Wednesday, March 2, 2011

YA Fantasy: The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

First off: introduction to the world of The Iron Thorn, at least as it appears at the beginning of the book. It's a steampunk setting, about 1950. Lovecraft, Massachusetts, is a town run by clockwork - literally. Its four engines beneath the ground keep the city going, and they also help protect its inhabitants from the necrovirus and its evil carriers - the nightjars, ghouls, shoggoths, etc. that lurk in dark alleys and hide beneath the streets. Reason and science reign under the intimidating Proctors; magic and superstition are deemed heretical and punishable by imprisonment in jails or madhouses, burning, or death. Ravens and other spies keep watch over the city's inhabitants to seek out any heretical leanings.

Now for the plot: Fifteen-year-old Aoife Grayson has a lot to worry about. She's a ward of the state and the only girl at the School of Engineering; her mother's locked in an asylum, her beloved brother - who, in his madness, tried to kill her - is on the run, and her sixteenth birthday is coming up, with the implication that she, too, will go insane. But then she gets a note from Conrad, her brother. "Help. Find the witches' alphabet. Save yourself." So Aoife and her only friend, Cal, escape from the city of Lovecraft to find Conrad in Arkham, a neighboring town that is home to Aoife's ancestral house. With the aid of Dean, a heretical guide they find in the secret marketplace of Lovecraft, the trio sets out to rescue Conrad, discover the mysteries of the Grayson home, and unlock the secrets that the Proctors of Lovecraft have sought to hide for so long.

First off, I expected The Iron Thorn to be a science fiction, dystopian story. To my disappointment, it's actually fantasy, at least in my little categorical world. It is still steampunk, and there are dystopian elements, such as the Proctors who rule Lovecraft with an iron hand and one confrontation that reminded me of a scene in Brave New World (the rest of the book, interestingly enough, reminded me of A Great and Terrible Beauty). Besides this initial disappointment, however, the book was great! For all nearly 500 pages, I was interested and had problems putting the book down. I found out the plot twists when Aoife did, not even a moment sooner. That said, most of the many plot twists made perfect sense, but one or two were like "did the author have this in mind from the beginning? 'Cause there's not any lead up to that..." Another thing that I liked, besides the great storyline, was how it ended. The events of the book were mostly tied up by the conclusion, and a new chapter was opened at the end that will be continued in the next book of the series...which I will be very impatiently awaiting. By the way, I want Aoife's house. It's run by clockwork, has a lot of hidden spaces and tricks, and a large library. It's awesome.

My ARC of The Iron Thorn was received through Random Buzzers, a program of Random House. This book went on sale February 22, 2011.


  1. Great review. I'm relieved that it's a good book and with such a gorgeous cover too! I can't wait to read this one! Just my cup of tea- dystopian, steampunk and fantasy:)

  2. Nicely written review.
    Visiting on the hop from Edge of Escape

  3. Interesting that it's similar to A Great and Terrible Beauty instead of straight up sci-fi (which I was expecting as well). It's not entirely a bad thing for me, since I love fantasy as well, but more sci-fi in YA would be nice. :)

    The setting of this story sounds amazing. I want to read it so badly!

  4. The part that I thought made it like A Great and Terrible Beauty is that there's another world inhabited by rather ambiguous (are they good or evil?) creatures that Aoife starts traveling to, much how the characters of AGandTB travel to another fantasy world. And, in some ways, the worlds are intertwined.