Ironside is the third part of Holly Black’s story about Kaye, a modern faery. I have not read the first two, but I think I followed this one pretty well just the same. At this point in the story arc Kaye has pretty well accepted that she is a pixie and is coping pretty well, but her boyfriend’s imminent coronation in the Unseelie court complicates her life a bit. Kaye travels around with her friend Corny and their new companion, Luis, a lot in this book. They visit the city, the Seelie court, even an island off the coast of New York. Through it all, there was a fascinating quest and a lot of very interesting introspective teen angst.
This was one of the most interesting fantasy books I’ve ever read for character development. I wasn’t wild about Kaye, but she was definitely interesting and certainly full of personality! I liked that her personal shortcomings, however irritating they may have been to me, were very appropriate for the story and consistent – even the support characters were very aware of them. It showed that the author really knew her characters well – well enough to know how they knew each other. Some of my favorite parts were the interactions between Corny and Luis. I actually found Corny far more interesting than Kaye and it is because of him that I really want to go back and read the first two books to find out what happened!
I found the faeries very interesting. In some ways they seem like they should break gender rules, but they never seemed to break them enough. There were hints of women warriors and foppish men, but pretty much all the characters we saw were either very feminine women or very masculine men. Many of the women were feminine in a dragon lady kind of way, but that is still a very feminine trope. This all may have been intentional. Black kind of set up her faeries as living, breathing symbols of various types, so maybe they were supposed to fit those stereotypes to reinforce their unreality. The effect was certainly there! If that was the design, it most definitely worked!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I spent a lot of time being exasperated with Kaye, but I never got frustrated with the book. It was very much a fun romp in a great world. Holly Black clearly knows a lot about faery lore, since much of her world is pulled from classic traditions, and I found that aspect of it particularly interesting. I would definitely recommend this book! It isn’t what I’d want to read every day, but it was absolutely worth it and I definitely plan to pick up the first two books in the series and read them at some point!