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Friday, November 22, 2013

The Iron Thorn (The Iron Codex #1) by Caitlin Kittredge

In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.

Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

Released: February 22nd 2011    Pages: 492
Publisher: Delacorte Books        Source: Library

First Look: ****That girl on the cover is a mess.  First, someone badly needs to introduce her to the glorious concepts of shampoo and conditioner.  And maybe sunlight and a hairbrush as well.  She'd also do well to find a dress that actually fits her.  This picture, to me, illustrates why strapless dresses are not a good idea.  Finally, someone needs to show her how to do "natural" makeup.

Anyway, I was in this for the steampunk.  It looked interesting, though if I'd known it involved a version of the fey, I would've been more hesitant.  Books about the fey/faeries/whatever you call them have never been my thing, and I'm not sure why.

Setting: ****If nothing else, I liked the uniqueness of the setting.  It was a steampunk setting, but not the typical Victorian-era setting.  It was an alternate version of the 1950s, if I remember correctly.  All at once, it had historical fantasy, steampunk, and even dystopian elements.  The closed and controlled nature of the city gave it a dystopian feel.

The technology was cool.  Again, it was something different.  The aspects of the non-human creatures were also interesting, though I wish some of the creatures would have been described in more detail so I could actually picture them.

Characters: *****  I just discovered that I read the entire book mispronouncing the main character's name.  Is that my problem, or the author's, for picking an unusual name?  I'm not sure.  But apparently it's pronounced like this.  Apart from that, I never cared one way or another about Aoife.  She seemed real enough, but I still could never bring myself to care.  I liked how she wanted to break out of her society's restrictive gender roles.  On the other hand, she seemed overly eager to put herself and her friends in danger.

I disliked Cal.  He made too many sexist comments for me to ever respect him.  I realize that, giving the revelation about him at the end, this might be considered forgivable, but I'm not sure I can manage that.  Dean was your standard-issue bad-boy-who-is-actually-nice.  He was flat, and I could never understand why Aoife was so infatuated with him.  (I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but Jensen Ackles is basically ingrained in my brain as the face of the name "Dean" anyway.)

Plot: ***** The first half would have easily gotten four stars out of me.  Cryptic messages, a search to rescue a missing brother...this caught my interest.  The first half was compelling, and made me curious as to what happen next.

And then that thing happened.  That thing where the first half of a book has few or no hints that it contains anything remotely magical (in this case, fey-related).  Then, BAM!  Suddenly you're thrust into something supernatural, far beyond anything the first half would have led you to expect.  Whenever this happens, I lose my interest in the plot.  The Iron Thorn was no exception.  At first, Aoife just wanted to find her brother.  Then she was suddenly the focus of some faerie plot to do...something or other.  At this point, the book lost me.

Uniqueness: ***** The setting gave this book a fantastic sense of uniqueness.  I've never read anything like it.  Again, it wasn't quite alternate history, it wasn't quite dystopia, and it wasn't quite steampunk.  It met somewhere at the intersection of all three, which was interesting and cool.

Writing: ****Overall, the writing did a solid job of telling the story without being awkward or distracting.  I have no other general, overarching comments.  The only specific comments I have are nitpicks. Mainly, some of the slang terms used in this book.  I can't tell whether any of these things were actual 1950s slang, or whether the author made them up.  Most of the time I could figure out the meaning, but there were a few occasions where I couldn't quite grasp it, even in-context.

Likes: Nothing not already mentioned.

Not-so-great: Cal said this: "You're going to need glasses before long, and you know what they say: boys don't make passes--"

I'm a girl.  I wear glasses.

I'm stick of this stereotype that girls can never be as pretty with glasses as without.  I hate it when, in movies, girls who are shown as not that attractive, or even ugly, suddenly become beautiful when they take off their glasses.  (Note how, in The Princess Diaries, Mia does not wear her glasses after her "makeover".)

Overall: On one hand, this book had an awesome setting that mashed up various genres, which had an awesome effect.  The first half of the book, plot-wise, was compelling.  Aoife was an okay character, though I never cared for her one way or another.  On the other hand, the second-half of the book turned too supernatural, too fast, and it lost my interest.  The side characters were either boring, annoying, or both.  Overall, it's an okay book, given that I had a fairly equal number of likes and dislikes.

Similar Books: It had an alternate history setting with a steampunk feel, like Clockwork Angel.  It involved supernatural events in a non-modern setting like This Dark Endeavor or Darker Still.

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