The Iron King (The Iron Fey #1)
By Julie Kagawa
Originally Published 2010
Single POV, First Person
Over ten years ago, I first read The Iron King. It was my introduction to Young Adult Fantasy involving the Fae, and I’ve decided to reread the series in anticipation of returning to the world Kagawa has created with the publication of The Iron Raven this past February. I always refer to this series as the OG Fae series because, other than Artemis Fowl, I have no recollection of reading anything else with fairies as the center point. I certainly had never read anything with an enemies-to-lovers romance like that between Ash and Meghan (and we all know that's my JAM now). I guess this book is to blame for my all-time favorite tropes. I definitely have Kagawa to thank for a lot of my writing. Indeed, reading this years later, I am shocked to see that my subconscious held on to a lot from this wonderful, magical series and I can see where it shaped my writing style and inspired some of my characters in THOAC without my even realizing it. I'm kind of dazed by this revelation. If I ever get the chance to thank Julie Kagawa to her face, I will. I doubt I would ever be as in love with the Fae as I am today without this series. I remember loving the books as a teen, but as an adult with a published book that has the Fae in it, I am even more in love.
This book is ten years old this year (look at the gorgeous new anniversary cover). While it still has a nostalgic taste to it when reading, as many books from the last ten and twenty years do, I feel as if The Iron King holds up against the age of time. Truly, the stories you may have read in the past couple of years feel like echoes of ideas conjured up by this book. Holly Black, Sarah J. Maas . . . Julie Kagawa should be listed beside these authors anytime there is a list.
Meghan Chase is our MC. She's young, 16, a classic and realistic representation of the age. Unlike so many MCs in YA books that act and feel much older than they are, Meghan's thoughts and worries very much revolve around a sixteen-year-old's thoughts and worries. Until her brother is stolen and replaced with a changeling. That's when her priorities shift, that's when she starts to develop into the queen I know she will become. Forced to travel into the Nevernever—the faerie realm—to rescue her brother, Meghan's life is changed every step she takes in the magical world. She isn't who she has always thought she is, her friends aren't who they have always seemed to be, and something bad is growing in the Nevernever and poisoning the land. Soon, she learns that her brother wasn't stolen at random and wherever the corruption is coming from, she must go. With the help of the dark and lethal Unseelie Prince Ash, she heads into the heart of the Nevernever to face whatever it is waiting for her.
The romance is *chef's kiss*. It's not spicy or smutty, but a classic and pure YA romance. Add in a dash of enemies-to-lovers, reluctant-allies, angsty sexual tension, and I am a happy happy camper. I am not quiet about the fact that I read for romance. Every single book I have ever read has some kind of romance in it, well, everything I've read since bumping up to YA from Middle Grade as a teen. I am a romance snob. If it doesn't have a strong romance or at least a romance that is a prevalent plot point in the story, I find it hard to get into. I need that tension, the anticipation of the moment where the two characters finally come together. That anticipation is far more attractive a reading incentive to me than simply "will they beat the big bad?" So even though this is a classic YA (as in, not what YA is today, not New Adult), I still absolutely love Ash and Meghan's love story. Please don't let the age of Meghan or the age of the book itself deter you. One of the things I clearly remember from the series was how, throughout the books, the characters do actually age. It's not all set over a couple of months. Meghan celebrates her next birthday, Meghan matures and grows as the books unfold, and it's a wonderful, relatable, realistic journey.
My last note I will write on this glorious book is about the Fey's existence. It is so unique. Honestly, to this day I still don't know of anyone who has taken a (now) exceedingly popular trope and put such a unique twist on it. The Fey in Kagawa's world are alive simply because we mortals believe in them. For example, King Oberon and Queen Titania are in this series. As we all know, these are characters from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. They came into existence in the Nevernever because people remembered their story, still study and talk about their story. If the world were to stop reading A Midsummer Night's Dream, Oberon and Titania would fade away to nothing. It's so brilliant in its simplicity! And without spoiling anything, knowing this is how the Fey exist, you should wonder: in this day and age, what other things would be created in the Nevernever through belief and remembrance . . .
If you like anything by Holy Black or Sarah J. Maas and haven't read this series, please give it a try!