Original Language: English
Publication Date: February 1st 2011
Page Count: 288
Freak. That’s what they called seventeen year-old Donna Underwood in high school after a horrific fey attack that killed her father when she was just a child. Her injuries and rehabilitation resulted in magically enhanced strength, thanks to the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. As a child of the alchemists, she is both blessed and cursed with a magical heritage that permeates her life with duty and sacrifice.Karen Mahoney's debut novel Iron Witch entwines the popular Faerie realm theme with the mystery of alchemy to create an entrancing first installment. Rumored to be the first book in a new trilogy, Iron Witch tells the story of Donna Underwood, a teenage girl visibly and physically marked by magic and iron.
Now, after ten years of wishing for a normal life, she finally has to accept her role in the centuries-old war against the darkest outcasts of Faerie: the Dark Elves. Aided by a gorgeous half-fey dropout, Donna must race to save her best friend’s life – even if it means betraying the secret of immortality and confronting the very thing that destroyed her family.
Swirling iron tattoos swirl up Donna's arms, giving her superior strength and a portable weapon against the wood elves hiding in the forests around her town. Despite having lost her parents at a young age and living with her workaholic Aunt, meeting Xan is the moment where everything begins to change. Mahoney gives her readers a crash course in the magical realm when Donna's best friend is dumped into the middle of a wood elf attack.
Mahoney's world combines the magical realm of Faerie, now cut off from the mortal realm, the domain of the wood elves, separate to both Faerie and Earth but at the same time part of both, and finally the intriguing world of alchemy and it's wonders. She puts a whole new spin on the Faerie World by including knowledge and creatures of it in Iron Witch but keeping it a separate entity. Alchemy is a new medium t experiment with in the YA genre, not entirely original for anyone who has read Michael Scott's Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, but part of a small but interesting majority.
Unfortunately, while I enjoyed reading Iron Witch, I finished it unhappily. Mahoney left too many questions unanswered, and continued to pile new 'mysteries' on top of each new question. What really happened the night Donna's father died? Why did the wood elves stay behind? What is the Order hiding? I'm all for setting up for the next book, but when you write an entire book, full of action, and don't give away anything, then the reader is left unsatisfied. Donna is suspicious of the Order without any evidence to back up her paranoia. Xan behaves strangely but no one shows it any notice. Why? Who? WHY? Too many questions!
My only other problem with the Iron Witch was the diary format. It seemed to throw off the flow of the narrative. Mahoney was using it as an insight into Donna's thoughts and a way to provide flash backs, but the form seemed flakey and uneven. It would have been better to incorporate it all into the main body of the novel.
As for Donna herself, mostly she is a fantastic protagonist. Strong willed, determined and compassionate, Donna is willing to do anything for her friends. She has an inner strength that appeals to the readers, and a sense of obligation to protect her loved ones that anyone can empathise with.
Over all, the Iron Witch is a fun new way to experience the Faerie realm, and an interesting introduction into the world of alchemy. I look forward to seeing more from Karen Mahoney.