Julie Kagawa's The Iron King is the story of Meghan Chase, ordinary girl living with her mom, younger brother, and stepfather on a farm in Louisiana. And of course she feels out of place, not having money for fancy clothes, longing for the hot guy at school, not feeling accepted by her stepfather. Turns out that's only the surface of her troubles, though. Instead of just the awkward teen years, Meghan's issues turn deadly when she discovers that her younger brother has been replaced by a changeling, her best friend is actually Puck from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and her father is Oberon. And the only one who can save her four year old brother Ethan is Meghan herself--and to do this, she's got to suspend her disbelief in faeries, gnomes, centaurs, whatever, and enter the land of Nevernever in order to bring him home.
Events are fast and furious in Kagawa's story: Meghan and Puck employ the help of Grimalkin, a sort of Cheshire Cat, to help them find their way through the land while her father, King Oberon, wishes Meghan to stay at his court now that she knows of its existence. At the same time, Meghan's attention is drawn to Ash, a prince of the Winter Court whose intentions seem to be at odds with her own. Innumerable creatures flit through the story; at times the descriptions seem to be more of the point than the actual tale. But Kagawa keeps things moving along at a fast pace and ends up giving us a story that could easily be an analogy for our technology obsessed lifestyles of today.
I wondered how best to describe this story and gave it a good deal of thought for this review. It's not the most complicated story nor is it unusual, but it is engaging and fun with lots and lots of action. I finally realized that Kagawa took the best bits of several different ideas and wound them all together into an entertaining mash-up. Basically, The Iron King is Alice in Wonderland + The Neverending Story + A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a helping of the Disney Channel's The Wizards of Waverly Place mixed in with Romeo and Juliet...and Star Trek's Borg poured liberally over the top. Completely fun and a great set-up for the next book in the series.