The Iron Witch

The Iron Witch

So is a heady YA mix of alchemists, elven Queens and iron laced tattoos enough to guarantee a compelling story and characters you care about?

Buy The Iron Witch (The Iron Witch Trilogy) on Amazon.

Should you pick up a copy of Karen Mohoney’s The Iron Witch?

I don’t think so.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where this book went wrong, but I know it’s not the premise. The Iron Witch is the story of Donna Underwood, daughter of two powerful alchemists from a fairy-fighting secret society, who is constantly living in the aftermath of a fairy attack that killed her father, mentally destroyed her mother, and left Donna with iron-laced tattoos to restore her arms.

Donna is one of the rare female characters in YA literature that begins the novel with a healthy dose of self-esteem and acceptance. She may be lonely and would trade anything to untangle herself from her magical heritage and live a normal life like her best friend, Navin, but Donna is upbeat and rarely wallows in self-pity. When Donna meets Xan, an attractive and wealthy half-fay, their brief interaction blossoms into a full-blown romance despite attacks by goblin-like wood elves, mysterious alchemical secrets, and Navin’s sudden kidnapping at the hands of the Wood Elf Queen. Together, Donna and Xan race against the clock to save Navin from the fairies and alchemists before it’s too late.

I was terribly disappointed with this book. Though Donna’s can-do attitude makes her a likeable protagonist, the plot progresses slowly and sucks the life out of what should be an exciting read. The back cover announces that Navin is kidnapped by fairies, but the reader will have to trudge through nearly the entire novel before this happens. Despite the ticking clock, there’s not a lot of urgency fueling the rescue or even a clear set of consequences. So what if Donna fails?

While The Iron Witch scored some points for cutting out unnecessary background story, I feel like the book went too far by keeping the story free of flashbacks. The attack that killed Donna’s father and maimed her arms is glossed over, leaving the fight scene at the end wanting. The connection between Donna and Navin is stretched remarkably thin for best-friends; I reacted to Navin’s kidnapping with as much excitement as if I’d been told the fairies kidnapped her favorite arm chair, and Xan’s batman-esque tragic backstory had as much personality as a box full of packing peanuts. The background characters, many of whom are supposed to play crucial roles in the development of the plot, are rarely seen or described and fall flat when they do show up. In a book that promises alchemical societies and fairies, The Iron Witch lacks in both.

This isn’t a terrible book and it does have some redeeming qualities to it, but I wouldn’t recommend spending the money on it. Support your local library by picking up a copy if your curiosity gets the better of you, or better yet, if you’re looking for a book with heroines and fairy magic, check out Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely, Maggie Steifvater’s Lament: The Faerie Queens Deception, or Juliet Marilier’s Wild Wood Dancing.