By Karen Mahoney
Publication Date: February 8, 2012
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Donna Underwood is in deep trouble.An ancient alchemical order is holding her accountable for destroying the last precious drops of the elixar of life. Never mind the fact that Donna was acting to free her friend, Navin, from the dangerous clutches of the Wood Queen at the time. But what the alchemists have in store is nothing compared to the wrath of the fey. The Wood Queen has been tricked and Donna must pay. Get ready for all hell – quite literally – to break loose…
I’m not sure this can be read without having first read The Iron Witch, book one in the series (I re-read it myself right before reading this as a refresher). It picks up almost immediately after that one ends and nearly everything in it builds off of events from the first book. So needless to say, my review is going to necessarily have some spoilers from that book – I think you can read the review and then decide whether or not to go backwards and read The Iron Witch (I’ve done that with series’), but for the best overall experience, I wouldn’t pick up and go without reading both books eventually.
Donna has been brought before the leaders of each of the four Orders for an accounting of what she did to rescue her friends from the Wood Queen and for them to decide what they should do with her until she turns eighteen. She’s completely isolated – her best friend Navin, the one normal person she finally let in on her secrets and who paid a horrible price seems to be avoiding her. Her sort-of boyfriend and half-fey Xan is off-limits since her phone has been confiscated by her aunt, who’s revealed bit by bit to be a nasty piece of work who’s unwilling to help her with the Orders despite having a high position there.
Aliette, the Wood Queen, crosses over into the normal world in search of Donna this time, sending an emissary familiar to Xan to set up the meeting. This time she means business, striking at Donna’s heart by putting a curse on her already ill mother (nope, not going to reveal what happened to her if you don’t already know!) that will kill her in three days if a gateway isn’t opened allowing all of Aliette’s wood creatures to return home to her.
Since the Order is full of guys who have no interest in seeing Donna develop any power, she’s never been told she has any and doesn’t have a clue that she can do what Aliette wants. It would be a good thing though, she thinks – the wood creatures are nasty pieces of work, killing people and making the woods dangerous. She accidentally figures out how to meet Aliette’s demand, only to find out she’s been deceived by everyone, openly and by omission.
A lot of this book is about Donna discovering how few people she can really trust and figuring out for herself how much information she’s willing to blindly accept from people now. Simon, the main snake in the first book, continued to slither around. At first glance he’s supposed to be the second most powerful person in the Order of the Dragon but he’s eventually revealed to be a very, very powerful man. Her aunt was always chilly towards Donna and she practically lost her freaking mind when she realized her niece was going to figure out her past. Even Xan was acting suspiciously, which in a way made me glad. He was turning into the perfect boyfriend and by the end of the book there were a couple of other contenders that I sort of liked more.
I’m really loving watching Donna grow and take a proactive approach to where her life is headed. She started being a little whiny about how the Order was dealing with her and in the end, she wasn’t just accepting it, she was agreeing that it was the right decision and would probably be a good thing. Despite everyone’s attempt to hide what she is and the sort of disaster she inadvertently caused, she got invaluable information from it and she’s going to use it instead of crawling into bed. And she’s not whining about Xan either. She knows he’s hiding things from her and she’s letting him make the next move. The girl has options. Weird ones. But options.
My Summary: I liked The Iron Witch but I enjoyed this even more because Donna has really matured and the action was really good at the end – epic. The stakes in this are huge and are going to lead nicely into the last book in the trilogy, The Stone Demon. It didn’t end on the kind of cliffhanger that left you wondering if someone was going to live or die, but I did shut the book and hit my head with it, cursing that the next book was going to be a year away. With two great new characters, a new setting and two characters sort of up in the air I’m dying to keep reading!
My Rating: A-