1/07/2011. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
Iron Crowned (Dark Swan series book 3) by Richelle Mead. pub: Bantam Books/Transworld. 378 page small enlarged paperback. Price: GBP 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-0-55382-610-4.
check out website: www.booksattransworld.co.uk and www.richellemead.com
Books must be fun. Okay, everybody’s definition of fun is different. Some readers get intense enjoyment from the logical progression of an argument within the pages to a satisfying conclusion of a mathematical formula. Others prefer Mills & Boon romances. The fun should also be enjoyed by the author in writing the book. It always shows. Whether it is in lavish descriptions, emotional characters or discussions on the rise and fall of civilisations. It doesn’t matter whether it is fact or fiction or something in between. Occasionally, an author has too much fun and becomes self-indulgent. It’s not always easy to tell.
When Richelle Mead began this series with ‘Storm Born’, her main character was based in a contemporary America which was plagued with supernatural beings, ghosts, brownies goblins and other such who had come from other, parallel realms for their own purposes. If they were a nuisance, Eugenie Markham and her step-father could be hired to get rid of them. Showdowns were battles of wits and magic and dangerous. Often they get hurt. Then Eugenie discovers that her father was a powerful king of the Shining Ones or gentry who are the rulers of the Otherworld. The Thorn Land claims her as its queen forming a bond breakable only by death. Her life instantly becomes complicated. She has serious falling out with her step-father. Her relationship with her boyfriend, Kiyo, (part-human, part-kitsune) cools, especially when she finds out that another Otherworld queen is expecting his child. She also discovers her father has another daughter, Jasmine, who is determined to get pregnant. Like a lot of fantasies of this kind, there is a prophecy. This states that the son of the Storm King’s daughter would conquer the human world. That means either Eugenie or Jasmine’s son.
The second volume, ‘Thorn Queen’, sees Eugenie trying to keep Jasmine away from men and fending off all advances from gentry men that want to get her into bed, even though she has explained that she has no intention of getting pregnant. After the son of the Queen of the Rowan Land kidnaps and rapes her, war breaks out.
As ‘Iron Crowned’ begins, Eugenie is allied with Dorian, the Oak King. She hates the deaths the war causes and when a seeress tells her about the Iron Crown, she reluctantly goes after it. This artefact is something only someone with human blood can wear as all gentry are made ill by iron. She is told that whoever wields the crown will have the power to sunder a land from their ruler and thus the potential to rule all of the Otherworld. Eugenie is worried about this amount of power but Dorian tells her that she doesn’t have to use it. Just having it will scare the other rulers and they will be able to negotiate a peace. She agrees to go with Kiyo to accompany her.
With Eugenie becoming more and more entangled with Otherworld politics, she is spending less time in the human world. Her work as a shaman, banishing supernatural creatures has been largely sidelined. She does a few jobs, just enough to further a few of the plot lines and gets hurt, but the details are very sketchy. Although Richelle Mead appears to be having fun with what she is writing, the course of the series has very much changed from the initial conception. What began as a conflict between human and Otherworld, with Eugenie caught in the middle has changed to something that is more familiar from older fantasy novels. Still at the centre are Eugenie’s emotions but she is becoming more gentry than human as she spends longer in the Otherworld. In some respects, it is fortunate that the whole of this novel was not the quest for the Iron Crown even though it felt briefer than it should have been – almost a short story within the novel. It acts as a vehicle for getting Eugenie and Kiyo alone together, an excuse for adding sex to the plot, of planting seeds of doubt about Dorian into her mind and providing the plot with a get out clause for later.
Many readers will enjoy the change of tack but I wonder if Mead is trying to write too much, too quickly and does not have the time to flesh out some of the intriguing aspects of this series.
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