My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Karen Mahoney’s “The Iron Witch” evokes conflicted sentiments within me. I probably should not have liked this book as much as I did given the familiar elements and progression, but somehow it had its moments of bringing me into the overarching story. I didn’t go into this novel with high expectations, and part of the reason I decided to pick it up were because I was approved for an ARC of the third and final book of this respective trilogy. It seemed interesting, so I jumped at the chance.
Donna Underwood is a girl with a rather dark secret. As a child, her father sacrificed his life for her after she was attacked by a Wood Elf, which in the treatment of her injuries, her hands and forearms were covered in an alchemic iron tattoo. Her mother was committed to a mental facility after the event as well. Ever since, Donna’s lived with the secret of hiding her “scars” under gloves, and being a part of a special order that keeps the fey world in line. Her aunt supervises and cares for her.
Donna’s a bit of an outcast at her school due to her having to wear gloves and an incident that had her permanently labeled as a freak. Her only friend Navin keeps her spirits up, but even he doesn’t know the truth about her involvement with the Order, and about her respective injuries or abilities. But at a party one night, Donna meets Xan, a boy who has more common links to her than she realizes. Over time, Xan and Navin both will discover the secrets that Donna hides (with varying reactions to it) and become involved in a plot that culminates when Navin is captured and taken into the Fey world.
The more that I think about the aftermath in reading this novel, the more structural problems I saw with it, but I actually enjoyed reading this. It kept my attention and I liked the interactions between the characters in spurts. Some of the worldbuilding I understood and appreciated some of the time taken into developing it, and the eerie creatures of the world were certainly worth reading about. I think the major problem I had were the times when Donna would focus on the wrong thing in the heat of the moment. There was one point where I said something akin to “Donna, this is not a time to be thinking about Xan’s boy parts, you’re in danger. Focus.” There were bit parts of this through the narrative where I did a series of mental facepalms because it occurred in transitions of major plot/tension points. At the same time, there were other times when Mahoney is aware of these parts and pokes fun at them for the sake of doing so. I liked her narrative voice and flow in the story for the most part.
There’s a formulaic measure to this story if you think about it in some terms. Outcast girl with dark secret/past, best friend who feels cheated out of the secrets the girl keeps, outcast special boy who likes outcast special girl – which then leads to insta-love connection. Best friend gets abducted, girl must betray society which she knows to save him. I didn’t mind the formula that much here (because it really wasn’t worse than other YA books I’ve read), but I did mind the abrupt ending. Gah, that ending, I felt it concluded far too quickly and left quite a few threads dangling, not in a good way to lead into the next book of this particular series. I have to admit I had fun in the journey, but it was a rough conclusion point. Still, I’m curious to see where this work goes, and am looking forward to it because I liked – collectively speaking – the characters and realm built here.
Overall score: 2.5/5