05. September 2012 · Comments Off · Categories: Courtney, Fairy Tales and Folklore, Fantasy, Teen Books · Tags: ,

The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge, 492 pages, read by Courtney, on 08/14/2012

Aoife (pronounced like “Eva” only with an “f” instead of a “v”, in case you were wondering)is positive that she is going to go mad when she reaches the age of 16. Her mother did and continues to languish in one of Lovecraft’s many sanatoriums. Her brother did as well. Right before he came at Aoife with a knife. To be mad is to be considered contagious. The “necrovirus” has been spreading insanity for so long that the local government is obsessed with keeping it (and any heresy, meaning anything that is not rational and therefore connected) as far away as it can. One day, Aoife gets a message from her missing brother, telling her to head for their father’s house in Arkham. Aoife feels that her estranged father might have the answer to preventing madness so she grabs her friend Cal and breaks out of Lovecraft in pursuit of her family’s secrets. Along the way, they pick up a guide named Dean who decides to stick it out with them until the end. The house in Arkham contains a library which opens the doors to more than Aoife ever thought possible.
There is so much going on in this book and so many themes, it can be hard to wrap one’s head around at times. Aoife’s world is brutal and mechanical; arts, magic and philosophy are strictly forbidden. It’s also set sometime in the mid-twentieth century (much later than I had originally suspected), but the societal attitudes seem even more didactic. The world doesn’t always make sense, particularly the necrovirus. It’s not just that though, things start to get really weird around the time Aoife and co. make it to Arkham. As it turns out, everything prohibited as fanciful “heresy” is dangerous reality. An ambitious book that combines alternate history, totalitarian governments, steampunk aesthetics, fairy curses, multiple “worlds”, and lots of strange creatures that can don human form with mixed results. The pace lags at times and the plot is slightly convoluted, but there’s sure to be an audience for this one.

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