Jacey's Reviews > Ironside

Ironside by Holly Black
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's review
Mar 10, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: dark-fantasy, fantasy, fiction, young-adult
Read in January, 2010

This is the sequel to Holly Black's impressive YA debut novel, Tithe, which chronicles Kaye's realisation that she is not, in fact, human as she had always thought, but a faery change-child, a green-skinned pixie who looks human only because of a faery glamour. In Tithe Kaye falls in love with Roiben and is instrumental in him winning the crown of the Unseelie (dark) Court, a grotesque and dangerous place, but perhaps no more so than the rival Seelie (light) Court which is ruled over by Roiben's cruel ex-lover (and queen) Silarial.

Ironside picks up the story from Roiben's coronation and continues with Kaye coming to terms with her non-human heritage. Against Roiben's wishes Kaye declares her love for him in front of his court and according to the rules he sets her a task to prove her love. In this case it's an impossible one – which means – effectively – he is driving her away from the Unseelie Court, but that ban doesn't keep her out of trouble. As she says: does being under the protection of the Unseelie Court mean she no longer need protecting from it? As the truce ends and the rivalry between the Unseelie and the Seelie Court breaks out into war, Kaye is determined to win her lover and retrieve the human change-child, her feckless mother's real daughter, from the Seelie Court. Cruelties abound, the court of light being no less cruel than the court of dark, though maybe more subtle. Faeries cannot lie, but they can and do mislead.

This is a dark and bloody book full of casual and calculated cruelty: there are few easy answers; wishes are turned on their heads and people die, but it is beautifully written. The language is poetic, though never flowery, and the imagery is apposite and vivid with the world of faery a million miles away from Disney and Tinkerbell. Highly recommended.
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