Wednesday, February 9, 2011

YA book review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 312 pages
Publisher: Flux (February 8, 2011)

Summary: When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed Donna Underwood’s father and drove her mother mad. Her own nearly fatal injuries were fixed by alchemy—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. Now seventeen, Donna feels like a freak, doomed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. Only her relationship with her best friend, Navin, is keeping her sane.

But when vicious wood elves abduct Navin, Donna is forced to accept her role in the centuries-old war between human alchemists and these darkest outcasts of Faerie. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous guy with faery blood running through his veins and secrets of his own, Donna races to save Navin—even if it means betraying everything her parents fought to the death to protect.

Our review: The summary paired together with the cover drew me to this book. Donna Underwood's markings are a constant reminder of the horrible day she lost her father in a fey attack where her own arms were damaged and had to be repaired by alchemists. Her arms give her tremendous strength and ache whenever magic is around, but she keeps them covered with long gloves. Hence, Donna is viewed as a freak and only has one friend, her best bud, Navin. Their relationship was sweet and I liked how he was always joking around with her and calling her Underwood.

The story itself, though it had some fascinating aspects (like Donna's arms, the screaming head, some of the alchemy history, the hellhound Skriker) seemed to be lacking for me (and I know I'm in the minority here comparing other reviews I've read). I didn't feel a connection to Donna and her sudden relationship with the mysterious Xan, despite the promise it held, wasn't as convincing as other pairings I've read in paranormal/fantasy YA. There are some great fey series out there and to compete with them the new titles have to be outstanding. I'm not sold on this one yet but I am hopeful the second book will make me a believer. The showdown between Donna and the Skriker seemed anti-climatic and rushed. Donna was a strong character, unhappy in her own skin but able to deal with her feelings, especially when a loved one was involved. Her selflessness made her sympathetic and extremely likable.

Rating: +++1/2

Favorite excerpt: "On the underside of her arms, the markings began at the wrist and swirled up to the elbow crease. The movement gradually slowed down, symbols lazily meandering along her skin, as deciding where and how to settle--what patterns it would make. Donna was relieved for the dim lighting in this corner of the cafe, but she was mostly shielded by Xan as he moved on the couch to get a closer look at her hands.

Donna picked up the discarded gloves and began to pull them back on again. "Show's over." She tried to smile as she tucked the sleeves of her black sweater back down. Her jaw ached.

Xan pushed hair back from his face, his golden cheeks flushed with more than just the heat of his coffee. "Why do you hide them? You can see why I wouldn't want to advertise my scars. But yours? They're beautiful."

Shocked, Donna pulled away, wrapping her arms around her stomach as though she could hide them there. "They're not beautiful. Don't ever say that." (From pages 155-156, ARC)

Cover comment: This cover conveys a multitude of thoughts: intrigue, darkness, beautiful scroll art, the mysterious item clutched in her hand and the fact that her face is hidden by all of this. Lovely in a creepy, Gothic sort of way.

Book source: Around the World tours


  1. I really want to read this book!!!!!

  2. Disappointed to hear this book isn't quite up to par with some of the other great faerie-themed books, but I want to give it a read anyway. I also love the cover, and the excerpt you selected. Great review. :)