*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The Iron Flower
Author: Laurie Forest
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Elloren Gardner and her friends were only seeking to right a few wrongs, but their actions have propelled them straight into the ranks of the realm-wide Resistance against Gardnerian encroachment. As the Resistance struggles against the harsh rulings of High Priest Marcus Vogel and the Mage Council, Elloren begins to realize that none of the people she cares about will be safe if Gardneria seizes control of the Western Realm.
I’ll try not to give away too much in this review, however, I will say that book two in The Black Witch Chronicles is a definite improvement on book one. Elloren is completely transformed in book two and is so much better. She’s developed a spine, defends those she cares about, takes a stance opposed her aunt and the wholly racist empire, and actively begins to work to find a solution to everything that was wrong in book one. Forest spent way more time crafting a thoughtful and fiery character in Elloren in this book and her world building is leaps and bounds better than in The Black Witch. In this story we actually see Elloren transported away from everything she’s ever known, to experience new cultures–places and people outside of herself. We see the widespread terror that her own culture has caused. Elloren’s anger begins to flourish and manifest into action in this book.
This book introduces incredible injustice as sweeping and intolerant mandates are passed by the government, which creates a devastating and inescapable dictatorship. It’s stressful to read because not only are the characters taking life-threatening risks, they are also trapped within the confines of Gardneria with little chance of escape. Book two contains more of a resistance that begins to rise up and oppose these hateful laws. It’s great to see different perspectives (sort of) introduced. Everything is still written from Elloren’s POV, but her thoughts and writing are much more inclusive and understandings. This book gives us a greater peak into the lives of the Amaz and Fae peoples, as well as into the Selkie culture. More characters are open to sharing more about themselves and their own cultural upbringing, so this book does showcase a lot more cultural diversity. Forest’s world is expanding and beginning to bloom.
As in the first book, the pacing was still weird. I was reading quickly because the story itself is a page-turner, but I don’t think I was skipping much. Sometimes the transitions between scenes, or even the introductions of characters within scenes, felt abrupt and uncomfortable. I had to go back and reread on multiple occasions to ensure that yes, I did read it correctly, but what I’d read was not flowing well. I did read an uncorrected proof so with any luck, in the editing process, these choppy bits will be altered to be a bit smoother.
Although Elloren is taking charge a bit more within her own life in this book, I still felt like she wasn’t fighting hard enough for the things that she wants. I find as a protagonist, she has many faults, but her strengths are really lacking. I wanted to believe in Elloren a bit more in this book, but when facing adversity, she seems to kowtow to anyone stronger than her with little or minimal fighting. She always passes off her responsibility to be strong with the excuse of lacking power. This is a two book long mantra that she repeats, yet she doesn’t find a part of herself that really is strong. She does a lot of research, but she’s not the most cunning, so that knowledge in her hands doesn’t really seem like a weapon. Some might argue that she’s a teenager and may not fully be at this point of manifesting such confidence, and I agree, however I do think that by the end of book two in any series, we should really see the protagonist taking action and building confidence. I am not dissuaded from reading the next book in the series, but I’d really like to see Elloren come into her own, be more actionable, and take control of her life.
We likely have a while to wait before the next book, so in the meantime, happy reading!