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I Belong

Review: The Nightmare Garden by Caitlin Kittredge

Title: The Nightmare Garden

Author: Caitlin Kittredge

Genre: YA Steampunk

Series: The Iron Codex (Book 2)

Publication Date: February 14, 2012

Format: Hardcover, 417 Pages

ISBN-10: 0385738315 (Random House Kids)

ISBN-13: 978-0385738316 (Random House Kids)

Reviewed by: Emmy


Everything Aoife thought she knew about the world was a lie. There is no Necrovirus. And Aoife isn’t going to succumb to madness because of a latent strain—she will lose her faculties because she is allergic to iron. Aoife isn’t human. She is a changeling—half human and half from the land of Thorn. And time is running out for her.

When Aoife destroyed the Lovecraft engine she released the monsters from the Thorn Lands into the Iron Lands and now she must find a way to seal the gates and reverse the destruction she’s ravaged on the world that’s about to poison her.

Quick & Dirty: An improvement on the first installment, creepy and fast paced, but our heroine is still whiney and I’m still not impressed with anything but the world-building.

Opening Sentence: In my dream, I am alone.

Excerpt: Yes

The Review:

If you read the synopsis, you’ve already spoiled yourself for The Iron Codex, but reading this review will make it worse! If you haven’t read book one, you don’t need to read this review yet. SPOILERS AHEAD.

This sequel picks up where The Iron Thorn left off, with Conrad swooping in with the People of the Mist to rescue our Fantastic Four — Cal, Aoife, Dean, and Bethina, from the Winter Folk. Except, no one with Fae blood is welcome with the Mist people and Aoife’s new-found blood ties to the Land of Thorn mean they have to run.  A fugitive in the Mists—which lie between the Land of Thorn and the Iron Land, Aoife wants to return home, save her mother, and fix basically everything she did in The Iron Thorn. Destroying the Lovecraft Machine has ruined everything, destroyed everything Aoife cared about. But Grey Draven, who wants Aoife’s father Archibald Grayson the way Voldemort wanted Harry, and Tremaine are still hunting them.  To set everything right, Aoife needs to find the Nightmare Clock, which has plagued her dreams and lead her to the Artic Circle.

Hands down, my favorite thing about Kittredge’s series is the world-building. We have the Protectors, the Brotherhood, The Crimson Guard, the Crimson Guard — someone want to explain to me how Germans always end up on the wrong side of literary wars? The Kindly Folk, the Erlkin — and so on and so forth. I thought The Iron Codex was intense already, but clearly Kittredge has been saving some great backstory. It’s creepy and beautiful and everything fantastical comes out sounding organic. Everything feels real. We get to ride on a submarine in this novel! It’s got much better pacing than book one.

There are, however, things I hated. Like Archibald Grayson’s reason for abandoning his children and wife. Like Aiofe’s whining and general lack of concern for the consequences. Her brother’s a total jerk — though I think that’s just a character aspect, he and Dean have some hysterical arguments. Dean stood by Aoife even when she made really stupid decisions — and I do mean “stood by.” Their relationship took a hiatus in this novel, as its focus is mostly on Aoife. Still, majorly disappointing for all us shippers who wanted some steamy scenes! Bethina’s character didn’t develop at all, despite the lovely romance we have blooming between her and Cal.

But the worst was the plot. While The Nightmare Garden skips over Middle Book Syndrome, I was thrown by where the story headed. Capture, escape, capture, escape — I need more than that from a plotline. It wasn’t until the very end it came together and made sense to me — while I could guess what the ending would be, I had nothing to base that on but past novels I’ve read. It’s a cliffhanger that totally got me excited for book three!

Hopefully, the final novel in the Iron Codex Trilogy will have some maturity development for Aoife, who’s now annoyed me in both novels. Kittredge’s writing style is very heavy on the details — in a lot of places it felt over-edited and over-done. I love the creeptastic Mist scenes and how dark the fantasy/steampunk aspects are, but for the most part I found myself skimming over the exposition and description infodumps.

If you got through The Iron Thorn, you’ll probably like this sequel even more, but it’s not a series I go out of my way to recommend.

Notable Scene:

“You have a choice, Erlkin,” Draven’s voice purred. “It’s an easy one. Give me Aoife Grayson or I blow that floating scrap heap out of the sky.”

I backed toward the door, desperate to get away from Draven’s voice and the view of his great dark shadow of an airship. If I couldn’t see or hear him, I could pretend this wasn’t happening. Shard wasn’t paying attention to me now. She was screaming orders, and her crew was scrambling to obey.

“I guess you’ve made your choice,” Draven said. “Too bad.” With that, tracers of orange fire streaked across the distance between the zeppelin and Windhaven. One shell shot through the glass of the pilothouse and embedded itself in the far wall. Wind screamed through the opening, and cracks like spiderwebs spread from the hole. Windhaven appeared to be well armored, but Draven’s gunners had been lucky, and the glass fell away in jagged slices as the negative pressure fought with the bullet holes.

“Return fire!” Shard bellowed. “Don’t let them get another shot like that!”

I bumped into the hatch and reached behind me to spin the wheel. My heart was hammering in time with the rounds from the Gatling guns on Draven’s airship.

Iron Codex Series:

1.  The Iron Thorn

2. The Nightmare Garden

FTC Advisory: Delacorte Books for Young Readers/Random House provided me with a copy of The Nightmare Garden. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review.

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