Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale

Written by: Holly Black
Paperback: 323 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Language: English
July 2007, $7.99
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Young Adult

In the realm of Faerie, the time has come for Roiben's coronation. Uneasy in the midst of the malevolent Unseelie Court, pixie Kaye is sure only of one thing -- her love for Roiben. But when Kaye, drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him, he sends her on a seemingly impossible quest. Now Kaye can't see or speak with Roiben unless she can find the one thing she knows doesn't exist: a faerie who can tell a lie.

Miserable and convinced she belongs nowhere, Kaye decides to tell her mother the truth -- that she is a changeling left in place of the human daughter stolen long ago. Her mother's shock and horror sends Kaye back to the world of Faerie to find her human counterpart and return her to Ironside. But when Kaye returns to the faerie courts, a battle of wits and weapons is being waged over Roiben’s throne, and she soon finds herself at the center of it all.


A few years ago a friend of mine gave me Tithe as a birthday present because she knew how much I loved faeries. I fell in love with Kaye and Roiben as well as Holly Black’s storytelling. It helped that there were references to the Popcorn Zoo in New Jersey which was close to where I went to high school way back when. There is something magical about putting changelings, the Unseelie court and the like amidst modern day New Jersey and New York. It makes Smirking a happy camper.

Of course it did take me a while to read Ironside because…well, it took forever to get it in paperback. I have this thing on my bookshelf, a bit OCD I know, but if one book is paperback then they all have to be paperback. Putting a hardcover in the mix just doesn’t look right and vice versa. So, it was a wee bit before I got my hands on one of the paperbacks that didn’t have those new photography covers that I am not overly fond of.

Before I go into the review, I will say that there will be spoilers, though I will try to keep them minor. If you have not read Tithe and Valiant, please do. They are great books. That being said you have been forewarned.

The book begins with Roiben and a very adult like remembrance of the queen who cast him aside. He remembers the flame of her hair, the strange smile as she cast him to the hungry Unseelie Court. He remembers what he endured in the dark court, the things he was forced to do and forced to watch all because Nicneven thought it amusing. The chapter ends with a great quote. “The flavor of the blood stayed with him through the long years of his service. Even when a pixie accidentally set him free, even when he’d won the Unseelie crown. But by then he could no longer remember whose blood it was, only that he had grown used to the taste.” I love the quotes that begin each chapter. It makes me giddy. Not sure why, save for my love of random quotes and poem fragments.

We then go back to Kaye and my how her life has changed since we first met her. And yet she is still that teenage girl. The one who is curious and doesn’t understand all that life has to offer. She is young. She makes mistakes, but we are seeing her grow up and that is why I heart her to pieces. Finally feeling stuck and utterly lost in both the human world and the world of the fey, Kaye decides to come clean about who she really is to the woman she has called mother for her whole life. It doesn’t quite go as expected and so she decides to find her human counterpart…the real Kaye and make things right.

The Courts are a bit of in an upheaval though. Roiben’s coronation is coming up, but it seems that Lady Silarial, Queen of the Shining Court wants to rule both Courts and she is willing to use Roiben and whomever else to do it.

Things I loved: I love how adult this trilogy has been. Lately when I read young adult stuff, they water things down. The prose can be far beneath what a 15 and 16 year old should be reading. The characters are stereotypical or one dimensional, etc. I remember when I was a teen the young adult books that I loved had real things going on in them. It wasn’t just about boys or something you could read out of Sassy or Seventeen magazine. Holly Black doesn’t water things down for me. These are stories about monsters, where blood is tasted, bargains are made and hearts are broken. The faeries in these stories are not Tinkerbell, they enjoy playing with humans and with their own kind. And the golden Shining Court…the supposed good Court, is anything but. Just because you live in the light does not mean you are automatically a white hat.

The characters aren’t infallible either. Roiben is certainly not the knight in shining armor. He made be a good guy and wants the Unseelie Court to change and evolve, but has shades of gray on his tarnished armor. Kaye is not as sweet as she appears either. She has something that is extremely powerful, Roibens true name in the world of the Fey, names hold true power. And of course Corny, well he is definitely not a black and white sort which is why I find him to be one of the most interesting characters in the trilogy. He wants things that are bad for him, he likes pain, and has addictions to all of the wrong things.

I like the impossible task. Even though it means that Roiben and Kaye are apart for most of the story, I think It made me lust after Roiben even more. Despite everything he has done, he fell for one sweet pixie. She has made him a better man and he has made her grow. The mushy part of me gets all warm and fuzzy when I think about it. I was wondering how on earth Kaye was going to find a fey that could lie. And while the solution may have been convenient, the quest wasn’t what the story was about. I didn’t quite care how it was solved as long as Kaye and Roiben would wind up together in the end.

And even though yes there is romance it is only a fraction of the book; another reason I like this trilogy. Holly Black doesn’t spend one book or 25 chapters on romance. Everything is balanced. We have a plot, we have character development, all of the things that some books fail to balance these days.

The story moves swiftly and smoothly, one of those books that you cant seem to put down. You hear yourself saying, the end of the chapter and I will stop….then 6 chapters later you find yourself completely hooked and unable to turn that bedside lamp off. Or maybe that was just me.

Things I didn't love so much: I didn’t love it as much as Tithe, but enjoyed it better than Valiant though all three books are very well done. I wouldn’t recommend people to start here if they haven’t read any of them because Ironside is more like a sequel to Tithe (a bit more so than Valiant though Valiant has some very important characters and one or two events that are integral). It just doesn’t work as a stand alone or at least not a very fleshed out stand alone.

Buy or Borrow: Buy or at least Borrow. If you have read any of the other books of the trilogy, well worth finishing off the tale (though there are a lot of loose ends that could possibly warrant a revisit to the world if not Roiben and Kaye) or if you like tales of the Fey in general.

Part of: a Trilogy.
Tithe (Book One)
Valiant (Book Two)
Ironside (Book Three)

Also Recommended: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr for more fey, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins for another awesome trilogy and the Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi.

3.75 out of 4 happy bibliosnark bookmarks

Have your own review? Let me know and I will post it.

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