3 star, YA

Review: The Iron Sword by Julie Kagawa

Series: The Iron Fey: Evenfall #2

As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…

Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey. 

Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

Book 2 in the Evenfall series and I’m starting to wonder if perhaps this series has started losing its charm on me. The Iron Sword marks the 9th book – NINTH – in this Iron Fey world Julie has created. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored it. Fairies were all the rage in the early 2010s, and may be making a mini comeback with the surge of some popular series recently. Yet there’s just something off that made me enjoy this book less than I had anticipated.

First off, let me just say that I absolutely ADORE Ash. He had his own POV book once before, in the fourth book of the overall series, and I gobbled it up like a pie straight out of the oven (not that I do that often). While Meghan was a fine protagonist, I wanted to see the world as he did, this old fey who had lived many human lives and seen the inner workings of the Winter court. He was their cruel prince (ha ha) until he fell in love and sought to become partially human by gaining a soul.

Fast forward some other doomsday prophecy the entire gang defeated – did I mention I missed the middle series and have yet to read them because I didn’t like Meghan’s brother who had grown up to be a very surly teenager? – and now there’s yet another problem coming to bite the entire land of fey known as the Nevernever. Does anyone get a break? Clearly not as Robin Goodfellow aka Puck so cheerfully pointed out. He was the protagonist of book 1 in this Evenfall series which was fun and wild as I imagined he would be, but I was more surprised and eager to know Ash would be the main POV here.

Now, I find myself here with very uncertain thoughts even after some time towards this book.

The nostalgia factor was definitely high with this one and I can’t fault it for leaning into it. Familiar faces from ALL the books make its way into this storyline and it was great to see. Julie is an excellent storyteller and can weave all these appearances as part of the plot. I didn’t mind that at all. I fell back into this world like it hadn’t been a decade since I first found this magical realm just under the human eye.

Likewise, Julie is great with the plot in the sense that it always feels like an adventure. From trekking through the Between to search for Keirran to finding interesting sources in the human world to aid them on their quest, the gang never stays just in one place or with just one task. Things move along and that’s GOOD. However, sometimes it felt like their tasks were very minor and we didn’t really get to see what it was leading towards until near the very end. Maybe this once didn’t bother me if this was a normal pattern before, but it definitely wasn’t my favourite thing to get to the climax and only then feel the adrenaline surging for “the end of the world”.

Also, how many times can the world be ending? I swear, each of these 3 series faces one doomsday prophecy and it’s starting to get old. Does nothing else exciting besides the ENTIRE fate of all the worlds happen to them all?

The only saving grace for this book and its rating is definitely because of Ash. The first prince I ever loved (who wasn’t human). Can exhibit sweetness but only to those he really cares for, and full of disgruntled charm and deadly grace in fighting. I liked that it explored his struggle with his darker, Unseelie side he thought had been vanquished when he earned his soul. Book 1 explored it with Puck which was a highlight for that book, but I liked the internal monologue we got to see up close for Ash who on the outside wouldn’t voice a thing about what was going on inside.

The ending was also just starting to get exciting. At least now I know what the heck Evenfall is, and so does the entire gang in the story, so I’m hoping the next book (please say it’s the last one in the series) will at least move into the penultimate battle against this new Big Bad. I will make one comment and say that no matter how many offshoots and tangents this series goes, Julie’s writing leaves doors open like this where it can be explored if given the opportunity. I don’t think she intended 9 books for this world, but the fact that little Easter eggs were hidden to explore further from even the very first book shows the breadth of her imagination for this world she’s built. And that, at least, is something to look forward to.

Overall Recommendation:

I’m happy to say The Iron Sword held up well with its portrayal of Ash who now gets the hot seat POV again while bringing in all the old faces from all the previous books together for another doomsday adventure. If it weren’t for him and the dive into his internal struggle against his old nature, I’m not sure what I’d do. Written in Julie Kagawa’s style, the nostalgic OG group sets off on another adventure through the Nevernever and the human realm to seek out the meaning of Evenfall and how to prevent it. Some of the earlier quests felt a little unnecessary and slow but the climax proved interesting enough to continue as they race against yet another end of the world scenario (hopefully their last one). While it’s becoming clearer that I’m outgrowing this series a little, I’m glad to see I haven’t outgrown Ash. If I could bottle up Ash into all the books I read, I wouldn’t have a problem with that at all.

3.5 star, YA

ARC Review: The Iron Raven by Julie Kagawa

Series: The Iron Fey Evenfall #1

You may have heard of me…

Robin Goodfellow. Puck. Prankster, joker, raven, fool… King Oberon’s right-hand jester from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The legends are many, but the truth will now be known as never before, as Puck finally tells his own story and faces a threat to the lands of Faery and the human world unlike any before.

With the Iron Queen Meghan Chase and her prince consort, Puck’s longtime rival Ash, and allies old and new by his side, Puck begins a fantastical and dangerous adventure not to be missed or forgotten.

***The Iron Raven comes out February 9, 2021***

Thank you Edelweiss and HarperCollins for this copy in exchange for an honest review.

All you old-timer fans out there, are you excited for the next instalment of the Iron Fey series? Because I sure am!

I was such a fan of Julie’s earliest series when it first came out, and while I was always solidly a Team Ash (sorry, not sorry), I loved Puck for the friend and caring guy he was. So here is his story and I’m super glad we get to see the world through his unique eyes.

The Iron Raven picks up some time after the events of the original Iron Fey series AND the Call of the Forgotten series, so you will definitely get spoilers from both. And while there are references to things that occurred in those series (and really big, mighty ones they were!), I don’t believe it’s absolutely necessary to have read all of them to get a good sense of this world from here.

Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, is still the trickster you know and heard of – made known by a certain human playwright, hmm? But he may not be exactly the lovable character you remember in the Iron Fey series. Something is going around, and the nastier, crueler side of Robin Goodfellow may be just simmering under the surface as he navigates with old allies and new friends alike in another mission to save the world from ending.

Also, why do the faeries seem to have endless ways to end the world?

Our new love interest Nyx is a girl I can stand behind. While she may not be Meghan Chase, the Iron Queen, she’s strong, capable, fierce and protective of those she cares for. Definitely someone who can go head-to-head with a faerie as old and worldly as Puck, even when he’s not on his absolute best behaviour (though I suppose, when is he really?).

With the same style of storytelling Julie is known for in her previous two trilogies, you can expect action (lots of athletic battling going on here), cute romantic moments (aww!) and an ending that will leave you thirsting for more.

While I enjoyed all of these things, plus the added feels from people and places I remember in her old series (the nostalgia is REAL), I did feel the story could’ve progressed faster at times, particularly the beginning. Once things started really going and I was really invested in the issue at hand, things just seem to get “resolved”, like we’re closing that particular story element and I found myself at the end of the book. With an ending that screamed for another page to exist after it!

But that is the only complaint I have because I thoroughly enjoyed being inside Robin Goodfellow’s head for once. Instead of being the comic relief kinda guy, we get to see what makes him tick, the old things he hadn’t let go of in his many years of existence, and the struggles he hides deep down by putting on a show with his witty tricks and banter.

If you love Puck, this is definitely a book for you. Because his inner monologue was the star of the show for me, and I love him all the more for it.

Overall Recommendation:

The Iron Raven is a great story for those just being introduced to the Nevernever and to those of us who really hit the nostalgia going down these familiar roads. A character not unfamiliar to most of us, this is Robin Goodfellow’s story and the kind of trouble he gets into with old friends (ahh, Meghan and Ash!) and new ones alike. With a budding new romance on the horizon for him and yet another end of the world prophecy he needs to deal with, Puck finds himself facing not only the external issues coming at him but some inner demons of his own he has not really purged in his years of existence. Fun, action-packed scenes and a crew of characters to root for, The Iron Raven feels like slipping on old slippers that we missed and loved.

2.5 star, YA

Review: The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Series: The Folk of the Air #1

the cruel prince -holly blackOf course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

As Jude becomes more deeply embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, she discovers her own capacity for trickery and bloodshed. But as betrayal threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

2.5 Drink Me Potions

Faerie might be beautiful, but its beauty is like a golden stag’s carcass, crawling with maggots beneath his hide, ready to burst.

Back into the land of the fae. While I’m acquainted with faeries from various authors (see Julie Kagawa, Lesley Livingston, recent Cassandra Clare), this is my first real romp with Holly Black’s version of these mythical creatures.

And it’s definitely the crueler side highlighted.

Twins Jude and Taryn have lived with the faeries since they were young after being kidnapped by their parents’ killer. But they’ve been treated fairly well, to the status of Gentry, which explains the extreme Stockholm syndrome present in these girls.

Yet this land is no place for mortals. Or at least, not if they want to be treated well and with respect.

I struggled with Jude as the main character for most of the book. While the high class faeries mocked them and tormented them, I get wanting to hurt them back and to feel less powerless. But Jude pushed back sometimes too hard and it led to consequences that I don’t think she really thought through. And consequences that fell on other people, namely Taryn.

At the same time, it’s this deep anger and willingness to do anything to gain power and control over her own situation that made Jude real. And over time, she became someone stronger – with maybe less scrupulous morals (in some ways).

And yet none of [land, knighthood, love] seems all that valuable anymore. None of those are true power. True power isn’t granted. True power can’t be taken away.

The romance, likewise, got better with time. Prince Cardan is not nice. In fact, that’s a pure understatement.

I couldn’t get a good read on him and I’m not really sure what his attraction to Jude is based on. It’s definitely a slow burn kinda romance so I appreciate that more than insta-love. But I withhold judgment on how it’ll go from there.

The pacing was excruciatingly slow in the beginning. Nothing really got exciting until maybe two-thirds or more into the book. The beginning is basically Jude being angry (instead of having to deal with just being scared) all the time while everyone is cruel to her. I can see why everyone loves this novel overall, yet you really gotta pat yourself on the back for getting to the point where it gets exciting.

With that twisted ending that almost felt like it was left mid-sentence, I do look forward to seeing what’s next in store in this faerie court. The intrigue is afoot!

Overall Recommendation:

The Cruel Prince fell a little flat after all the hype that surrounded it upon release. Slow in its execution and featuring a romance where I couldn’t exactly say I was rooting for the guy for most of the book, the only highlight was the imaginative land of faeries crafted by Holly Black and the twisted ending that I didn’t see coming. Having an irritating but realistic protagonist such as Jude made the journey more interesting, that’s for sure. With book 1 setting the stage in the last 1/3 of the story, I find myself extremely intrigued as to what will come next!