Sunday, 30 January 2011
Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Set in a real world of alchemy, fairies and vicious wood elves, The Iron Witch is the much-anticipated debut novel from Brit author Karen Mahoney. It's the story of a girl whose life is indelibly marked by magic, and who wears the scars of her past in the form of swirling iron tattoos that cover her hands and arms. It's also beautifully written. Karen Mahoney has a rare gift for metaphor; she doesn't so much set a scene as set it blooming in the reader's imagination. The faerie world is cast in shadow for much of the novel, but our glimpses of the creatures that inhabit it are truly chilling. Even a simple bus journey is described with a visual flair that's effortlessly lyrical, and the story as a whole glistens with magic and danger and foreboding.
While The Iron Witch didn't really get me hooked until around the halfway mark, once I found myself gripped I couldn't put it down. The opening chapters are relatively slow burning, and the action only really picks up once Donna discovers that her best friend Navin has been abducted. However, even before that point Karen Mahoney laces the story with just enough intrigue to keep those pages turning. Who wouldn't want to find out exactly what The Incident entailed, or get to know who the mysterious Xan really is?
Though protagonist Donna has two boys in her life, thankfully The Iron Witch is a love-triangle free zone. Drawn to the otherworldly Xan, she also has a deep and lasting bond with her friend Navin. Though I wouldn't be surprised to see Navin and Donna's relationship encountering romantic complications in the next instalment of the saga, it's refreshing to see a YA heroine acting out of loyalty and love for a platonic friend. Even the romance between Xan and Donna is kept pretty light and develops at a believable pace, which also makes a welcome change from the full-on declarations of undying love you tend to find in YA paranormal titles.
Overall, The Iron Witch is an enchanting debut novel. Karen Mahoney's Faerie lore is richly drawn, her cast of characters is believably diverse and there are some seriously eerie moments. I'd probably recommend this one first and foremost to readers in the eleven to fourteen age group, as home-schooled heroine Donna is seventeen but perhaps a little young for her age, and the story itself follows a fairly straightforward course. However, anyone who likes their paranormal world-building dark and complex should also check this one out.
Out: January 21st 2010, UK
A huge thanks to Random House UK for providing a review copy of this book.