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I'm in two minds over this book. I didn't hate it, I didn't love it. In I word it was... "meh".
Let's start with the positives.
Donna was a decent protagonist and I liked that she had super-strength. I found her maturity and loneliness appealing, and I liked her "outsider" social status. I loved the idea of the moving iron tattoos in Donna's forearms, and the cover illustration (other than the fact that the girl in the picture seems to be sniffing her own armpit) was beautifully done. I also enjoyed the romantic element between Donna and Xan. This was a quick and simple read that I think I enjoyed. Didn't I?
All in all, if I was a decade and a half younger and had never read or heard anything else to do with fey-fiction, I might have truly enjoyed it! I guess that's not really pumping much wind in its sails is it?
Uh oh... is it time to move onto the negatives already? This can't be good.
Well, my biggest issue with this book was its predictability. From Donna's tragic childhood, to the obvious love triangle between Donna, her best friend (Navin), and Xan, I didn't feel that there were any surprises. In fact, it was all rather derivative.
The plot wasn't just thin, it was transparent. There were elements of the story which I was curious about, but which never got to be as richly described as I would have liked. For example, the magical institute where Donna attends classes in alchemy could have been made wonderful. Instead it was just kind of...there. Donna's relationship with her mentally ill mother could have been far more complex. Instead it was explored only in a superficial way.
Xan was also a drawback as far as I was concerned. He began the story as a brooding, dark mystery who had an instant connection with Donna. I liked the electricity between them, and the way they both had their secrets. Then Xan got a bit soft, for my tastes. One minute he was the quiet, dangerous type, the next he was getting doe-eyed over our heroine. His emotional 180 made me feel like Mahoney didn't know where she wanted the character to go when she began writing him.
I found it difficult to identify a truly malevolent antagonist, too. There was the skriker: a beast which killed Donna's father. There was Simon: the leader of the magical institute who seemed to be up to no good. Then there was the archetypal pretty-bitch who bullied Donna for being a "freak". She reminded me of that girl in Sabrina: The Teenage Witch...enough said, eh? (By the way, this girl was totally unrealistic. In no way could I believe that the bully-bitch would see Donna's super strength in action and yet continue to antagonise her). The fact that I can't remember her name says a lot about how dynamic a character she was.
Finally there was the evil, manipulative fey queen (another whose title slips my mind...). She was exactly what you'd expect a tricksy fey queen to be, because you've read her before in a thousand different books. What irritated me most about her is that she showed up in the last few chapters of the book! She wasn't mentioned before, there was no build up...she just showed up. It was almost as if Mahoney realised that her book was completely lacking in any kind of conflict.
I guess the more I write about this book, the less charm it holds for me. If I hadn't looked beneath the surface and analysed the book, maybe I could have liked it a bit more. It really is a shame, because there were times in the book where the writing itself was actually rather lovely.
The Iron Witch is the first book in a trilogy. Would I read the rest of the books? Maybe. But unfortunately, I don't think I'll be in any hurry to do so.