Saturday, 20 April 2013

Ironside by Holly Black

Publication date:  2008 Edition
Published by: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fantasy (YA)

Ironside is the sequel to Tithe, the story of 16 year old Kaye Fierch, a girl who can see and talk to faeries.  In the first book Kaye was to be given up to the Queen of the Unseelie (Dark) Court as a ‘Tithe’ (a human sacrifice) in order to buy the solitary fey 7 more years of independence.  One night she encountered a faerie in trouble in the woods.  That faerie was Roiben, first knight of the Unseelie Court, and Kaye saves his life, leaving him in her debt.

In the second book Nicnaven, Queen of the Unseelie Court, has been defeated and Roiben has declared himself king.  Roiben once belonged to the Seelie (Bright) Court but was given up by his queen, Silarial, as a truce for peace between the rival courts.  Roiben had been forced to become cruel and commit countless murders under Nicnaven’s command, which has hardened him.  He has not forgiven Silarial, to whom he was once devoted, for her betrayal and they have become enemies.  As a result, war between the rival courts is eminent.  

Roiben is not only indebted to Kaye for saving his life, he is in awe of her for the part she played in the downfall of Nicnaven, and he has fallen in love with her.  His subjects are unsupportive of the match as Roiben is gentry (of the ruling class) and Kaye is considered to be beneath him.  They also think his affection for her is a weakness that could lead to his downfall.  Silarial is also aware of his affection for Kaye and hopes to use it against him…

If you were as much of a fan of Tithe as I was (click here for my review) then you will love Ironside too.  It is of the same standard of writing with great characters.  A sweet friendship develops between [the ridiculously named] Corny and Kaye.   They team up with Luis, a mortal guy who has ‘the sight’ (can see through a faery’s glamour) and can heal humans who have been inflicted with injuries/curses made by faeries.  The brave three are pretty defenceless against the fey but that doesn’t stop them from doing battle with the worst of them.  Kaye is the heroine of this novel.  She doesn’t have the strength or the power to fight the fey but she does have a weapon; the ability to outsmart them (an advantage which to some extent has been gained by being raised in 'Ironside') .  Spoiler alert: [It is how she was able to help defeat Nicnavin in book 1, how she manages to complete what is considered an impossible quest that, unless achieved, would force a separation between her and Roiben, and how she is able to unravel Silarial’s plot to defeat Roiben in battle.] 

Although it is clear that Roiben would never revert back to his former self, there was the potential to show how he was 'softening' as a result of Kaye's influence that wasn't demonstrated enough in my view. He tells her she is changing him but the examples were lacking. Also, the romance between Roiben and Kaye is very subtle, perhaps too subtle for some.  A lot is left unsaid, which could leave you unsatisfied.  However, the romance that blossoms for Corny and Luis is more focused on, and may fill the void if the former doesn’t measure up to one’s expectations (for the open-minded reader, that is). It was very nicely done in my view.

Only two of three in the Modern Faery Tale series is about these characters and I am left wanting more. I am yet to read Valiant which is a standalone story. I have no doubt I will enjoy that one too.

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