This book was not recommended to me, but rather one that had intrigued me before. It’s a long history that involves seeing the title when I was in a bookshop in Scotland, but not having the money to buy it. I then saw it in another bookshop, but needed to keep my physical book-buying to a minimum since I was moving back to the States soon after. A couple of months ago, I noticed it again in Borders, but this time was not entirely sure it was the book that had tickled my fancy, since the American cover was different and the story did not sound quite right. So I went for another title instead (which ended up being the wrong one and a third in the series). But, with Borders’ going-out-of-business sale, I finally nabbed a copy. Actually, a friend of mine and I got the last copy in the store. (More on the Borders closure later.)
It took me a few days to get this read, but overall it was a pretty fun read. It’s a YA novel, fantasy focusing on the Fae and alchemy. That combination was really the initial attraction for me. Let me go off on the customary (and necessary) plot ramble. The main character is Donna Underwood, a 17 year-old girl with iron and silver woven into her arms. She was injured by a Skriker (an elvish hell-hound) as a child, and the Skriker burned her arms badly. During the same attack, her father was killed and shortly after her mother driven crazy. Donna wears gloves to hide her unusual tattoos, lives with her aunt, takes alchemical lessons from the local group, and has one friend named Navin. Set in a suburb of Boston, Donna fears the wood-elves escape from a local wood. She meets and falls for a boy named Xan, himself half-fae who was imprisoned and tortured by the wood-elves as a child. When the wood-elves kidnap Navin, she must do whatever she can to save him.
Like I said, the book itself is pretty interesting and a rather fun read. I was a bit disappointed to realize that it is going to have a sequel (though what book doesn’t in today’s world?). I’m not saying the sequel isn’t warranted. You do leave plenty of questions unanswered by the end of the book, but I was rather hoping that I had picked up a book that would not require the purchase of another. But if there turns out to be a love triangle in the sequel, I will get a bit upset. All YA novels have love triangles anymore.
Back to the point of the discussion. The Iron Witch does differ from a lot of current fae novels – Donna actually exists as their enemy, and her relationship with Xan would certainly raise a few eyebrows when people finally figure it out. I also liked that Donna was not very interested in the magic of the alchemists, even though she had seen it work. She wants to be normal, not to embrace the purpose for which she was raised. No sides in the book are inherently right, either. Mahoney does a great job of building up the distrust of the alchemists, showing all sides to both Donna and the reader. The end of the book does not come down to good and evil, but more a judgement of which side is less wrong.
I do wish that this book had been in first person, however. Written in third-person limited, we were basically inside Donna’s head anyway. We saw her thoughts, knew her feelings, and went even deeper into her thinking with the journal entries throughout the book. What I did not understand was why not place it in first-person to begin with? (I just ended a sentence with a preposition!) We would have only gained from the switch in point-of-view, especially because we never once see from another character’s POV. Besides, with the diary entries and the closeness we get with Donna, it sort of feels like we are there anyway. It is actually grating when you read a third-person pronoun. So, for the sequel, she can just switch. Haha.
I guess the final assessment is that I did like this book, but it did lack a certain depth that really makes you care about the outcome. I was pulled along the way and intrigued, and I will read the sequel(s?), but I don’t think that it will stick with me as other books have done. Although, sometimes you want that from a novel.