Meghan Chase has kept her promise and allowed Ash, prince of the Winter Court, to take her back to the castle of his mother, Queen Mab. Before arriving at the castle, Meghan thought a hint of romance had blossomed between her and Ash. Yet now he treats her with cold disdain before the entire Unseelie court.
The early chapters of The Iron Daughter (2010) focus largely on Ash’s icy demeanor and Meghan’s resulting hurt feelings. Meghan is rather annoying in these scenes; her angst drowns out any rational thought she might apply to the matter. The reader can easily see the real reason for Ash’s behavior, and so it’s frustrating to watch Meghan miss it. Happily, this doesn’t go on too long before Julie Kagawa introduces this book’s big conflict.
To sum it up quickly and as non-spoilerishly as possible, the Iron Court has regrouped under a new King and is trying to foment war between the Summer and Winter courts. Meghan and a small group of allies are the only ones who realize what’s really happening and must remedy the situation before the two courts can decimate each other. The plot structure is similar to that of The Iron King. Kagawa takes us on a quickly-moving trip through the beautiful and perilous realms of the fey. We meet a host of new characters — from a spider that had this arachnophobic reviewer shuddering, to a rogue fey Queen who is both frightening and a lot of fun to read about. The Iron Fey novels would probably make terrific animated movies, come to think of it, with their exciting plots and the striking visual imagery Kagawa creates.
Along the way, Meghan develops as a character. She finds new strengths within herself, both of the magical and leadership varieties. I enjoyed watching Meghan stand up to powerful forces and make difficult decisions. I suspect she’ll probably be Queen of one court or another before this series is over, and she’s starting to show the steel she’ll need in that capacity.
Less satisfactory is the romantic subplot. I may just be too old for this, but it feels a little contrived. Starting with the aforementioned misunderstanding about Ash’s snub, we then move on to the love triangle foreshadowed in the first book (are love triangles required in young adult fantasy at the moment?), and later a high school dance that just so happens to be held on exactly the night Meghan and friends need it to fix a metaphysical problem.
In the end, though, we get to see Meghan exhibit some of the backbone she’s developing, and major choices are made. I’m looking forward to the next book, The Iron Queen, and hoping it has more politics, more scary faeries, and less angst.