May 19, 2012

Review: The Iron Thorn

By: Caitlin Kittredge
Published: February 2011 by Delacorte
Format: Hardback, 492 pages
First Reviewed: June 2011
Buy: Barnes & Noble//Books-A-Million//Amazon//Book Depository
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Find the witch's alphabet. Save yourself.

In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

Rating: 5/5

Steampunk?! What in the world is that?! I didn't have a clue about this new genre until I started this book. I didn't even expect this to be steampunk. But...oh my goodness, do I have a new favorite genre obsession. Steampunk is sort of like...well...not really sure how to explain it. The whole tone/atmosphere of this book was like something out of the 300/Sucker Punch/Repo! The Genetic Opera, so the cinematography while I was reading was just awesome. Unlike anything I've ever read. Sure, I have some pretty big nitpicks, but in all honesty, I just loved this.

I would love nothing more than to rate Kittredge's writing five stars, but because she overwrites so much, I can't. She has a fantastic way with words, giving them tone, personality, and a flow that stands out from other books. When the prose was necessary, I absolutely loved it. What I didn't care for was the overwriting. Kittredge, listen to me, listen to me, listen to me now, because if you do, you'll go down as one of my favorite authors ever. Seriously. No joke. While I very much loved some of the comparisons and very descriptive writing, at times it was just too much, to the point where I'd have to figure out what she meant or why she chose that analogy. Also, sometimes she would burn out some of the phrases and recycle them.

And she loved to repeat. Not just words ("hissed" was used probably five million times, for example), but also with setups, traits, thoughts, etc. All of that contributed to the slowness of the book. While the plot was not in any way slow (I'll get to that awesomeness in a second), the writing made reading the book slow. In what normally would take me an hour to read (100 pages or so), I could only get in 40-50. So overwriting with too many comparisons, repetitive words, and over-narrating is my only complaint. Ms. Kittredge, listen to me! Cut out that stuff in the next book (only tone down the comparisons, though), and man...(excuse the language) you'll be kick ass!

If I would have chucked the book about halfway through or so, or even two-thirds of the way, I probably would have gone on a tangent about the annoying male leads who fight over a girl. But after I finished--no spoilers, I promise--I had a whole new outlook on why characters acted like they did. That was some great characterization. So with that said, I really loved the two male leads in different ways and even as I think back to them after finishing, I have a new level of respect for them all. The development was fantastic.

Aoife (Ee-fah for those of you who had no clue how to pronounce that; Kittredge, for future books, please give some indication on how to pronounce names like that; I was completely clueless for the first half of the book until I decided to look it up), was overall very strong. In the sections where Kittredge didn't overdo her narrative, she had a great, smart, unique mind that we don't get too much of in YA. But my problem was for the first halfish, she felt inconsistent. I couldn't really grasp her personality and whether or not she was always feisty and snappy and only keeping that at bay while in Uptown, or if she was a "good girl" as they want girls to be and only became that way after meeting Dean. It was a bit confusing.

However, I really enjoyed the characterization, much more so once I got to the climax. That made for very interesting development.

Here's the part where I get to gush. Sure, some things were too over-described while other places seemed not to be described enough (running a million miles in three seconds, but then taking a million hours to do something simple; I won't explain, you'll notice if you read this), and sure, maybe some aspects were a tad bit confusing, but I just can't deny that I loved this. No matter how long it took me to read, I was just thrust into this unique world. A steampunk, alternate 50s world in Massachusetts. It had everything I want to see in books. Mystery, action, twists, pure awesome setups, and creativity that drips off the page. Won't lie: At one point I was worried that we were going to have a not-working-or-needed-at-all love triangle on our hand, but...I finished the book. That's all I'll say about that.

I just can't say enough great things about this plot. It was just right up my alley. A page-turner in its own right, even though the writing made it slower. There are a ton of loose ends that will clearly be resolved in the next book, and instead of feeling confused about things, I feel excited for this next book. I'm completely eeking! The perfect-type of read for me.

Other: I will never understand why Aoife's family all had names with "normal American" pronunciation, but then she has this Gaelic name no one knows how to pronounce. Don't get me wrong, I love Gaelic names, but I need to know how to say them. Also, there's this really, really awesome map in the front of the book, but that also lead me to be a bit confused on how the characters got to some places so fast...However, there's a map of the Graystone mansion too. Heck yes! A mansion. With secret rooms. And with an awesome landscape. Sigh, didn't I tell you it was right up my alley? Oh, and lastly, I would have liked more with the Protors in the beginning/middle instead of hearing so much about them but not really seeing how they are until later.

Overall, I. Loved. This. I have my nitpicks, and with any other book, the overwriting and inconsistency with Aoife would have made me either like (three stars) or really like (four stars) this, but because it was just pure awesomeness for me and I think it's a new genre that everyone should try at least once, I have to give it five stars. I just have to. Mind you, this will not be for everyone. It's one of those genres that will either make you love it, or just make it hard to read. And it is a slower read. I can't flippin' wait for the next one.

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