I certainly didn’t hate The Iron Witch, but I can’t say that I loved it either. I finished it, so it can’t have been too bad, but I’m struggling greatly to write about it, so it most certainly wasn’t inspiring.

I talk a lot about the YA Fantasy ‘formula’, and if you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know I am a huge fan of following the formula IF it is done well. Karen Mahoney adopted the formula without following through with originality. The whole set up of the story gave plenty of room for an excitingly original plot line, and there were many points when I allowed myself to get enticed by an idea that never surfaced again. Although it is the first in a planned series, the excuse of an ‘introductory’ novel isn’t enough for me to overlook the neglect of some of the open ends created during the novel(the term ‘Iron Witch’ was mentioned once, with no explanation). The climax was a kidnapping-rescue story that occurred in less than 100 pages, with a slight love-triangle and conspiracy thrown in for good measure.

Plot errors aside, Donna was a beautifully developed character. She had a complicated background which Karen Mahoney explained over two occasions during conversations with Navin and Ash. Far from being just an ostracized teenager, Donna comes from a secretive ancient organisation that has invested richly in her, both through education and her physical iron arm tattoos. Navin had a suitably enriched background that informed his interactions with Donna, and I wish we’d gotten to see more of his potential (the damsel in distress role didn’t suit him). Ash was appropriately tortured and seductive (towards Donna and reader alike), and I would hope that future books would delve further into his past.

Overall, this was a book with incredible potential that felt wasted. I don’t believe Mahoney is a bad writer, but perhaps felt that she had to ‘dumb-down’, for want of a better term, her ideas for an implied readership or editor. Or maybe she just had difficulty finishing her ideas as they came to her. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll continue reading the Iron Witch series as they’re published, but I don’t regret reading this one.

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