Still cleaning up my database one old review at a time. Sorry if these seen this before.
Ironside is the third book in the Modern Faerie Tales series that started with Tithe. Unlike Valiant, which was about an entirely new cast of characters (for the most part), this one brings back Roiben, Kaye and Corny and throws them into another adventure of love and faerie war.
Beginning right after the events in Tithe, Roiben is facing his coronation as King of the Unseelie Court. There is just enough back-story here to catch readers up without boring them to death or confusing the hell out of them. Holly Black does a great job with this, so much so that I can safely say you pick this one up without having read the previous two and not feel too lost (it had been years since I’d read Tithe). There are also some wrenching flashbacks into the terrible things that were foisted up Roiben during his service as Knight to the Unseelie Queen which instantly help the reader understand him better. Roiben was raised in the Seelie Court and is now torn between his roots and his new Kingdom.
So here we have Roiben doing his best in a lose/lose situation while trying to keep those he loves safe from the machinations of the Fairie Court. Naturally Kaye, his stubborn, young pixie love, refuses to listen to him and stay Ironside with the mortals. The fae folk cannot tolerate iron but Kaye can deal with it better because she was raised as a mortal. Kaye ends up in a heap of trouble because she is still unsure of Roiben’s love even after he says this:
“You are the only thing I have that is neither duty or obligation. The only thing I chose for myself. The only thing I want.”
Sigh. Silly, silly girl. But I forgive her because she’s young and not gentry and her life has been turned upside. Also, if it weren’t for her denseness at this point this would have been a very short and/or very different kind of book! She’s impulsive and insecure, yes, but also very brave and clever and she only has herself to rely on for rescue at several points during the book.
The bulk of Ironside is taken up with quests, a nasty curse, adventure, deaths, sarcasm, misunderstandings that didn’t get on my nerves, a separation between Kaye and Roiben (but worth it in the end) and a nicely done romance for Kaye’s friend Corny who finds himself a boyfriend (yay!). As usual, Holly Black doesn’t shy away from the dark edges, never goes all mushy and creates a fantasy world that is grounded in the realism of her characters. Some folks dislike her penchant for teen drinking, cursing and the horrible parental guidance but it all works for me in the world she has created. A world one will never find boring or vanilla. And it ends spectacularly well.