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Touch of Iron by Timandra Whitecastle
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really liked it
bookshelves: ladies-of-grimdark

Touch of iron. Touch of home.

Touch of Iron is Timandra Whitecastle’s debut novel, and is a savagely alluring tale of the danger of beauty, and the beauty of danger. It’s an account of an epic quest for a magical artifact, conscious sacrifice, and the ties that bind; the bonds of family, the bonds of love, and the bonds of necessity. This story also closely examines the effects of power and the inevitable manipulation that will surely follow. There’s a bit of adventure and romance, and lots of suspenseful action and gruesome violence, both physical and sexual – the latter more implied than explicit. Initially interpreted with a Young Adult/New Adult tone, this initial installment in her Living Blade series quickly evolves into a bleak, gritty, and unrestrained grimdark that hits hard, and refuses even a moment of rest.

The main focus of this story is on its characters and their relationships, which grow and develop in the most authentic of ways. We follow the misadventures and misfortunes of Noraya, Nora for short, as she journeys to protect the only aspect of her life that truly matters to her: her twin brother Owen. Each the other’s converse, she’s resilient, headstrong, impulsive, and dangerous, unsure of her path in life, whereas he’s a book-smart academic, determined, naive, and relatively certain of what his future holds. Their campaign brings along diverse company, including an enigmatic and reserved half-wight pilgrim master, a treacherous and vile exiled prince, and a calculating monster hidden beneath a sultry facade. There’s plenty of banter, but also sincere and poignant emotion.

There’s also a romantic element to this tale resulting from an unexpected budding love, despite the jarring differences between the two characters involved. Both struggle with their feelings, internally and outwardly, yet sexual tension exquisitely oozes from the pages beginning with their first encounter. The challenges they face along the way, which should negatively impact their relationship, only serve to make it stronger. As someone who has read quite a bit of fantasy infused with romance, I really appreciated how Whitecastle approached this trope of forbidden love, making it progress in such a magnificently organic fashion.

In addition to strong characters, the worldbuilding in this book is incredible, and at times it feels as though this story could possibly be categorized as historical fiction. Whitecastle shapes a dark and vivid world around us as we venture alongside Nora, only presenting us with critical building blocks. She smartly omits overwhelming details, allowing our imaginations to run rampant, which I always appreciate in a book. The world itself is full of tales of dead gods and superstitions, each piece crucial to the grand scheme as we watch the story arc unfold. There are also facets influenced by mythology and folklore, creating another bridge between the fantastical world she has created and our own.

The hunt for a magical relic featured within the pages is one that could potentially change the world in its entirety, and its scope becomes more ambitious and convoluted as the story continues. Unforeseen twists add to the intricacy of the plot introduced, and as the complexity increases, the danger increases. This advancement is basically the root of all conflict. The action is intense, the violence is ample, and the bloodshed is sufficient, each becoming more excessive as the story progresses. Following this trend, I’m excited to see what levels Whitecastle takes us to in the remaining books of the series.

Touch of Iron is a severe and tragic account of a woman’s pilgrimage in an unfair and somber world, and an absolutely fantastic debut. Raw and visceral, there are so many things worthy of praise, and this review only begins to scrape the surface. My favorite part of reading this book was discovering new depths along the way, and I only hope that future readers have as much as an exceptional experience as I have. If you’re into darker fantasy, but also appreciate unexpected moments of tenderness, then I highly recommend you give this a read. I’m excited to continue my journey for the Living Blade.
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Reading Progress

November 20, 2017 – Shelved
November 19, 2019 – Started Reading
November 26, 2019 – Finished Reading

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