Monday, February 6, 2012

Book Review: The Iron Witch

Author: Karen Mahoney
Publisher: Flux (February 8, 2011)
ISBN-10: 073872582x
ISBN-13: 978-0738725826


Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.


The cover is gorgeous and it sounded like a winner, but it so wasn't. Being a writer, I hate rating books so low because I know all the hard work and love that goes into writing a novel, and I realize it's someone's baby, but this book just never won me over and the author never took me into her world or made me feel anything visceral. With Donna's parents killed in such a gruesome manner, there was so much emotion that could've been explored but never was, to the depth it could've been.

I thought Donna's insecurities were identifiable and I wanted to like her because of her tragic past and "freakishness", but the author left me in want. I found it bland and underdeveloped at every turn. Like, Donna's pain or fear could have been palpable but it remained a surface thing, and with one info dump after another, I was like come on, come on, get going already. Give me a through line in the now, a story question, a hook, something that snags my heart, soul and gut and compels me forward and makes me skip supper. But, that never happened. I had to force myself to continue as the story stumbles along plotless, chapter after chapter, where alchemy and fey are discussed, without the terror they should induce, and remembered in near-numbness, rather than seen in action, until the end where I really didn't care at that point. On the back of the cover it says Donna's best friend, Navin, gets kidnapped and I was itching for this to happen, because finally, finally, there would be a plot, maybe. This story literally has no story until then, so that's the main reason I couldn't bump my rating up to a 2. The bulk of it is exposition and backstory.

And the romance. Yeah, it was another one of those "Just Because!!!" thingies, with no reason for its existence. Show some chemistry, sparks, something.

With the hints of wood elves early on, like her hands hurting and always being bone-cold, I thought her anxiety should've been way more heightened, since her parents were killed by brutal fey. And even though he's wounded too, I would also expect her to be much more leery of Xan at first because of this, but she's soon spilling her long-held family secrets and kissing him. I didn't get it.

I was really excited to read about alchemy and a new brand of fey, but I just felt both of those to be lacking. There was so much depth and wonder to be had in both of those worlds, but it only skimmed the surface. I really don't like the trend of books lately that only serve to set me up for a sequel. I feel cheated out of money and time when this happens. And that's what I felt happened with The Iron Witch.


~ Signing off and sending out cyber hugs


  1. Interesting, isn't it, how an author can have something which makes a reader itch to see it -- like brutal fey rather than the doe-eyed lovers of life tree-hugging through the forests of life and decrying man's ham-fisted land grabs -- and then drop the ball?

    Bummer. It sounds like maybe a cool premise. Too bad none of the other competencies for writing a good story -- like, you know, a STORY -- are there.

  2. This was her debut novel, so maybe she didn't know about structure and development, I sure didn't when I wrote my first novel, but this was professionally published, so I expected more substance. And Flux Publishing has some intriguing and cool books coming out of it, especially in Urban Fantasy, so it was shocking that it was such a forgettable and bland read, with no story to speak of, until the very end. It sounded awesome.

    Agents tell you over and over how important it is to hook them with the opening chapter, and the past few YA books I've read lately have showed me that that's all a sham and that even vapidness can win out if the concept it hot. I mean, books without plot??? Come on. That's a standard ingredient.