The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney
February 8th 2011 by Flux
From the Publisher:
Freak. That's what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna's own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.
When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.
As a little girl, Donna was rescued from a dark and twisted forest from a group of wood elves. This event cost her father's life and left her mother in a magical vegetative state. That night caused Donna to undergo a round of surgeries - magical surgeries. The Maker fixed Donna by branding magical wardings on Donna's arms and also on her bones. As a result, Donna has more than average human strength and she has been labeled a freak at school. The events of that night are somewhat of a blur, but they come back to Donna in her nightmares. To the chagrin of her best friend Navin, Donna meets a boy, Xan, that has secrets of his own. After the fey kidnap Navin, Xan and Donna bargain and steal to get him out of the Elflands.
The mystery of Donna's tattooed arms are what set this book into motion. In the beginning, we keep getting little snippets of an "incident" about Donna getting kicked out of school. Did she harm someone? Did someone discover her magical secret? As the story begins to unfold, we learn about the incident and find out that Navin is a true blue best friend. He (yes, he) stands up to the superficial and shallow kids who throw insults at Donna about her gloved arms. Navin is steadfast in his loyalty to Donna. This relationship is a little shining star in the novel. Is there something more than friendship there? I think Donna wonders a time or two, but when Xan (Alexander) enters the picture, Donna begins to put Navin on the back burner. Not intentional, but the lies she feeds Navin about where she is and who she is with make her feel guilty - for a good reason I might add! This happens often with young people. A new boy or girl enters the picture and everything else gets pushed aside.
Xan and Donna have instant chemistry. In a nutshell, they are both loners and their peers have preconceived opinions about them. Their romantic relationship is slow and steady. It's nice, not too rushed and not hot and heavy. When Nav is kidnapped by the fey, Xan proves he is worthy of Donna. (She has 2 great guys in her life!) He drops everything and risks his well-being to help her find and rescue Navin. His own secretive past plays a vital role in the rescue attempt. I wasn't expecting the adventure that ensues. The rest of the book builds in to a few climatic points with Donna using her wits and strength to retrieve Navin.
The Iron Witch has several fantasy elements, but the story isn't bogged down with new vocabulary (Eragon anyone?) or a zillion historical references. That's a good thing! Having said that, I would have liked to see a few more explanations of events (Xav and his mystery, the one thing that swirls when Xan touches it, and the very very end) and a bit more information about the Orders spread across the chapters. But, I am sure all of these will be addressed in the next book, The Wood Queen. Tiny complaints - the wood queen didn't seem menacing or evil enough for me. I was expecting something along the same lines of a queen of a faerie court. Sly, manipulative, and unforgiving. For me, the wood queen was a little safe. On the other hand, the wood elves and Skriker's were described as absolutely terrifying. The wood elves and their long twig like fingers, hair like moss, and skin that looked like the bark of an old tree. Ew! The Iron Witch is a great start to a saga that young fantasy lovers will love.
Sidenote: that cover is gorgeous!! I am very excited to learn what The Wood Queen will look like.