Ironside - Holly Black

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Ironside - Holly Black

Holly Black's long-awaited sequel to Tithe sees Roiben uneasy on the Unseelie throne, his tenuous hold on his subjects compounded by his relationship ...

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Review of "Ironside - Holly Black"

published 03/07/2009 | magdadh
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"Feral Fairies"

A whole sub-genre of urban (feral) fairy stories seems to have evolved in the blink of an eye, and Holly Black is one of its more vigorous exponents. The Modern Faerie Tales series includes the excellent Tithe, Valiant and the newest volume titled Ironside, which ties together the plot lines of the previous two books while being of a more direct sequel to Tithe.

Kaye Fierch is a sixteen year old girl, high-school drop-out with a rock'n'roller mother. Or so she thought until recently. In fact, she is a changeling, a green pixie who has grown up as a human child and only recently discovered her true nature.

Ironside picks up two months after the momentous events of Tithe, the winter solstice (and Christmas) is approaching and in Faerie, Roiben is being crowned as a King of the dark Unseelie Court. Kaye, insecure in her new pixie identity, full of love for Roiben and drunk on faerie wine, declares herself to him and ends up sent on a seemingly impossible quest. She can't see or speak with Roiben unless she can find a faerie who can lie.

Her life, insecure at best, seems to completely fall to pieces. She confesses to her mother and sets off to the Seelie Court to recover the original changeling. But in the world of faerie courts, war is brewing and Kaye and her gay friend Corny find themselves involved in the intrigues between Silarial, queen of the Seelie Court and Roiben. The quest takes Kaye and Corny to New York, where they have a go at exploring the urban part of the faerie world, where exiled fey deal in drugs and a boy with True Sight tries to help people deal with the feral curses.

I loved Tithe for its mix of vivid downbeat imagery, small-town teenage life grittiness and a confident use of all faerie tropes. I found Ironside less of a climactic read, but it's still a very good one and it tugs proficiently at more strings of the teenage soul than the previous book did. There is the main Kaye-Roiben love story, of course; there is a growing-up-into responsibility theme; there is one about rebuilding the connection with family and meaning of maternal love; there is even a sub-plot of a (subtle) gay love story so beloved of female teenagers with slightly Gothic proclivities.

I liked the way that the faerie and human worlds mixed and intertwined. I suppose the whole convention somehow harks to Buffy and other urban vampire stories, but I prefer the feral faerie convention as it's less uncomfortably near the fetish titillation, while allowing plenty of scope for dark, bloody and decadent machinations of the Faerie courts.

The descriptions of the Other are far from glossy: although fascinatingly compelling, the faerie world is also cruel and capricious, in some fundamental way truly inhuman. I think that making the main character a pixie who grew up on the Ironside is particularly effective here: the pull of the Faerie is thus stronger on her, but, paradoxically, she's also in some ways more able to resist it. The unhealthy attraction of the Courts (particularly the Dark one) are made manifest in the story of Corny, whose earlier entanglement in the decidedly BDSM style relationship with a dark Faerie knight leaves him traumatised for quite a while, until he finds a hope of happiness with somebody more of this world.

Despite all the swearing, drinks, drugs and rock and roll (and at least hints at sex) Ironside is aspirational in a fundamentally un-threatening and un-subversive manner which perhaps places it most firmly as the member of the 'Young Adult' niche rather than completely grown up book, but, although aimed clearly at the older end of the teen market, it can be very much enjoyed by anybody else that likes to step into a modern feral faerie tale.

This review was originally written for www.thebookbag.co.uk.

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Comments on this review

  • TheHairyGodmother published 28/09/2009
    Well reviewed! VH
  • catsholiday published 13/07/2009
    Does not appeal to me at all - thanks for the tip off.
  • mumsymary published 03/07/2009
    interesting review
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Product Information : Ironside - Holly Black

Manufacturer's product description

Holly Black's long-awaited sequel to Tithe sees Roiben uneasy on the Unseelie throne, his tenuous hold on his subjects compounded by his relationship with a commoner -- and one raised as a human to boot.

Product Details

EAN: 9781847393449

Type: Fiction

Genre: Modern Fiction

Title: Ironside

Author: Holly Black

Edition: Paperback

Publisher: Pocket Books

ISBN: 1847393446

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Listed on Ciao since: 08/06/2009