Spoilers for The Iron Witch!
Donna Underwood is in deep trouble. An ancient alchemical order is holding her accountable for destroying the last precious drops of the elixar of life. Never mind the fact that Donna was acting to free her friend, Navin, from the dangerous clutches of the Wood Queen at the time. But what the alchemists have in store is nothing compared to the wrath of the fey. The Wood Queen has been tricked and Donna must pay. Get ready for all hell - quite literally - to break loose..
I adored The Iron Witch, every little tiny bit of it, so was ridiculously pleased to get my hands on the sequel. I wanted to throw myself back into the world of Ironbridge as quickly as possible. The opening finds Donna in a whole load of trouble. I mean, she did do something awful with the elixar at the end of the last book but it was all in a good cause - to ensure that Navin and The Maker were kept safe and surely this would be enough to help her cause, right? Wrong, as far as the alchemists are concerned she's got to be punished and a full-on trial is the result. But while the wheels of justice seem to turn painfully slowly the rest of Donna's life is out of control. First her mum's health deteriorates then the wood queen herself makes an appearance and a demand that cannot be ignored. Donna is left trying to placate the alchemists whilst doing what needs to be done. As the book progresses, Donna's priorities change as she makes some shocking discoveries.
I noticed a slight change in this book from The Iron Witch. Both the dialogue and Donna's inner monologue is much more snappy and snarky. I liked this as it shows she's changing, going from being the unfortunate victim of past events to a young woman who can make life-changing decisions. Navin was a brilliant as ever. His and Donna's friendship is really touching - you can really feel the longstanding bond between them. I still love Xan, I can't wait to see what happens between them in book three - he is a hot boy and no mistake. He's also got some secrets of his own in this book and I'm excited to find out if he gets what he wants. The alchemists' trial does bring something potentially intriguing and this is two members of the London group. I loved them both and am also extremely excited to see what this might mean for Donna. As for Donna herself, she's starting to find out some interesting and long-hidden secrets about herself and those magical tattoos ...
I feel like I haven't done this book justice with this review, I'm bubbling over to tell you about this bit or that bit but don't want to spoil it. Karen did this wonderful blog post a while ago about the middle book syndrome. It's brilliant, in fact I replied to it saying it was the Best. Post. Ever which it is (please read it, there are Star Wars references). But more than that Karen outlined what a middle book should provide and what it cannot. It can't give you a big showdown (although the ending of The Wood Queen is pretty damn explosive) but what it can do is take you further into the world the author has created and show you more than the first book. It sets things up for the end but when done well you feel as if you're being guided to your destination with thrills along the way. The Wood Queen manages this in spades, no - in shed-loads. There are only two books on my Best Books of 2012 shelf on Good Reads and this is one of them. Bravo. This book both kicks ass and yet is full of beauty.
Book three, The Stone Demon, is out in February 2013. 2013!!! *tears at hair* However, to make up for this Karen's novel about the teen vampire Moth, Falling to Ash, is out in September of this year.