The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
Review by Kirsty Walsh
There is both a craze and a stigma attached to urban fantasy at present. The teenage market is saturated with books about vampires, witches and the like set in the sleepy suburbs of various parts of America. Amongst the hundreds of trashy throwaway novels there are some real gems and I think this series is one of them. The balance is just right and it has left me wanting to read more. Of course it isn’t perfect, but there are plenty of great things to say about Mahoney’s mystical world of alchemy and wood elves.
Freak. That’s what they call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood at Ironbridge High School. A horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child left Donna branded with iron tattoos that cover her hands and arms – and magically enhanced strength, that she now does all she can to hide. Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, Donna finally accepts her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie – the dark elves. Aided by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout, Donna must save her best friend’s life – and that means betraying one of the world’s greatest secrets and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.
I had started to write this review before I realised the book was the first one of a series, which explained a lot of why I wanted more from it. The world is deep and well thought out and I wanted to know more as I felt this book just scratched the surface. Some of the terminology is a bit clichéd; ‘Order of the Dragon’, elves and mystical woodlands, but it still creates a great world. Based on a folklore story ‘The Handless Maiden’, it’s a great urban realisation of that story and carefully treads the line between the urban and magical successfully.
The story begins quite slowly, as we learn about Donna Underwood, her Aunt Paige, Navin and the illusive ‘Maker’ and how she acquired the swirling iron tattoos hidden under her velvet gloves. She then meets Xan, a dreamy, confident type with a secret to hide. The characters are built up very slowly and there is lots more to learn about them, particularly Aunt Paige, who I’m sure will become more important as the series progresses. It builds slowly, but picks up pace towards the end as more is revealed and events start to unfold.
Overall, The Iron Witch is a great start to a promising series which left me wanting more.
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