From the BLURB:
Shaman-for-hire Eugenie Markham is the best at banishing entities trespassing in the mortal realm. But as the Thorn Land’s queen, she’s fast running out of ways to end the brutal war devastating her kingdom. Her only hope: the Iron Crown, a legendary object even the most powerful gentry fear…
Who Eugenie can trust is the hardest part. Fairy king Dorian has his own agenda for aiding her search. And Kiyo, her shape-shifter ex-boyfriend, has every reason to betray her along the way. To control the Crown’s ever-consuming powers, Eugenie will have to confront an unimaginable temptation--one that will put her soul and the fate of two worlds in mortal peril…
** WARNING: this review contains spoilers of ‘Thorn Queen’ **
Eugenie is in the midst of a heated fae battle. Following her kidnapping and rape by Queen Katrice’s son, Eugenie and her lover King Dorian have entered into an all-out war. Kingdom fighting kingdom, people forced out of their homes and countless deaths rest on Eugenie’s shoulders . . . there seems to be no end in sight. Until mention of the Iron Crown.
The Iron Crown is worn by the strongest and most fearsome shining ones. Only determined and deserving warriors can wear the crown and conquer lands. But can Eugenie use the Iron Crown to bring peace and put an end to the war she started?
I love Richelle Mead. Straight-up, no lie, I would read her shopping list if it came out in paperback. I adore ‘Vampire Academy’ and salivate at the very mention of ‘Georgina Kincaid’. But I have an especially warm spot in my heart for her ‘Dark Swan: Eugenie Markham’ series. I think that ‘Dark Swan’ is the most underappreciated and poorly advertised of Mead’s series. Case in point; we haven’t had a ‘Dark Swan’ novel since 2009, despite Mead telling fans that ‘Iron Crowned’ was completed in 2010. The delayed release was purely because the final ‘Vampire Academy’ book came out in 2010, as well as fifth (and much-anticipated) ‘Georgina Kincaid’ book. Mead’s publishers thought that ‘Dark Swan’ would be swept under the rug and denied proper hoopla up against ‘VA’ and ‘Georgina’. And it’s not right! Because anyone who loves Richelle Mead is guaranteed to adore ‘Dark Swan’. It has everything that makes a Richelle Mead series so compelling and addictive – strong heroine, love triangle and twisted fates.
A lot happened in ‘Thorn Queen’. Dorian killed Leith after he kidnapped and raped Eugenie. Eugenie and Dorian finally stopped their lustful tango and became lovers. Eugenie seemed to finally accept the responsibilities that came with being Queen of the Thorn Lands . . . despite a war looming. Richelle Mead definitely had a lot of plot-points to untangle and investigate . . .
It’s hard to go into a lot of detail about the ins and outs of the storyline without giving away HUGE spoilers that would wreck the reading of ‘Iron Crowned’. But I can say that Richelle Mead was right (and kind) when she warned fans that there would be a few bumps in Eugenie’s road . . . as all Mead fans know, she is one author who loves to write messy situations for her characters to wallow in. Eugenie is no different from Rose and Georgina – ‘Iron Crowned’ is the turning point for Eugenie. It comes in all of Mead’s books – an instalment which throws the heroine into turmoil and changes the entire discourse of the series. Such is ‘Iron Crowned’.
“You need to find the Iron Crown.”“The what?”“The Iron Crown.”She said it in a grand, ominous way . . . one that really deserved an echo chamber to give it its full effect.“Okay,” I said. “I’ll bite. What’s the Iron Crown?”“An ancient artefact. One worn by the greatest, most powerful leaders in the shining ones’ history. Leaders feared by all, who ruled many kingdoms.”
I will say that attentive fans will be able to figure out a few of Mead’s curve-balls . . . but only because Mead revels in writing complicated fates for her characters. She writes tall-order prophecies for practically all of her heroines, and then delights in teasing and tripping fans up when it comes to fulfilling the foretelling.
There were a few times when reading ‘Iron Crowned’ that I had to grit my teeth and persevere. Eugenie does stupid things, and makes stupid mistakes (not least of all where her love life is concerned). But this is all part of why I love Richelle Mead so much. Her characters are not perfect, as much as fate plays a fickle game with their lives, her characters also get themselves into awful situations brought about by their own ignorance and fear . . . Eugenie is no different. She is fallible and all the more interesting for it. That being said . . . **SPOILER highlight to read ** Oh wow. I hate Kiyo. I looooove Dorian, but hate Kiyo. It was hard to read Eugenie’s betrayal and break-up with Dorian. . . made all the worse when she ran into Kiyo’s arms. Grr. The only reason this book isn't getting full-marks from me. I felt like Eugenie acted too hastily in dumping Dorian. It did seem like a somewhat contrite way to put a spanner in Eugenie's works. ** end SPOILER **
Richelle Mead is the best of the best. She is one of the stars of the urban fantasy genre, and ‘Dark Swan’ is among her masterpieces. This is one under-appreciated, fantastical series. Eugenie is an imperfect protagonist who is living in the eye of the storm caused by an ancient prophecy. ‘Iron Crowned’ is full of twists and turns – some you’ll see coming, others will knock you out . . . be prepared for Mead’s trademark brilliance.