Deserted by the Winter prince Meghan thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her. Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.
With the second book in the series Julie Kagawa continues Meghan's adventures in the Nevernever and if you thought the first volume was full of danger prepare for an even wilder ride this time around. I think my favorite thing about this book was how while Meghan is underestimated by everyone, possibly even those on her side, she emerges as the most powerful figure in the faery world - she is half-human so she is immune to the effects of iron, she is the daughter of the Seelie King so her faery powers (when she can use them) are above average, and it seems like her encounter with Machina left her with extra abilities that even she doesn't clearly understand just yet. Now that The Iron Daughter is wrapped up I am all kinds of excited to see Meghan in The Iron Queen, fully expecting her to kick some serious butt shock-and-awe-style. So yes, girl power gets the highest marks here and the guys frame it very nicely. It was good to see Puck and Ash in frenemy mode again, their bickering is just too sharp-tongued not to enjoy. Grimalkin is back too with his signature attitude and he is as amusing as ever. I have to admit, all the characters are very much smart alecks and their dialogue makes for great reading. Mix that with practically non-stop action and major plot twists (betrayal, anyone?) and the book is almost impossible to put down.
Another thing that keeps the tension up is the solidification of the love triangle. We all knew it was coming so no major surprise there and now Meghan has to choose between the two guys vying for her affection, which is no easy feat because she (wait for it) is in love with both of them. At least their unexpected ally is keeping a respectable distance and is sticking with the role of friend and protector, otherwise it would've been simply too much. There is plenty of angst, drama in the best traditions of Romeo and Juliet, deadly encounters because this is the Nevernever after all, and even a makeover.
I mentioned earlier that after her confrontation with the Iron King Meghan has acquired some extra abilities and I'd like to compliment Ms. Kagawa for giving us glimpses of what she can do and shaping the general idea of what's in store without giving too much away. I really can't wait to read Iron Queen to see how she fulfills these subtle promises because if things go the way I think they will the balance of powers will be changed in a manner I don't think anybody in Neverever expects. Except for maybe Grimalkin. That cat is tricky beyond belief.
Remember how the series started with Meghan thinking about the day her father disappeared at the edge of a lake in a park while she was buying ice cream? Remember how later she gave a memory in exchange for clues as to how to find and destroy Machina? Those little plot threads that could've been so easily forgotten and abandoned have come back in this book and the mystery behind them is probably the most fascinating one of all. I'm not going to tell you too much, but just know that there is more depth to these books than may appear at first glance. Those threads are like Stanislawski's gun - if it's there in the first act it will fire in the third act, and I think Kagawa has already begun to pull the trigger.
The one thing that detracted a little bit from this novel and my impression of the series in general is that the main plot elements of the love triangle between the girl who doesn't fit it, her best friend, and the very cold and dangerous other guy, as well as the weakest player becoming strongest player kept reminding me of Twilight. I imagine that Stephenie Meyer probably didn't invent those either but it's just so recent that it's almost like deja vu. I will give Ms. Kagawa props for making it her own though - the relationship between the two rivals is more complex than the plain "enemies forever" formula, the emergence of Meghan as a powerhouse is very gradual and very subtle, and I don't think anybody's going to be able to talk themselves out of fighting to the death in this series. Except for may be Grimalkin.
All in all this is a wild ride you don't want to miss, so strap in and hang on, the fun is just getting started.