The Writer's View: The Iron King by Julie Kagawa

From Goodreads: Meghan Chase has a secret destiny; one she could never have imagined.
Something has always felt slightly off in Meghan's life, ever since her father disappeared before her eyes when she was six. She has never quite fit in at school or at home.
When a dark stranger begins watching her from afar, and her prankster best friend becomes strangely protective of her, Meghan senses that everything she's known is about to change.
But she could never have guessed the truth - that she is the daughter of a mythical faery king and is a pawn in a deadly war. Now Meghan will learn just how far she'll go to save someone she cares about, to stop a mysterious evil no faery creature dare face; and to find love with a young prince who might rather see her dead than let her touch his icy heart.

The Writer's View:

I have heard so many amazing things about the Iron Fey series, I couldn't wait to read the first one.  There were a few things I really liked: the opening chapters, with the blend of creepy magic and a teen's high school struggles; the Iron Fey themselves, an uber cool blend of steampunk and magic; and Grimalkin, the talking cat. (I'm a cat person. I already think my cats speak to me, so encountering a talking cat in a novel wasn't much of a stretch.)

Over all, there was one thing that didn't work for  me, which prevented me from loving this book.

Scaffolding for a character's growth/evolution/triumph

There was a disconnect for me with the main character, Meghan. To me, she felt inconsistent. The character I met in the beginning did not match the one I met at the end of the novel. A flip was switched about partway through the novel, and she became someone totally different.

For example: the Meghan I met in the beginning of the novel was a lonely girl largely ignored by her mother and step-father in favor of her little brother, 4-year-old Ethan. Ethan is the star of the family; Meghan is an afterthought. She is horribly bullied at school -- a victim of a lunchroom prank that humiliates her in front of the entire school; the cruelty causes her to flee the lunch room in tears.

Besides being a neglected and lonely, Meghan is very-very-very rash. She plunges from one disastrous adventure to another without any forethought or planning. Example: when she finds out her little brother had been kidnapped by faeries, she grabs her backpack and packs a Coke. Okay, she also packs a change of clothes, some asprin, and some other junk food -- potato chips, I think -- but I just could not get past that Coke. You have to travel to an alternate dimension to save you little brother from evil faeries, and you pack a Coke? How about a knife or a gun, maybe a tarp or a sleeping bag? Maybe some rope? Meghan lives on a farm in the south, so it didn't seem like a huge stretch that she would have access to pratical supplies. Perhaps her rashness and lack of forethought works well for a YA novel, but I found it aggravating. Evidence of me turning in a cranky old lady, perhaps?

Overall, this is the character established in the beginning of the novel: lonely, neglected, and rash to (IMO) a fault.

I love a book that delivers ever-evolving characters; character that grow from beginning to end in a novel. (Brandon Sanderson is a master of character evolution.) I also think this is one of the most difficult things to do in a book. It requires a certain amount of what I call scaffolding -- that is, you have to set the stage for your hero's transformation, then show the different stanges of that evolution, all of which lead to the final growth/evolution/triumph. In all honestly, it's something I struggle with in my own writing, which is why I read people like Sanderson -- to try and beef up my skills.

This is where The Iron King really fell short for me. Meghan miraculously turns into this uber-strong take-charge female who orders around two very powerful and hot fey boys; I could not reconcile the lonely, bullied girl to the strong young woman who forces peace and coorperation between two warring fey boys (did I mention they're  both hot?). The talking cat chalks this up to her being "Oberon's daughter."

Meghan also does such amazing things such as manipulate and outsmarts evil ancient portal-guarding faeries -- again, how does a girl who packs a Coke for a daring rescue mission into faerie land have the where-withal for a sly negotiation with someone much older and wiser and meaner? I couldn't buy it.

I was really endeared to Meghan in the beginning of the novel, but she morphed into someone totally different without any support (at least for me). I just wish there had been some scaffolding scenes, where I could have seen's Maghan's growth into assertiveness  / cleverness and believed it when she finally dishes it out in force.

I know I am a minority in my feelings on this book -- tons of folks love these stories. I did learn a lot from reading this book though, on what to look out for in my own writing when it comes to character building.