This week, I cheated. I know I promised you guys last week that I’d start a blog series on adventure books for young boys, to encourage reading — and for men and women of all ages who yearn for an old-fashioned swashbuckling yarn. I went through my bookshelves and pulled out some classics, to kick things off. And then, instead of reading any of those selections, I got pulled into a fantasy tale set in fairyland, published by Harlequin Teen.
The good news is, I think your boys should read it, too.
I know there aren’t a lot of teen boys who would want to be caught reading a Harlequin book, especially one featuring pixies and fairy magic and sparkling gowns. But in both the land of fairies and real life, appearances can be deceiving, and Julie Kagawa’s The Iron King has enough adventure, action, gore, surprise twists, creepy creatures, and sly humor to keep girls and boys alike rapt for hours. I haven’t finished a book in two days in a long, long time, but The Iron King made me feel resentful of any time I had to spend not reading it until I managed to turn the last page.
Protagonist Meghan Chase is an average high schooler and a bit of a tomboy. But her humdrum life is overturned when fairies exchange her little brother, Ethan, for a changeling — a vicious monster who has assumed Ethan’s features, if not his sweet personality. That night, she also learns that her best friend Robbie is actually Robin Goodfellow — more commonly known as Puck, the mischievous fairy from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck leads Meghan into the land of the fairies, where she seeks her little brother and in the process becomes embroiled in the political schemings of the Summer and Winter Courts. She and her companions encounter a stunning array of creatures along the way, from ogres and goblins to dryads and satyrs.
Author Julie Kagawa has a prodigious imagination and a knack for clever action and suspense scenes that reminds me of The Princess Bride, another seemingly “girly” tale that has captured the imaginations of thousands of young boys. The Iron King hits all the right notes that I listen for in an adventure tale: fast-paced action scenes, cleverly choreographed; wry banter between friends and enemies alike; a diverse host of companions and foes, with entertaining quirks and foibles; a journey through a variety of landscapes; and a good mix of physical challenges for the heroes, and mental ones, such as riddles and bargains.
If you, or your boys, loved The Princess Bride, tales of Robin Hood, or The Hobbit, Kagawa’s The Iron King will hit the spot.