“I was afraid again. It seemed I was always afraid. I didn’t want to be here, in this eerie forest, with this person I only thought I knew. I wanted to go home. Only, home had become a frightening place as well, almost as much as the Nevernever. I felt lost and betrayed, out of place in a world that wished me harm.”
I winced when I saw the “Harlequin Teen” label on this book, but it turned out to be no more romantic than any other young adult faery fantasy novel (which is to say, at least some lingering on the handsome fey prince, but not overly much). The Iron King by Julie Kagawa follows Meghan, 16, whose father disappeared when she was young and whose mother and step-father pay more attention to her little brother than her. Meghan is an outcast at school, her only friend a boy named Robbie who she has known for years. When her four-year-old brother Ethan appears to go mad one day, Meghan soon discovers that he is a changeling, and that nothing in her life is what it seemed. She sets off to faerieland (called the Nevernever) to rescue her real brother. Along the way she makes allies and friends (and one more-than-a-friend, the aforementioned handsome fey prince), and many more enemies, and discovers her true origins.
When the true kidnapper is revealed, Meghan’s quest becomes not only personal, but an attempt to save all of Nevernever itself. Her companions all hurt, disappeared or killed, she must face the dreaded Iron King alone. He offers her a place at his side first, but she is not tempted. However, even when she defeats her adversary, rescues her family member and returns home, her journey is not over, because she has made promises that now must be kept, and faerieland is still in danger.