The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Karen Mahoney The Iron Witch

290 pp.  Flux  2011 ISBN: 978-0-7387-2582-6

Summary (Taken from the author’s website): FREAK. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

This is the first novel I’ve read pretty much strictly about faeries, and I’m happy to report that I’ll be looking for more now!  I guess I don’t really have a reason why I haven’t read any previously, because I’ve read novels that include fey lore and that have characters who encounter faeries.

The Iron Witch grabbed my attention immediately with Donna’s journal recounting her recurring dream about her father’s death.  “In my nightmares, I’m always running through twisted woodland.  The trees bend close together and whisper beneath the moonlight as I stumble between them, trying desperately to keep my footing.  Behind me I can hear quicksilver footsteps and a cacophony of cackling and screeching.  I enter a small clearing with the yammering sound of my pursuers still ringing in my ears.”  I love Karen’s use of vocabulary!  How often can we use words like “quicksilver” and “cacophony”?  I for one would like to include those words into a sentence sometime today… 🙂  This opening page allowed me to easily visualize what Donna is writing about.

Even though Donna feels like a freak, she doesn’t allow that to make her weak.  On the contrary, Donna stands up for herself and is independent.  She and her best friend Navin go to a party, even though she really doesn’t want to go.  Navin starts mingling, so Donna goes off on her own where she finds and meets Xan.  Something about Xan makes her want to open up and reveal her secrets, and the same goes for Xan about Donna.  It’s an intriguing opening to a relationship that made me want to read more.  And because Donna is independent, she doesn’t constantly rely on Xan.  She’s trying to figure things out on her own, but she’s open to Xan’s help.  What’s nice about the relationship between Donna and Xan is that it doesn’t blow up into this super-steamy romance right away.  Like most teen relationships, it’s awkward and takes time to build up to that first kiss.

I do see the potential for a love triangle between Donna, Navin and Xan in the upcoming books though.  Navin’s hard to read when it comes to how he feels about Donna spending time with Xan.  We’ll have to find out when book two comes out in February 2012!

If you like Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series and/or Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney!


  1. I just bought this book over the weekend at Borders. Glad you liked it- your review has me even more interested to read it. Have you read The Iron King series by Julie Kagawa? That’s a great fae series.

    • Mrs. Andersen says:

      I have the first book in that series, but I haven’t finished reading it yet. I’m glad you mentioned it because I meant to recommend that series along with The Mortal Instruments series 🙂 Thanks for the reminder and the comment! I hope you like The Iron Witch.

      **I added that rec to my review**

  2. Wicked Lovely by Melissay Marr is another good fairy book. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet.

  3. Emily Munson says:

    This book sounds like a good read.

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