Synopsis: Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.
My Review: I can definitely add a new favorite fae book to my pile. You all know how obsessed I am with the fae, and therefore you know how hard it is to discover a unique spin on classic folk lore. The Iron Witch is about as unique as you get. I was absolutely floored by the creativity and ingenuity that went into this novel.
The beginning of this novel is very mysterious. There is no immediate backstory to Donna's past, how she was injured, or even how her hands were different. While I had to read a while to gain the information, I was so glad Mahoney held off on the details. The gradual reveal of Donna's past was masterfully done and ultimately added a lot of depth to the story. I felt more engrossed in the story, almost like as Donna revealed her secrets to her trusted friends, she was in turn revealing them to me as well.
I love, love, LOVED the alchemical aspect of this novel. And it wasn't the wattered down version of alchemy we get to see in The Immortals books. (sorry if you like them, but just yuck) While the reader doesn't get too many details of the Order of the Dragon, it all just adds to that sense of mystery. There were so many unanswered questions that there's no way the future books won't delve even deeper into the alchemy. Donna's knowledge of the Order changes during the novel. It's the organization she was born to, her birthright, and yet she knows barely anything about it's true purpose. She's always trusted the Order, if not being a tad rebellious to the fact that they're forcing her to follow in her parents footsteps, yet when Navin is kidnapped she begins to question everything she has been taught. The mysteries surrounding the night her hands her injured are begging to be brought to light, and Donna won't stop asking questions until she gets her answers.
I really liked the new spin on the Fae. The wood elves are a group of fae who refused to pay the Tithe and as a result, were sealed off from Faerie and left to rot in the mortal world with it's growing threat of iron. As the iron began to twist and madden the elves, they grew more cruel as well. They are portrayed as nasty violent creatures who are deserving of their own destruction. The combination between the two very different worlds, alchemy and Faerie, was masterfully done. The Order is there to guard the human world from the threat of the wood elves, or at least that is what Donna has always been told. The Order's true intentions come into question and Donna doesn't know who to believe anymore. The Order who raised her, or the Wood Queen who claims that the night Donna was "kidnapped" by the elves was no such thing.
Speaking of faeries, then there's Xan. I was really kind of surprised that I liked him as much as I did. Usually when those love triangles involving the best friend and the hot new dangerous guy appear in a story, I always root for the underdog. It's hard to say who I liked more. Xan or Navin. Very tough decision. What I really loved about Xan and Donna's growing relationship was that it was founded on trust. Xan and Donna both come from worlds of secrecy. When the meet, the attraction is definitely there, but it is the ability to truly be themselves around each other that their relationship truly grows. Did their relationship go a tad fast for only knowing each other three days? Definitely, but I still thought it was sweet. Plus well Xan sounds absolutely deliciouso. Haha.
There were some seemingly trivial aspects of this novel that I think really added to it. This is the first YA novel I've read that had a gay couple. Not the token gay best friend! But two people with an actual relationship. While the two characters weren't very prominent in the story, I really appreciated their addition. Also the fact that Navin and his family were Hindu. I loved Mahoney's use of diversity, and it definitely added to the story.
There is only one or two things that I did not like about this book. I didn't really feel all that connected to Donna. While I really enjoyed her as a character, the emotional connection just wasn't there for me. Maybe it's because it was written in third person (I'm just a first person fan), who knows. While that was relatively minor for me, the ending just about ruined the entire book for me. Throughout the book Donna had journal entries. These entries were used as a way to condense a potentially long backstory and explanation into just a few pages. And what do I find on the last two pages? A JOURNAL ENTRY! I was PISSED OFF. It was like a condensed epilogue! But not even an epilogue! It was awful! I felt like I was cheated out of an ending! Anything would have been better than that! Leave it at a cliff hanger for all I care, and then do backstory in the second one! Just NOT that! It almost affected my review on the book. Almost. I loved it up until the end, but gah. Awful.
So despite my rant on the ending (trust me you will feel the same) I really did greatly enjoy this book. I'm really looking forward to the sequel. There were so many loose ends that I'm dying to find out. Mahoney definitely knows how to keep a reader hooked, and I can't wait for more. Minus the journal entries at least. XD