Ironside: A Modern Faery's Tale
by Holly Black
published 2007 by Simon & Schuster Childrens Books
184738062X (isbn13: 9781847380623)
rating: 4 of 5 stars
I skipped over the second book in the Modern Tale of Faerie series by Holly Black. That book, Valiant, veers away from the Kaye-Roiben story, which is what really interested me. I grabbed Ironside, book 3 in the series, almost as an afterthought at last week’s trip to Borders.
After a brief recap of the story in the form of a prologue, Ironside begins on the eve of Roiben’s coronation as King of the Unseelie Court. Kaye is unwelcome by his subjects, since she alone has the power to control him (using his real name), and she alone is his weakness. Banished on a quest because of her declaration of love for him, Kaye struggles to find the balance between the life she knew as a human and the life she’s learning in the realm of Faerie.
I love the style of this book. It’s fresh and honest without falling into clichés of angst or nonchalance. Black knows how to balance sweeping battle scenes with details like making a bed on the floor. Descriptions are vivid without being verbose; dialogue is snappy and natural. Everything seems to be in place, despite the flip-flopping that Kaye does between Faerie and Ironside.
While the movement between settings works, the movement between characters is more problematic. My main difficulty with Ironside is that I’m still not certain who the protagonist is. There’s almost equal time given to Kaye and Corny, with side trips into Roiben’s perpective. In terms of who develops and changes, it’s Corny. In terms of a hero, it’s Kaye – kind of. Her characterization in this book is weakest, and if you didn’t know Kaye from Tithe, I doubt you’d like her in Ironside, because she seems shallow and uninteresting. The really most sympathetic, interesting, quirky, imperfect and lovable character is Cornelius. Although Kaye dominates several key scenes, it’s Cornelius whom you feel is leading you through the story.
The other disappointing part of Ironside, I think, is the loss of the romantic intensity between Kaye and Roiben. There is romantic intensity between another couple, half of which is Corny, and it’s darling. Overall, though, the best scenes are the raw ones with Ellen, Kaye’s human mother. These are perfectly conceived, perfectly written gems.
Despite the fact that her style is very different from what I usually read, I really enjoy Holly Black. Her website is friendly and welcoming, and I encourage you to check it out.
Other Reviewers: The Story Siren