is slightly spoilery, because I was so annoyed I couldn’t help myself.

Meghan Chase cries all the time. I don’t mean “she gets a bit teary-eyed too often for my liking”, which would be dishonest from someone who can cry over nothing at the drop of a hat, or even at the drop of a hat (it happened, it was a long day, don’t judge). I mean she was always crying. Every emotional reaction involved tears. I was doing eye-rolls like I was ten pin bowling or something by halfway through the book – it was so tiresome. In fact, I’d describe her as a bit wet all round in this book – when Ash tells her that he’s seen lots of human girls but she’s the only girl who’s really stood out for him I genuinely got jolted out of it with a vocalized “?!” because no. No, there are far more dynamic, interesting girls out there than Meghan Chase, who was pretty good in the first book, but definitely not this second one.

She does, however, have a few saving graces – she’s able to stand up to Ash and Puck and anyone who goes up against her when she needs to, showing a strength that just isn’t there in certain scenes. It’s almost like she’s strong when it suits Kagawa to write her that way, and then the next minute she’s crying about something. It really undermines the drama of a crying scene to have her do it over everything, all the time. It’s fine to cry. I am okay with crying. Crying is healthy. But seriously, any more crying and she’d be a water feature in Queen Mab’s ice garden statuary.

Ash treats her like crap at the Winter Court. He totally loves her, it’s never in doubt, but oh god Meghan cries and weeps and wails and sobs all night and that set up has the least amount of tension in the whole book. I felt a bit like she gets a bit of authorial revenge when he’s in her house dying from all sorts of nasties and what does Meghan do? HAVE A LOOK AROUND HER OLD ROOM. Oh my god what. What. She has to get hurried up by Puck to get her ass moving. That’s how she behaves when her One True Obsession is bleeding out in her living room? Wow.

Oh! And Puck! Obviously there’s a love triangle here. Obviously! Why ignore the noble love rhombus, YA writers? Triangles are so passé. Again, why Meghan? There’s demonstrably little about her that stands out as an amazing, dazzling personality that would attract both a prince of the Winter Court and the great Puck of Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had far more interest in the stress between Puck and Ash when it flared up – best friends once, now enemies working together, after the same girl. Isn’t that an amazing amount of tension? No, apparently not, because it’s barely even skirted in the narrative. Such a juicy situation and Meghan just blunders through it all. Does she love Puck? Ehh. If she does, she certainly doesn’t show it.

Also, she’s inconsistent. One minute Ash is the “thing” she loves most in all the world; the next she’s thinking how she’s going to kill him if her family’s hurt. Right.

So much of this book just seemed odd and out-of-place. On one hand, I really enjoyed how fast-paced it is and how vivid Kagawa’s writing can be, and those are definitely a couple of the book’s strengths. You’re never bored. But Grimalkin’s always on hand to smoothe over rough patches and save them when they’re in a bind (in fact I propose that Grimalkin is the real hero of the piece) and there’s always A Something to get them out of a bind that just happens to be passing or that they just happen to run through the right door to. Exciting things happen and then there are these strange situations shoe-horned into the narrative that make no sense and didn’t need to be there.

There’s shopping and a spa and a scene where they go to her school’s Winter Formal ball. They go to a BALL. The idea’s to go where the glamour is to recharge Ash’s batteries – where the emotions are high, in other words – and this is what they decide to do, they go to a school dance. SERIOUSLY. I immediately assumed they’d go to a hospital or something (can you get more fraught emotions than in a hospital? I think not!) but apparently all Ash needed was some flirting and a bit of dancing and some punch that Puck didn’t get to spike yet and YES his life is SAVED. Oh, god, I almost put the book down, because that’s too ridiculous.

And the shopping! They went shopping! There’s a whole scene. They go to a spa and she gets a make over. In fact she gets a make over TWICE. Reader, I almost put the book down.

So what kept me reading? It was very diverting in a soap opera kind of way, very imaginative and featured great writing that was let down by the characters and plotting. What’s really great about Kagawa’s series is the Iron fey – a tremendous idea well put together, with Ironhorse in particular a great idea. The villain of the piece is so over the top I can’t bear to even type about it but there’s a level of invention in this series so far that is really frustratingly satisfying to read about, completely at odds with the rest of it.

Overall, I’m just disappointed by this. I had it pegged as a good, guilty pleasure read based on the first, but it just fell so short of it that I don’t think I’ll keep reading the series.

On the other hand, I still recommend the first book The Iron King to anyone who has an interest, although I’d say it’s really a young teen series as opposed to a YA read.

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