Pages: 290 (paperback)
Published: February 2011 by Flux
Recommended for: paranormal romance people-- though I'd definitely recommend other books over this one!
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 always like to start with the pros of a book whenever I have to give a negative or not-so-rave review. My favorite thing about The Iron Witch is its cover. Seriously, it's beyond gorgeous, and if I was rating based on the cover alone, I'd have to give it a 6 out of 5. Other pros: its somewhat-unique mixture of faerie and alchemical lore. I'm a sucker for faerie stories-- though the wood elves in this book didn't really impress me-- and I've been unhealthily obsessed with alchemy both real and fictional for a long time. (Thanks a lot, Fullmetal Alchemist!) And because I'm really digging deep to find positives here, I'd like to draw your attention to the really cool script on the title page and on the chapter titles (check out the front cover's title). It should win an award... for Best Sinister-Yet-Fancy Script in a YA Book, or something.
But that's probably the only award I'd grant The Iron Witch. The story is one of the most unoriginal I've read in a long time-- I think the author basically copied down the plot skeletons from about fifty different popular YA fantasy novels, switched their ideas around in the manuscript just a little bit and combined them all for a Frankenstein of a fantasy romance. Then she submitted the manuscript without using spell check to edit for grammatical sentence structure. (I found myself marking the pages up with my handy pencil a lot, once again...sigh, maybe I should be a copy-editor.) The stereotypical plot really bugged me, especially after the ending provided no exciting/intriguing and unexpected plot twist whatsoever, as well as no resolution and no 'hook' to read the upcoming sequels. It was a little skimpy for my taste, at 290 pages, but that itself has nothing to do with why I didn't enjoy the book. Donna is a stereotypical teenage heroine with a bunch of stereotypical high school haters (including one blond, cheerlead-ing mean girl, what a surprise), one close, very stereotypical best friend, Navin, one new-and-exciting-and-mysterious-love-interest Xan, and one (also stereotypical) secret: her father, a powerful alchemist, was killed defending her from wood elves years ago, and her mother, now in a mental health ward, became practically comatose after the attack. Because no protagonist's mother has ever gone insane or comatose and been assigned to a psych ward following a traumatic attack (*see Harry Potter, Blue Bloods, The Iron Thorn, even the Mortal Instruments*).
The language was choppy and really sporadic-- one minute the characters were talking like teenagers, with lots of 'like' s and what-not, and the next they were using major vocabulary and sentence structure that wouldn't sound out of place in somebody's thesis paper. Donna's super-strength was more of a random curiosity than a plot device or actually relevant to her character or the story in any way, as was her alchemical heritage. We never get to see much of the alchemical 'Order of the Dragon', nor is much explained about its inner-workings and purpose. If the alchemy had been good, that would have been a big saving-grace for this book for me, but it was just another useless fantasy element thrown into the story. Overall, The Iron Witch was a huge disappointment for me. I will now sum it up in a haiku:
"This beautiful book
Was one big YA cliche
And a waste of cash."
That said, all this is only my personal opinion and is in no way intended to offend anyone. I usually hate writing negative reviews, but this one was just so disappointing.
Plot: 1/5Overall Rating: 2/5