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Book Review: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Phew! I’m seriously feeling the need for some down time! I just want to kick up my feet and do awesome things like, you know, read. And, other crazy things like REVIEW! 😀

Little known fact: someone recently found my blog by searching for “how to relax after intense love triangle.” I wish I could contact this person and ask them their story. Haha, wow!

On to the review…

Title & Author: The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney

Genre: YA, Fantasy

Release Date: February 8, 2011

Series: Book 1 in a trilogy

Publisher: Flux

How I Got the Book: Bought

Extras: Author Site, Twitter


“Freak. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.”


Donna is a social pariah at her school. She’s ok with that fact most days because she only goes to her high school to take tests. The rest of her days are spent taking classes with the Order, a secret society of alchemists. Donna’s an orphan who’s very busy aunt- a rising star within the order- is taking care of her.

Despite the intricate tattoos that line Donna’s arms from her fingertips to her elbow, she’s a regular girl, trying be accepted by her peers. Her world gets suddenly thrown in chaos when she seeks help from her mentor, Maker, and finds an evil wood elf in this laboratory instead. Throw in the rich kid, college drop out, Xan, and the fun begins in this exciting YA read.

High School + Relationships

First off, I love the cover of this book! It lends itself very well to Donna’s character- a shy girl who wants to hide from people and avoid standing out. Second, I have a thing for certain pairings. I really enjoy books with stark contrasts. This book offers one common pairing- magic in a magicless world. It’s a classic, and one that I always feel comfortable reading.

Donna’s one claim to magic is her hands; they’re capable of super-human strength. She partially fears their power and hides her iron-tattooed arms under velvet gloves of varying colors. That is one power I wish I’d had in high school! 🙂 I appreciated Donna’s shyness and willingness to reach out to other outcasts, like her friends Navin and Xan, the neighborhood hottie who just dropped out of college.

I was thankful there wasn’t too much action that actually took place at the high school. Sometimes just having a book set in a high school can trigger an overkill of “teen-speak,” but thankfully, the dialogue was realistic without yelling, “hello, I’m totes 16 and this is how I talk for realzies.”

As far as the romance goes, I’m really interested to see how this progresses. I see love triangle potential maybe. But, I really liked Xan. He’s got that whole I’m kind-of-worldy-but-very-vulnerable thing going on. Plus, he’s got a whole host of mysteries that I think will be delved in in future books. Also, I know it’s a book and all, but I’m always shocked at the speed at which characters fall in “like” or in love. I guess that shows how long it’s been since I was in high school. 🙂

So you want to be an alchemist?

Other things I loved:

  • Totally digging alchemy and the elixir of life
  • Donna and Navin’s relationship- innocent and completely adorable
  • Discovery of self + self worth; this is always an uplifting aspect of adolescence that I love to read about

There were only a few things I had trouble with, and they were:

  • Things seemed to slow down at certain points then jump into hyperspeed
  • The lack of activity that Donna’s aunt shows in her life seems a little clichéd
  • This is shallow, but I hate imagining elves as anything less attractive than Legolas…


The Iron Witch is a fun, quick read. I’m interested to see what happens in The Wood Queen (coming out February 2012), and hope that the plot has a better pace and that the characters remain as endearing as ever. Great read!

About Lisa Parkin

I'm a hardcore lover of young adult fiction and have been reviewing books since 2011. Other interests include Downton Abbey, heat lightning storms, Harry Potter land and (begrudingly) one orange tabby.