Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Julie Kagawa - The Iron Queen - Review

Technology is a double-edged sword. With it comes instant global communication, sanitary living conditions and ease of transportation. Yet it also brings emotional detachment, the destruction of nature and a reliance on machinery. But can it impede imagination? Can it dismantle the realm of fantasy? That's the case Julie Kagawa makes in her Iron Fey series. In the latest and third installment entitled The Iron Queen, the vivid imagery of both sides is presented through the fiery fumes of the Iron Kingdom versus the pristine wildness of the NeverNever. As an encroachment of creaking metal advances on the land of myth and legend, it is up to one girl to bridge the gap.

Who is this girl? She's Meghan Chase. The illegitimate, half-human daughter of King Oberon caught in a love triangle between the mischievous Puck and the gallant Prince Ash, son of the infamous Queen Mab. For the most part, these familiar characters are best known from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The combination of one of the greatest works in the literary canon and the modern elements introduced by a contemporary young adult author is pure magic. The battle between the lands of summer and winter is juxtaposed against the larger threat of technological annihilation. The eternal Seelie and Unseelie Courts must band together or perish. In Kagawa's estimation, their glamour cannot survive the insipid spread of the digital age.

Book lovers everywhere will rejoice at Kagawa's stand in support of the legends of old. She is passionate about defending the tales passed down for generations from losing their hold on the heart of humanity. She works to preserve their existence in the minds of young readers through her own writing. The free reign to give creative expression to one's inner fantasies is encouraged rather than tuning out and plugging in to a machine whether it be a iPod, DS or Blackberry. She encourages fostering one's thoughts instead of being told what to think. Fables that have been around for centuries withstand the test of time because they inspire discussion and interaction. Preserving their power to change lives is what the Iron Fey series is all about.

But to keep a teenage audience interested, there is a touch of forbidden romance. Queen Mab tried to kill Meghan, and Ash was banished for protecting her. His rigid demeanor begins to soften as he feels more and more comfortable expressing his love. He would ultimately risk everything for her, but Meghan isn't sure she wants him to. While on the other hand, her best friend, the wily comedian, Puck, is full of unrequited desire for her. Meghan doesn't want to hurt him, but at the same time she feels drawn to the unspoken connection they share. As always, the drama lies in the question - who will she choose?

Kagawa's development of plot has deepened and matured since her initial offerings, The Iron King and The Iron Daughter. The tone is less juvenile in nature relying more on interior character motivation and development rather than on weak dialogue and child-like scenes. She keeps adding layers of richness and texture to her continuing exploration of the NeverNever and the Iron Kingdom. Her main players and crucial settings are becoming more pronounced and recognizable as her own rather than a take on the Bard's. With each venture into the series, Kagawa is growing as a writer. The pinnacle of her endeavor is evident in the internal struggle waged inside Meghan as she fights to hold onto who she is while trying to adapt to who she is meant to become. A hauntingly beautiful depiction of the very essence of an adolescent's rite of passage.

Overall, Kagawa wages a full-scale battle for creative energy over technological numbness.

The Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa is available for $9.99 at Amazon.com and at JulieKagawa.com.

Thank you to Yara for recommending this book. Follow her fantastic book blog and Twitter posts.

Review copy provided by Valley Community Library.

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