Title: The Iron Witch
Author: Karen Mahoney
Genre: YA Fantasy
Series: Iron Witch Series (Book 1)
Publication Date: February 8, 2011
Format: Paperback, 299 Pages
ISBN-10: 073872582X (Flux)
ISBN-13: 978-0738725826 (Flux)
Reviewed by: Sheila
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.
Quick & Dirty: A half-fey bad boy and a low self esteem alchemist girl use her “enhancements” to rescue her best friend from Faery.
Opening Sentence: It all started with the party.
Seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood has been labeled a freak by herself and her peers. The things that make her different aren’t that she is part of a secret society of alchemists (though that can’t help her social standings), or that she is home schooled; it is because of her “enhancements” made in the form of intricate silver and iron scroll work tattoos along both her hands and forearms. These tattoos are the result of a terrible accident that cost Donna both of her parents when she was just a little girl. They have made her more than human, and it is hard enough to be accepted when you are just a normal teenager. So when one of her only friends, her very best friend, is kidnapped and taken into Faery, Donna will stop at nothing to get him back. But what is she really willing to sacrifice to get Navin? Could she truly give an ancient and rare item of unimaginable power away to insure his release? What would be the consequences of such actions upon both the human and Fey worlds?
Donna Underwood and the Alchemist Society. I hate to say it, but that sounds too close to an 80’s hair band name. Barring that, Donna and the alchemists are an interesting addition to this storyline. Her background is exposed to us, as the reader, at the same time she is explaining it to her best friend, Navin. Alchemists are humans that stand between us and the Fey. Their ultimate goal is transmutation: to seek a way to bestow immortality through the elixir of life. Though there is lots of information to digest, Donna delivers just enough for us to get a feel of things without getting bogged down with details. Donna doesn’t seem all that excited about alchemy in general, so our information seems skewed against it. I am not sure if this is on purpose, or if it is just in the delivery. I can relate to going against authority figure expectations (like joining a secret society that your parents were a part of) in Donna’s defense, but I think that there is still more to uncover. I get the feeling that this expectation-versus-personal-individualism will come up more in future books.
Donna’s character over reacts to things like anyone her age would even with these strange events. Youth is allowed the freedom that age and experience can no longer provide; with intensity and a sense of urgency that gets lost with familiarity. Everything is new and there is no real past experience to draw a calm and thoughtful reaction from. This is both a blessing and a curse, especially in Donna’s case. Because she chose to investigate and solve her problems on her own, she is forced to deal with the consequences alone as well. Had she sought guidance from someone older and wiser, like her Aunt, the outcome could have been much different. I understand her reasoning for going at it alone, but I suppose that is the privilege of hindsight along with separation of events that we as readers enjoy.
It is obvious that Donna has led a secluded life. The fact that she is willing to risk so much for a single friend should attest to that. The loss of her parents has tempered Donna’s ability to trust and accept others into her life, alchemist secrets or not. Her self-depreciating manner doesn’t help her confidence out either. The fact that she found another person to relate to is remarkable, and it is nothing short of a miracle that she learns to trust him as well. Alexander “Xan” Grayson has a bad boy reputation and the good looks to pull it off. Their relationship may seem like opposites attract at first, but I think it has much more to do with similar backgrounds. The fact that they are both privy to the knowledge of “other” gives them more than enough reason to bond. I like that their “relationship” is slow in its infancy. This is a YA novel after all, and there is no reason for rushing things along like we would see in other genres. It’s a little refreshing to read, to be honest. I am not sure if there will be some sort of love triangle between Donna, Xan, and Navin but I hope not. Teenage love triangles are starting to become a cliché.
Overall, not a bad YA book. It’s pacing was good as was its climax. There was nothing that really stood out, except the background story on her tattoos and alchemy heritage. I hope that the next book in this series expands on this new and unique take in the world of magic and fantasy.
“We have to get out of here, Now.”
Glancing once more at the door, he joined her at the window and began to unlatch the shutters, swinging them back against the outside wall of the house.
“You first,” she said.
“Don’t be stupid-“ Donna pushed him. Hard. “No time to argue. You. First.” She enunciated each word and glared at him. There was no way she would let someone she cared about get hurt because of her-not ever again.
Then the sound of banging started, from behind the grandfather clock.
The Iron Witch Series:
0.5 The Lost Boy
3. The Stone Demon (April 8, 2013)
FTC Advisory: Flux graciously provided me with a copy of The Iron Witch. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. The only payment received came in the form of hugs and kisses from my little boys.
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