Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ironside by Holly Black

Kaye is a pixie of the Unseelie Court. Roiben in the Prince and is soon to be coronated, and Kaye loves him, but is unsure of how anyone could accept a pixie as queen. When she gets drunk at the coronation and declares her love before the entire court, Roiben is forced to set her a quest before he will be able to make her his queen.

And his quest is the most impossible one that anyone at Court has ever heard: to find a faerie capable of lying. This is impossible, because Fairies can only tell the truth. They can shade the truth, and speak around it, but to actually lie is impossible for them.

In addition, Kaye is a changeling, a faerie placed with a human woman in place of her real child. Kaye is beginning to believe that her human mother has never loved her, and that her being with her human family is a horrible imposition, and that she should simply go away and never bother them again. But first, she must restore to them what has been taken away...

Unfortunately, Kaye has no idea who or what fairie took the real Kaye, or where she is now. So in addition to her being able to find a faerie that can lie, she must also recover a human child from a faerie who may not want to give her up- and to do it, she'll have to enter into the human world in a way she has never done before, and do battle with the forces of the "Ironside" on its own terms. But will her battle to return Kaye lead to her discovering the solution to her dilemma with Roiben?

And when Kaye falls in with a boy who has been cursed by the Fae, it may cause her even more troubles than her love for Roiben and the impossible quest she is on. For he has been using faerie essence to gain fae powers, and, in essence, stealing them from other fae. But she needs his help to find her mother's real daughter, and to search for a Faerie who can lie. But as she tries to keep up with her human friends and the human world, her faerie self and human self cross over. Is there any hope for Kaye to fill her self-imposed search and the one imposed by Roiben at the same time? And when she falls into the clutches of Silarial, the Seelie Queen, who wants Roiben's throne, can she keep the man she loves safe from harm even while he must shun her until she succeeds at his quest?

I love Holly Black's faerie stories, because they embody the real faerie stories and not the more hopeful, sanitized versions that pass for faeries in a lot of the fantasy novels written. These are the real faeries, who are as specialized in the arts of pain as the arts of love and combat, even those of the Seelie Court- the Seelie Court merely has better press. These faeries are scary! But this is the third book in the trilogy that began with Tithe and continued in Valiant, and characters from both novels feature here, including Corny, Luis and Dave.

In time, this book picks up after Tithe (Valiant was happening at about the same time as Tithe), and continues the story. Here, Kaye has to juggle her life in the human world and her life in the Fae world, and which is the more important? Or are they both important? Can she win Roiben's love and that of her human mother as well? Kaye has to decide what she really wants, and shows one of the more interesting sides of Faeries- yes, they have to tell the truth, but truth and the meaning of words can be parsed so many different ways... That's part of what makes fae so scary.

I liked this continuation of the story, and all the characters got some kind of ending. Whether those endings are happy ones or merely pleasant is up to the reader. Certainly worse things could have happened to Kaye, Roiben and the rest. But the ending was the very best part. I had the feeling that Roiben broke down laughing at Kaye's words. Recommended.

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