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The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge
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The Iron Thorn

by Caitlin Kittredge

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: The Iron Codex (1)

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Aoife Grayson is in school in 1950s Lovecraft (a steampunk version of Boston) studying to be an engineer and work on the giant subterranean engine that runs the city. She wants to do well in school because the 1950s is super opressive to women so she will have to be someone's secretary unless she gets the extremely technical, physical, and dangerous job of engineer. The other boys and girls in engineering school are mean to her because she is a ward of the state who is attending school on a scholarship, and also her mother is in a madhouse, and her brother went mad on his sixteenth birthday so obviously that means Aoife will go crazy on her 16th birthday as well. The people who run the school tell Aoife that she is going to be kicked out of school because she's definitely going to go crazy, and then she gets a magical message from her brother saying he needs help and telling her to go to their father's house in the country. So Aoife sneakily runs away from the school that just told her she was kicked out and goes to the bad part of town where she . . . .

.....I'm sorry. I can't do it. I can't even pretend that the plot of this book makes any freaking sense whatsoever. The only thing worse than the plot is the characterization. The main character is idiotic and inconsistant and the secondary characters are one-dimensional at BEST. The initial world-building (scientific/steampunk/overly-rational/anti-religon/anti-magic/oppressive dystopia/sexist 1950s/some kind of zombie-virus outbreak?) is absolutely abysmal. And then, Aoife finds another world of fairies and magic which is equally poorly imagined. And then, she finds ANOTHER world which I don't even know what it was because daghsdgfilh9uweroergna67urtyhndfgh435jnfvegethj. And then also there's another world. That pretty much sums it up. "Clusterf***" is the nicest way I can think of to describe it.

I wrote a kind of pre-review for myself when I was halfway done with the book in which I said that the plot was just barely compensating for the uncomfortably-bad writing. Shortly after that the mediocre plot took a nose-dive and now I would neither recommend this book nor read further in the series if you paid me. ( )
5 vote norabelle414 | Jul 16, 2013 |
Dystopian. Steampunk. Dark fantasy. Amazing world building. ( )
  LaneLiterati | Apr 22, 2013 |
I had started this book eons ago, and then gotten bogged down in the middle, and annoyed with both the steampunk and dystopian genres. I finally picked it back up because I felt like I ought to finish it and the cover was so pretty. I really enjoyed the last half, having far less of a problem with the love triangle than I often do. Anyway, looking forward to the sequels! [June 2011] ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
Very, very, VERY dark. I liked the basic concepts, but when it had the brief moments of levity, it jarred me too much against the dire backdrops. ( )
  Jami_Leigh | Mar 31, 2013 |
Review courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick & Dirty: This unique, albeit slow steampunk has deep characters with dark secrets and the surprising (epic) addition of fairies. (Sorry, “eldritch creatures.”)

Opening Sentence: There are seventeen madhouses in the city of Lovecraft.

The Review:

I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting there to be fairies. Maybe because the synopsis says “magic and witchcraft,” I wasn’t expecting the “eldritch creatures” to be fairies. But they are. Really, super creepy fairies. So get excited, because they totally ratchet up the tension level when they make it into the story. Then there’s the necrovirus, which Aoife’s mother has. It consumes the infected’s brain until they become a “nightjar,” a horrible creature who in turn can infect someone else with just a bite. The Heretics of the story are the ones who don’t buy into Lovecraft’s propaganda about science, religion, and reality, but practice magic outside the law.

Aoife (pronounced, ‘eefuh.’ I asked Kittredge.) lives as a ward of the state because her mother is in a madhouse. The beginning of the novel instantly pulls you in…and then the pace drops to a snail’s. Around pg 150 it picks back up again; the in-between is filled with world-building and character development, but that doesn’t stop it from being slow. There are places where the novel has an Indiana Jones vibe—adventure, secret chambers, traps, and so on—that make the slow bits totally worth it.

The “Iron world” only has one truth. Scientific and dictatorial, it’s terrifying in the medieval aspects it clings to. Their punishments for heretics who don’t follow their beliefs—which are the only beliefs, the true beliefs—reminded me of the Inquisition. In most ways, the “Land of Thorn” is just a different type of scary. Unpredictable, its treacherous “Folk” are absolutely spine-chilling and the land is inhabited by trees that will swallow you whole to make you a part of them. The world-building is unique and deep and amazing.

Aoife’s time is running out. When she turns sixteen she’s going to go crazy like the rest of her family. The necrovirus lies dormant in their genes. The great thing about 500 pages is that the author has a lot of time to develop her characters. Aoife turns into a real person—not just another bada$$ YA heroine (though she is). She makes mistakes, doubts herself, has good and bad sides to her. But the part I absolutely loved about Kittredge’s characters is the way they grow. Cal and Dean start out looking like your average love triangle competitors, but when secrets get revealed you begin to wonder who’s really good for Aoife. All three—Dean, Cal and Aoife—had moments when their secrets surprised me.

Kitredge’s writing is incredible, which is one of the reasons why the books long, slow pace didn’t seem to matter while I was reading it. She’s very poetic, but her tone sets the world grim and dark. Usually when I read science fiction, I like a lot of detail because it gives me a chance to nerd-out over inventions and impossible gadgets. This book had the perfect balance of detail. I can’t wait to pick up the sequel! I have complete faith it will deliver—especially given the wonderful ending Kittredge put on this one. (And by wonderful, I mean horrible. Why are authors so mean?!) I look forward to more high-stake adventures with these fantastic characters.

Notable Scene:

“But to hear my father tell it in his writings, it’s not heresy—nothing born of the necrovirus. Nor are all of the inhuman things in the world, the shandy-men and nightjars and the abominations…they don’t come from a person being infected. They aren’t people at all…they came from the…the Land of Thorn. Wherever that is.”

Below, Arkham was ringed in fire. The mist too on an unearthly glow, living and boiling in the cauldron of the valley. “He calls it the Weird,” I said softly. “My father. And his father. A Grayson has had it, for fourteen generations. I…”

I might not be mad after all.

FTC Advisory: Delacorte Press/Random House provided me with a copy of The Iron Thorn No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Nov 6, 2012 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Caitlin Kittredgeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jade, LauraCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lazzaretti, RobertIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parcell, TrishDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In an alternate 1950s, mechanically gifted fifteen-year-old Aoife Grayson, whose family has a history of going mad at sixteen, must leave the totalitarian city of Lovecraft and venture into the world of magic to solve the mystery of her brother's disappearance and the mysteries surrounding her father and the Land of Thorn.… (more)

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