Meghan Chase has a secret destiny—one she could never have imagined… Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school…or at home. When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change. But she could never have guessed the truth—that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face…and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart. (goodreads)
I should probably start off by saying that I was extremely hesitant to read this. For some reason books about faeries don't sit well with me, mainly because I've only read a few before and while they were okay - well, that's the problem. They were just okay. Nothing was there to take it to the next level. So I came into this book with a bit of skepticism but I came out of it with a healthy appreciation for just how well it can be done. Julie Kagawa crafted a well-rounded setting for her story that not only made it as believable as faeries can be, but also wrote with such a great first-person narrative that had just the right amount of teenage perspective thrown in to make Meghan's character really work.
We begin with Meghan Chase, who is just about to turn 16, having moved to rural Louisiana when she was 6. Her family are pig farmers which doesn't leave much money to toss around and so they live on the outskirts both socially and geographically. Her best friend in the area is a boy her age, Robbie Goodfell, who shares a bus stop with Meghan. On her sixteenth birthday everything changes when her little brother is kidnapped and replaced with a changeling, leaving Robbie to reveal to Meghan that in order to save him they must journey to a place called Nevernever, the faery realm. I initially had a difficult time with the concept as I fully expected it to be a realm of the little buggers from Pan's Labyrinth flying about everywhere with Summer and Winter Courts and a lot of bickering. The name Nevernever was just Peter Pan to me and so the next 10 or so pages were me getting used to the surrounding.
And I'm very glad I did. The setting, and the concept surrounding it, is probably my favorite part of the book and was quite creative. The idea is that Nevernever is created out of the dreams, imagination, and creativity of the human world. As long as humans create stories, art, music, etc., the Nevernever lives on. However the plot touches on how humans are so now enamored with technology for everything that we are losing out on nature and our own creativity. With the evolution of technology a third court was created, the secretive Iron Court which is a testament to the change of dreams from stories to scientific advancements and defined answers. Julie Kagawa, I have to tell you, I thought this was absolutely wonderful. With the advent of technology our own inherent and natural artistry becomes just that: Nevernever Land. This absolutely cemented it for me.
The faery realm existed not only of faeries, but mermaid and dryads and ogres - the whole mythical assortment. Their inclusion helped to flesh out Nevernever and made everything vibrant and created something I could envision while reading. Grimalkin, a cat (but not just a cat!), is probably my favorite character of the book. Sarcastic, honest, but loyal and wholly unpredictable. Grim's character helped balance out Robbie's (now Puck, in Nevernever) penchant for viewing the world, as Meghan says, as 'a colossal joke'. However much of a prankster Robbie may be, his steadfastness to his friend made him really endearing. Not to mention he's a ginger. I love gingers.
One thing that surprised me about Robbie is that it was easy to tell from the get-go that he harbored some serious feelings for Meghan but she was either blind to them (and that's what it seemed like from her POV) or just didn't know how to respond. When Ash, the Winter Prince, was introduced it was interesting to see the antagonism between them from Meghan's perspective. Robbie's her best friend, but Ash is this curious creature who is no-nonsense, cold and unpredictable - and he just happens to be someone that Robbie has serious history with. The progression of Meghan's relationship with them both was done really well and I'm interested to see how it plays out in the future. For the record: I like them both and I'm curious to learn a bit more about each.
The Iron King has adventure, strong characterization, and just the right touch of romance that made it a well-rounded read that I think quite a lot of people will enjoy. This is a book I will be adding to my bookshelf and I'm so glad I have the sequel in hand so I can start right away.