Written by Karen Mahoney
Published February, 2011 by Flux
Genres: Faeries, Urban Fantasy
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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.
I wanted to like The Iron Witch, but no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get into the story or the characters inside the pages. Though Karen Mahoney’s world shows promise with the use of alchemical magic, I was somehow hoping for more. A slow paced plot and a focal character I didn’t like made this quite a tough read for me.
This book had been sitting on my shelf since the start of the year, basically, and I thought it was high-time to get into it finally. What I was expecting from The Iron Witch was very different to what I got. I guess I was hoping for the action to swoop right in and capture my interest – it didn’t, instead I was faced with a main character by the name of Donna Underwood, who really didn’t rub me the right way.
I’m sure I’m not alone out there when I say that disliking the main character throws me off a book entirely. While sometimes other things can make up for a lackluster leading lady – world-building, believable love interest, intricate relationships or thrilling plot – I often find it hard to remain focused. Fortunately this book was short – just shy of 300 pages – so despite my worries, I felt safe in the hope that if I pushed on, it would improve.
Unfortunately, for me, things didn’t improve. There was perhaps one scene that made me start to reconsider my feelings toward The Iron Witch, but that was near the end and over too quickly (for those who have read it, the scene I’m talking about is the one where Donna and Xan are in the secret laboratory). I loved the idea of alchemy being used as an integral part of the story and I was hoping for more on that front plot-wise than what Karen Mahoney delivered. If the intrigue of the alchemical arts had started from the beginning, and more was revealed to the reader, I think it would have been a more interesting story.
As for Xan, I know a lot of readers love him but he, like Donna, came across as flat to me. I didn’t delight at all in their relationship or how it progressed. I wish more about him had been explored both with Donna and the reader. I felt that Karen Mahoney was simply following the regular pathways with YA romance instead of veering off where her characters were enticing her to go. There were little tidbits about each character that hinted at something ‘more’, but unfortunately they never went there.
I also felt that the whole ‘fae/elf’ realm took a backseat. I’m not sure what it took a backseat ‘to’, but when I think about this book I mainly think of Donna reliving the ‘horror’ that happened to her at a young age or how she was terrorized at her high school. While her Aunt is mentioned as her primary caregiver, we never really see the two interact and apart from her best friend Navin’s father, all adults seem to be absent or quite shady in their morals.
I really wanted to like The Iron Witch, as I was curious about it for some time and had even added the second book into my ‘watch’ list, but it just wasn’t the book for me. I’m sure others out there will enjoy it, but in my opinion it just missed the mark entirely for my personal tastes. Out of 300 pages, I felt myself only enjoying a handful, and I don’t think that warrants me checking out the next book in the series.
Recommended to: Check this out if you’re curious – my opinion is certainly not everyone else’s. Fans of the Need series by Carrie Jones will probably enjoy.