Release Date: March 1, 2011
More Info: Amazon
Series: #3 in the Dark Swan series
New York Times bestselling author Richelle Mead takes readers back to the Otherworld, an embattled realm mystically entwined with our world--and ruled by one woman's dangerous choice. . .
Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham is the best at banishing entities trespassing in the mortal realm. But as the Thorn Land's queen, she's fast running out of ways to end the brutal war devastating her kingdom. Her only hope: the Iron Crown, a legendary object even the most powerful gentry fear. . .
Who Eugenie can trust is the hardest part. Fairy king Dorian has his own agenda for aiding her search. And Kiyo, her shape-shifter ex-boyfriend, has every reason to betray her along the way. To control the Crown's ever-consuming powers, Eugenie will have to confront an unimaginable temptation--one that will put her soul and the fate of two worlds in mortal peril. . .
Today, we have another guest reviewer, Hurog_Kate.. She was talking about Iron Crowned after she read it and I asked if she'd mind typing that up for me into a review. :D Hurog_Kate is an aspiring writer who works in education to pay the bills. (Okay, she actually really likes her day job but would quit in a heartbeat if she had an actual paying career as a writer.) She's an incessant fiction reader, primarily in the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, and Mystery genres. She's also stupidly opinionated (her words, not mine, lol) about what she's read... but will likely not argue with you about it if your opinion differs. :)
Contains Spoilers for Books 1 and 2 in the series
I’ve never been particularly driven to review books in any sort of professional/public capacity. I’ve got lots of reasons for this. For one, I’m an aspiring writer myself, which means that I fear the “lemme tell y’all how it’s done” syndrome. Plus, well, I’m afraid of ticking off any potential future employers or avenues to publication. (And yes, I know that sounds kind of silly… but there you go.) Secondly, I spent several years in graduate school for writing, which meant I analyzed every word I read or wrote ad nauseum. It started to impinge on my actual enjoyment of reading for pleasure. These days, I’m quite happy with my informal review process: Loved it! Hated it! Didn’t finish. Heroine TSTL (too stupid to live). Meh. It was fine. I got it for free. And so on.
This long-winded opening is to explain why I quite happily classify this as an UN-professional, highly subjective reaction to reading Iron Crowned, the third book in the Eugenie Markham Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead. Not a review.
Additionally, it’s very important to me to point out that I stand in awe of anyone who can finish a coherent novel, let alone the number that Ms. Mead has.
I loved the first book in the series, Storm Born. It introduced the heroine, Eugenie Markham—aka Dark Swan—a half fey/half human shaman who works to banish spirits and fey who illegally cross over into our world. In fairly classic Fantasy series fashion, a startling prophecy is revealed: in this case, that her firstborn son will conquer the human world for the fey. She spends the rest of this book and the next navigating between the human and fey worlds trying to stop this prophecy from coming true. Of course, there are two gorgeous love interests: the Human kitsune (fox-shifter) Kiyo and the scary/sexy fey King Dorian who seeks to train Eugenie in her fey powers of controlling storms. Of course, Dorian is quite honest about how happy he would be to put a bun in Eug’s oven, but he does help her in his own Machiavellan way throughout the series.
By the time we get to this third book (SPOILERS for books 1 and 2), Eugenie has been repeatedly attacked, taken over an entire kingdom and remade it in the image of her beloved Arizona desert, discovered an unknown half-sister who also may fulfill the prophecy, discovered that her boyfriend Kiyo knocked up one of the few (apparently) friendly fey monarchs (awkward)… oh, and gotten kidnapped by the lunatic son of a rival monarch and repeatedly raped in his attempt to impregnate her and bring about the prophecy. That ends badly for him when she ends up being rescued by a contingent including Kiyo and Dorian, who ends up running the douchebag kidnapper/rapist through with his sword. Which I was pretty much “right on!” about but Kiyo refused to do because it wasn’t moral or something, and it turns out he might have been kind of right because it puts Eugenie and Dorian at war in the fey world against his mother, whom I will now refer to as “Rape-Mommy” because she encouraged all of these shenanigans. By the end of the second book, she’s broken up with Kiyo and is firmly in a relationship with Dorian. Oh, and her step-father, the shaman who trained her, is not speaking to her because he’s super mad that she has a kingdom in Otherworld.
As I said, I loved the first book. I found the second book a little frustrating with Eug continuing to juggle her commitments in the human world (her shaman/exorcism business) with those in the fey world, with somewhat limited success. But I was still really looking forward to the third book. Let’s start with the positives for the book: as always, Mead’s characters leap off of the page. Her dialogue is fun and the world that she has built (both human and fey) are alive and real within the confines of the book. In terms of world-building, she is almost always consistent (which is harder than you might think). There is one pretty big inconsistency very late in the book, but it honestly could be explained away at some point… which doesn’t mean it didn’t bug me. I’m just not sure it should have. LOL I can honestly say that I would not have had such a negative reaction to the book if it wasn’t written so vividly.
I can sum up my annoyance without MASSIVE spoilers by looking at two factors: One, Eugenie generally doesn't take any responsibility for her own actions through pretty much the whole book. These actions include: cheating on Dorian (while convincing herself that she didn't cheat); running back to Kiyo; taking over a whole other kingdom; ignoring the concerns of her stepfather and mom; and then when Kiyo suddenly and almost inexplicably becomes horrible, running back to Dorian. Sigh. It’s like this very adult series suddenly took a left turn from a great blend of high and urban fantasy to Young Adult Soap Opera land.
The second factor is that I think the only major character who acts consistently with everything we've been told about him for the two previous books is Dorian. But I'm pretty sure we're supposed to think he's a lying, manipulative scumbag and it's okay that Eugenie gets it on with Kiyo before actually breaking up with Dorian. The big reveal that drove Eugenie away from Dorian was not a small thing. It’s definitely a HUGE “we gotta talk” moment among two adults in a relationship. That talk might be nothing more than, “screw you, I’m out.” But there should be a meeting of the minds.
In fact, almost everyone careens through this book from action to reaction back to action with no thought and the thinnest of rationalizations. I found myself with that extreme WTF look on my face so often, my husband asked me what the heck I was reading that made me look like that. There's a reason I don't read YA books anymore. I like my characters to act like adults, not whiny teenagers who only think about what the world and other people owe them, rather than how their actions affect the world as a whole.
Now, below is my really unprofessional rant about the plot that I sent to a few friends. It is almost completely unedited so it contains major spoilers and a complete description of why I really was pretty irritated by almost the entire book. Also, there is a lot of raving and many, many sentence fragments. DON'T SCROLL DOWN if you don't want to know almost everything that happens in the book.
Okay, she's well and truly with Dorian in the beginning. Angry with Kiyo, who is seemingly back involved with Maiwenn. She and Dorian are at war with the Rowan Land, because Dorian killed Rape Mommy’s son. Eugenie's feeling all guilty about the loss of life in the war, but not feeling particularly interested in surrendering. None of that bothers me too much. Rape-Mommy seems pretty off the deep end, herself, so in comparison Eugenie is a fair and benevolent ruler.
She is spending much more time in Otherland, which is good, I guess, since her step-dad Roland is not speaking to her so she doesn't get to talk to her Mom much. This was probably my first... huh? Sorry Roland is all pissed off, and I guess I can kind of see why, but NONE of them are able to sit down and talk about all this crap like adults? Eugenie is hiding like she's a recalcitrant 16-year-old who got grounded, and, sorry, but what kind of mother all but stops talking to her daughter because her husband (not even the biological dad) is angry?
Then, about a third of the way through the book, Eugenie stumbles upon this "seeress" who tells her about the Iron Crown, which can end the war if she finds it. E talks to Dorian, and he's all, "huh, never thought about that..." and then tells her that it's this legendary artifact that is almost impossible for one of the Gentry to get, because not only is the crown itself Iron, but it's surrounded by Iron. And there's a bunch of "trials" to get to it. Standard prophecy stuff. There's a bunch of Eugenie letting Dorian and her advisors handle all her s!*t while she wanders back and forth between the human world and the fey world, which I'm starting to get a bit irritated with. Then, when E decides to go after the Iron Crown, Dorian suggests that Kiyo go with her, because, since Kiyo and Eugenie are both half-human, the iron wouldn't affect either of them. Also, he tells her that she mustn't let Kiyo talk to Maiwenn about it -- she basically has to pressure him into going with her with a bunch of manipulative bulls!*t. Which is very par for the course for Mr. End-Justifies-The-Means Dorian, but not even remotely normal for Eugenie. Then Eugenie and Dorian have this short talk about how they "love" and "trust" each other... which of course you know means that they're gonna be over soon.
Sure enough, she bullies Kiyo into going with her, loses all perspective, passes the trials, and gets the Iron Crown. Then she finds out that, in contrast to what Dorian told her, the Iron Crown would enable her to break another ruler's connection to their own land and take it over for herself. Apparently, she finds the fact that Dorian might be manipulative a COMPLETE SHOCK, and decides that they are "over in her mind," so this means she can have durrty, nasty sex with Kiyo, and it's not really cheating.
Naturally, when they get back to Dorian's, he's pretty much like, "yeah, I manipulated it a little, because if I'd have told you the truth, you wouldn't have gone and got it, and oh, yeah, that's who I've been the ENTIRE time you've known me, why is this a shock?" And then, when he figures out she and Kiyo got it on, he revokes their hospitality and gets very angry. And EUGENIE pretty much spends the rest of the book talking about how he had no right to be mad because they had broken up in her mind. Are you effing kidding me? If you jack another person without breaking up with your current partner first, YOU. ARE. CHEATING.
So, suddenly she and Kiyo are back together, and this leads to about six weeks of mad sex, and spending most of her time in the Human realm, because ... I don't know. Dorian's mad at her? She's mad at Dorian? She's TWELVE? Instead of staying in the Otherworld and forcing the Queen to work out the terms of a truce and ending the war, she pouts and has lots of sex and lets her advisors deal with all of the negotiations. Then she's shocked that the other Queen has circumvented all of her promises, kidnapped Eugenie's sister, and is demanding an unconditional surrender.
Next thing you know, she and Kiyo and some random shape changing assassin (don't ask--from an earlier convenient subplot) are sneaking into the Queen's castle, rescuing her sister, and getting caught. Then, of course, she uses the Iron Crown (which she conveniently packed in her backpack) to sunder the Queen's relationship to the land and take it over for herself. I think I'm supposed to be impressed by her moral fortitude in keeping the land as the Rowan land, instead of making it another desert, but whatever.
And... then she and her sister and Kiyo go back to the Human Realm, and once again, everything's left up to her advisors, and there's lots of random sex, but she's starting to worry about Kiyo because he keeps going to talk to Maiwenn. Or maybe, I don’t know… see his DAUGHTER?? But we're supposed to start thinking Kiyo's doing her dirty again or something.
Next thing you know, she's feeling weird and finds out she's seven weeks pregnant, and almost immediately discovers that it's twins, and it's a boy and a girl. At this point, let's just ignore the rather egregious plot holes and deus ex machina of her conveniently getting knocked up because in a random series of events at the top of the book she took some antibiotics which of course negated her birth control pills. And of course, because for… I dunno, one single day before she took off on her get-the-crown, psychically-break-up-with-Dorian-and-get-down-with-Kiyo trip, she and Dorian only had oral instead of full sex, the babies couldn't POSSIBLY be Dorian’s. Because sperm can’t actually live in the womb for four days or anything. Then Kiyo is all, "you have to get an abortion, you promised, remember that prophecy about conquering the world" and the moment she hears their heartbeats she's not going to get an abortion, so now he's GOING TO KILL HER. That’s right. The guy who’s supposedly soooo in love with her is now going to kill her. In the doctor’s office.
So she and her sister escape from the doctor’s office to the Otherworld with no specific crossing point in mind, so OF COURSE she drops into Dorian's throne room and begs him for sanctuary before Kiyo comes thundering in approximately 2 minutes later, thus breaking almost every rule about crossing worlds that has ever been given in the series so far, and after making her wait for a while, Dorian grants her asylum, and then offers to tell everyone the babies are his, even though of course they can't be because they had oral sex once.
And that's pretty much where it ends. And every time I think about it, I get more irritated at the whole thing.
This book is owned by the reviewer.