Rich, witty and enthralling: ‘The Iron King’

the-iron-king

Books are like diamonds. You can give two jewelers the same rock, and at the end of all their cutting and polishing, one will spray rainbows among dancing sunbeams, and the other might as well be a shattered fragment of soap-scummed shower-screen.

Likewise you can have several books set in the same world with a similar premise, and one will stand out. This book is one such sparkling delight…

‘The Iron King’ by Julie Kagawa is set in a world shared with many other novels. It involves characters brought into life by others. It follows many expected tropes.

But Kagawa takes her world and lifts it to another level. She cuts a fine diamond!

This is a successful series, with a lot of avid followers. I can see why. I’ve read another of Kagawa’s series before, so I was ready to be impressed. Things that worked especially well in this book for me:

  • Immersive world-building
  • Clever humour throughout
  • A tantalising romantic sub-plot.

If you don’t like spoilers, now is the time to nod sagely and stop reading… Otherwise, read on!

Big, deep, wide, imaginative

I could believe in Kagawa’s world. I could paint those pictures in my mind. I could walk beside Meghan.

This is essential. I’m not saying a book has to describe every aspect in page-long detail (in fact, please don’t), but it needs to have enough to make the world come alive for the reader.

It’s hard. As a writer, my world is vivid in my head as I write. Transferring enough of that to paper is an art form.

 

Hurrah for humour!

Books can be brilliant escapism, and I, for one, don’t want to escape to some dismal place where no one has any fun. <groan>. I want to escape to friends and excitement and laughs. Nothing too deep or terrible, ghastly or upsetting. Adding a funny supporting character or two is a great way to lighten things up. Kagawa has two in this book – Puck and Grim. Love them both!

“Oh, we’re playing nice now?” Puck remained seated, looking anything but compliant. “Shall we have tea first? Brew up a nice pot of kiss-my-ass?”

(p 227)

Puck, especially, is very rounded. He’s not just a one-dimensional character there for the laughs. Ignoring the pointy ears, he reminds me of a few real people.

 

The promise of a bit of romance

We don’t really meet Ash until almost half-way, but we’re already primed to like him. Because he’s this enigmatic, gorgeous unknown. And because of the inside cover excerpt, that clearly tells us things are going to happen there.

Poor Puck. He’s very funny, but we readers are being enticed across to Camp Ash from the start.

Yes, <groan> there is a bit of a love triangle going on here. But it’s very slight. There’s none of that sickly back and forth trying to create jealousy… instead of showing empathy and consideration and understanding… both to your chosen partner and the poor wretch who’s fallen for you in a totally unrequited way… AAAAAARGH! That sort of stuff often has me wanting to give the main character a stern talking-to.

Thankfully, this book has enough of a triangle to create tension and elicit sympathy without going too far. Balance. Hurrah!

 

The importance of proof-reading

I really, really enjoyed this book, its intricate world and the characters within! But I would have loved it to have a final proof-read. There were a few minor errors that jumped out and whacked me off my happy reading perch. I feel for an author when I see glitches in plot or character or timing – they’re so difficult to spot when you’re closely involved in the writing and editing.

Here’s the harshest speed-bump that jolted me along my joyous road of riveting reading:

“Don’t worry about it, Meghan.”

I blinked, my stomach fluttering. That was the first time he’d called me by name. (p285)

Okay, so this seems totally fine. In fact, it’s a beautiful way to show us that the relationship between Meghan and the icy Prince Ash is deepening.

Except it made me stop reading immediately, and turn back to confirm that I had, indeed, already heard Ash say her name, just two pages before:

“Meghan.” Ash appeared behind me, his voice surprisingly gentle. “We should go…”

(p283)

It attests to how much I enjoyed this book that bogeys like this didn’t put me off. I winced on behalf of the author, and then put my faith back in her and kept reading.

The aim of a writer should always be to keep their reader immersed in, and trusting, the story. Anything that makes the reader stop, frown, and re-read a section should be found and blown into literary smithereens.

So, for what it’s worth…

 

Dear Julie,

I love your books! If you’d like me to beta read your future manuscripts, I would do so entirely for free.

Although a block or two of dark chocolate every year or so wouldn’t hurt…

Yours sincerely,

Heather

 

Wouldn’t that be awesome… :o)

So that’s my take on ‘The Iron King’, a shiny diamond of a book that had me hooked.

Read it? Liked it?

What are your thoughts on those tricksy love triangles?

 

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