They say you should never judge a book by its cover. Well, judge away. The Iron Witch, by Karen Mahoney, is well deserving of its striking cover. Now I want to say something about the back cover: I\’m going to suggest something a bit unusual here. Buy the book, and then resist the temptation to read what\’s on the back! The early stages of the book tease the reader with mysterious references to events or problems which are slowly revealed throughout. However, many of these aspects are already outlined on the back cover, which, for me, spoiled the surprise. For example, the heroine Donna Underwood reveals something a hundred pages into the book which anyone who has read the back cover already knows.
The story is told from Donna\’s perspective, although in the third person, which is less common in a young adult novel. She doesn\’t seem distant, though, as some diary entries are included which give us a more intimate glimpse into her thoughts and feelings. The book is set in an American town, Ironbridge. We know about the significance of iron for faerie folk, so the mention of iron is a big clue. If you liked Holly Black\’s Tithe, you\’ll like this. The town has sprawled and grown over the nearby Ironwood Forest, home to various malevolent folk, dark elves who feel under threat. Ten years ago, these wood elves killed Donna\’s father and left Donna severely injured and her mother out of touch with reality. Donna\’s parents were magical alchemists and her Aunt Paige is raising her in the same tradition, whether she wants it or not. Made vulnerable by her differences and victimised by the nasty Melanie Swan, Donna has been forced into home schooling, which means more time with the alchemists in the Order of the Dragon.
The only constant in Donna\’s life is her best friend Navin Sharma. Navin knows nothing about Donna\’s past or her connection to the alchemists. Then everything changes. Donna also gets to know the mysterious Xan, who is full of secrets. The book is about old and new friends, the support we get from friendship, its value, what we do to keep it, and the need for trust, honesty, and faith in others.
It\’s interesting that some of Xan\’s secrets don\’t even seem to be explained by the end of the book. This kind of information is something I would have liked to have received. For example, at the start of the book the reader is told about certain earlier incidents which could have been included. For a moment, I almost thought this was the second book of the series, because so much interesting action seemed to have happened beforehand. It\’s not a flaw of the book in that there\’s still plenty of good action, drama and shocks. Rather, I got greedy, and wanted to know more. I hated having to put the book down, and couldn\’t wait
to get back into it. Now I can\’t wait for the sequel!
Available Now: Random House RRP$18.95