Author: Holly Black
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 323
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQ+ characters
Recommended Readers: Ages 14+, Lovers of Dark Themes
I chose to skip Valiant, book two in this Modern Faerie Tale trilogy, because it didn’t have much bearing on the actual plot. Ironside picks up where Tithe left off, with Kaye preparing for Roiben’s coronation and Corny trying to discover how he, as a human, can become immune to faerie charms. When Kaye drunkenly declares herself to Roiben in front of his court, he gives her a seemingly impossible task to fulfill: find a faerie that can tell an untruth.
Kaye spends much of the novel separate from Roiben, attempting to solve his riddle while wrestling with her Changeling status. Meanwhile, Roiben is dealing with Fae politics, both from the Seelie Court and within his own court, which he’s chosen to rule and protect although the denizens there revolt him.
Kaye’s struggle to decide where she truly belongs isn’t a new angle for a character, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying it and rooting for her. When she tells her mother the truth about the human child Kaye was switched with, I was on pins and needles because how does a sane parent react to something like that? That particular side-plot and relationship are very well handled, much better than the first book and with some much needed growth, and I like how everything between Kaye and her mom ended up.
Inversely, I do wish that Kaye and Roiben had spent a little more time together (okay, a lot more), and I feel like their relationship does lack the romantic resolution I really craved (not even a kiss, guys, really?), but I love all the internal politics and learning more about Fae culture through Roiben’s POV. I could read a whole trilogy about just that, to be honest. Also, Kaye’s coronation gift to Roiben and his reaction to it was super cute.
My favorite character arc of the novel, though, is Corny’s. He goes down a dark road to find the answers he seeks to never become a faerie plaything again, winds up with answers he doesn’t want, and overall grows into a better, braver character. His relationship with Kaye—his willingness to stand by her—is heartwarming, and even though the kid is messed up in some ways, he stands out as a character who knows his failings but tries to do right by his people anyway. His romance with Luis—a character introduced in Valiant but who also has a strong standing and character arc here—was so good. They both are going through some hard things, but they wind up growing together.
I’m glad I took the time to finally read this series because it’s only got me more geared up to read Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest and The Cruel Prince, which comes out next year. Swerve, Sarah J. Maas. Holly Black truly is the Faerie Queen, and she deserves all the props for knowing what Fae are and keeping their true natures intact.
On that note, Silarial can go choke, bye.