Ash, the last Prince of the Unseelie Court, has made a vow that he would find a way to be with Meghan in the Iron Realm, to be her knight again and to protect her as long as they both drew breath. To do this he must win a soul and his path is full of danger and trials so difficult and painful no-one should be subjected to them. Will he prove himself worthy of a soul and will he see his quest to the end? It will take everything he's got and fortunately for him his friends have his back.
I really looked forward to this book, wondering how Julie Kagawa would do with changing the narrator and essentially taking the story in a completely new direction. The Iron Knight was definitely very different from the first three books in the series. While Meghan is very direct, no-nonsense, doesn't agonize much every step she takes and her story is all about action Ash is her opposite and his story is as well. Oh, don't get me wrong, he may be torn up about all kinds of things but he's not going to just sit there, he is a warrior after all. There is a lot of introspection here and the decisions Ash has to make aren't just whether to go and fight, they involve matters of the heart and soul and that complicates things tremendously. There were times when I was terribly disappointed in him, felt that he was continuing on his quest out of the sense of duty, not out of love, but gradually he was able to understand himself and I was glad to see how things turned out.
The Iron Knight thrilled me from the very first pages with the lore that is introduced here. There is an old witch who lives in a house on bird legs and there's the gigantic Wolf. I don't know whether these characters are common in Western lore but they are a constant presence in the Slavic fairy tales and when I realized what was going on I was absolutely delighted. These are the characters I grew up with after all and Ms. Kagawa did them justice. The entire time they were in the story I didn't have any problem with what they did or said and this made me appreciate the novel that much more.
With Ash, Puck and Grimalkin in the core of the cast here the dynamic between the characters is essentially familiar but the new additions give it a bit of a new flavor and I saw sides of them I didn't really expect. With Ash and Puck almost competing with Grimalkin and Wolf in who can bicker better there's plenty of verbal dueling that could turn dangerous any minute and the new surprise companion in the quest brings the tension that makes it impossible to be confident in the outcome. And don't worry, we do get to see Meghan again before the story wraps up and she's still her old self, despite being the Iron Queen and ruling a whole realm.
The main thing about this novel is how introspective and thoughtful it is, and it's not just about making difficult decisions and coming to terms with one's past, it's about what it means to be human from beginning till the end. I'll admit, I didn't enjoy all the parts of the story, some felt just too surreal and some didn't seem relevant, but as a whole it made me think about who we are as humans and what we have. (See, told you this book isn't like the first three.)
I can't believe I'm saying this and you may strongly disagree with me on this but I didn't feel that this book was as inspired as the others. It felt like more "I have to do this" than "I want to tell this story" and although it was done well it just wasn't the same. If you prefer a happy ending to a story though I highly recommend that you read this book: with The Iron Queen ending as it did I can imagine that the lovers of Happily Ever After weren't exactly satisfied and with The Iron Knight Kagawa tied up the most important loose end of all and I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
A galley of this book was provided by the publisher, HarlequinTEEN, via NetGalley