Title: Iron Cast
Author: Destiny Soria
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQ+ characters, Friendship-focused
Recommended Readers: Fans of magical realism, 1920s-era
Ah, gosh, I loved this. Magical realism, 1919 setting, diverse characters, thoughtful prose. Consider me swept away!
Iron Cast is Destiny Soria’s debut, standalone novel, and I am an instant fan. The cover alone stole my breath, and the contents inside delivered, taking me to this historical yet magical Boston that I didn’t want to leave.
The novel follows the fierce friendship of two young women, Ada Navarra, the daughter of immigrants, and Corinne Wells, the daughter of an elite Boston family. Neither of them seem to have much in common besides the fact that they’re both hemopaths, or people whose blood cannot tolerate iron and who possess certain gifts. Corinne is a wordsmith who can bring people into her thrall, experiencing any emotion and memory she desires by reciting poetry, and Ada, a songsmith, does the same with her violin.
These gifts aren’t what bonds the two, however; their friendship is much deeper and subtler than that, thanks to Soria’s way with prose and human relationships. Both girls work at the Cast Iron, a Boston club that offers illegal hemopathy shows, working cons for their boss, a gangster named Johnny Dervish. After the girls pull off one huge con on a Boston politician, laws restricting hemopathy get passed, and Ava finds herself in Haversham Asylum, waiting for Corinne to break her out.
The plot takes off from there, both girls dealing with the consequences of their con jobs, family strains, and enemies that keep circling closer, intending to find strong hemopaths to achieve a darker purpose. They’re joined by an equally diverse cast of characters, but the story always remains focused on Ava and Corinne’s friendship, and I adored that.
While the first half of the book is a little slow going, I didn’t mind because of the writing. I don’t know how many times and in how many ways I need to say it, but I love Soria’s style. I love the subtle nuances of her prose, how Corinne and Ada aren’t these larger-than-life characters but wind up being great balances for each other, Ada the calm patience and voice of reason to Corinne’s reckless, devil-may-care vibe. I love how Soria brings up racial tensions and class standings in post-slavery America while also allowing Ada and her boyfriend Charlie to be their own characters and not the spokespeople for an entire race. I love how she discusses LGBTQ+ relationships using her characters James, Madeline, and Saint. Everything is suburb groundwork for the second half, which takes off and doesn’t stop.
This book isn’t about romance, favoring friendships instead, but some romance does happen. Charlie and Ada are already established by the start of the novel, and it’s fun to just see a relationship happen and grow without a whole lot of fuss. Corinne and Gabriel’s slowburn killed me, and I loved every second of it. And James and Saint, wow. So much chemistry, it pains me that so much of their relationship was “off-screen,” so to speak. Always, though, the book turns back to the unconditional love between Ada and Corinne, how they challenge and frustrate and delight each other, and always have each other’s back even to their own detriment. It just made me feel good inside to read.
I’ll definitely be checking out Soria’s 2018 novel, Beneath the Citadel. I need more of her magic.