Cold Iron

Cold Iron

Cold Iron was written by Anne Higa and first published in 2014. It’s a fantasy story about a teenage girl who discovers that she’s actually an immortal elf. The novel forms the first part of the Elves and Magic series, though at the time of writing no further installments have been announced.

Lexis has always lived a rather sheltered life. As a young teen with two wealthy mothers, she’s never wanted for anything and her biggest concern is whether or not she gets into a good private school. However, everything changes after her fourteenth birthday party. Her birth mother, Ambrosia, takes her aside and explains the truth of her heritage. Her mother’s aren’t lovers, but sisters. Stranger still, they are both elves who chose to raise their daughter on Earth.

Naturally, that means that Lexis is also an elf and, before long, she finds that her body starts to change. She’s also whisked off to the land of Fairy to meet with her father, Melanon, and the twin brother that she never knew she had. Now that she’s come of age, her parents want her to spend time in Fairy before she can make up her mind about what realm she wants to live in forever.

At first, the choice seems simple. While Lexis immediately clicks with her brother Finn, her entire life is still waiting for her back on Earth. However, there are also dangers to be considered. While in Fairy, Lexis will be safe and immortal. If she chooses to live on Earth, there will be no one to protect her from the Unseleighe – dark fae – who will stop at nothing to torture and kill her…

I wish that I could give this novel a better review, I really do. I found its synopsis to be intriguing and the opening chapters raised a lot of questions that helped to ease me into Higa’s world. Unfortunately, as I read on, I started to see that the story had some real issues. The most problematic of these was that it was in dire need of a good edit.

When it comes to novels in general, clumsy editing is one of my biggest bugbears. Nothing is more off-putting to me than being forced to struggle my way through three hundred pages of poorly constructed sentences and plot holes. While Cold Iron isn’t the worst offender that I’ve reviewed, it was still a very messy story.

Higa has a tendency to over-describe situations. Every movement that Lexis makes within the novel is portrayed in detail, leaving absolutely nothing to the reader’s imagination. If Lexis went into her garage, the narrative voice explained how she got out her house key and opened the door to enter and then left in the same manner. While this may seem like I’m splitting hairs, it quickly became irritating because the entire novel was written in this style. Even the parts that should have been exciting lost all tension because there was too much focus on the mechanical processes.

The story was entirely written in third person and the narrative voice spent far too much time telling the reader how they should be approaching the text, rather than showing them. Paragraphs of exposition, such as “Apparently, William’s mother thought William might have a crush on her and might want to walk her home in order to spend some time with her” always come across as being clumsy, no matter what the story. This is information that could be more effectively be portrayed in the words and actions of a character. To just state them as fact is like a slap to the reader’s face.

Worse still were the continuity errors. This was a problem that should have really been caught by an editor. There were instances within the story where Lexis explained things to other characters before she was actually given the information herself. The most obvious instance of this comes right at the beginning of the novel. When her mother tells her that she’s not human, Lexis responds be saying “Did you just say an elf?”. This doesn’t relate to what’s been said at all and so it just seems baffling that Lexis would seemingly pluck this conclusion out of the air. At this point, I don’t think that the word “elf” had been previously stated at all in the novel.

Focusing on the larger picture, the novel was just a little generic on the whole. While the ideas behind it aren’t that bad, they’re also nothing especially new. Higa didn’t really do anything original with the concepts of elves and the land of Fairy that I hadn’t seen done before. The early part of the novel is taken up by lengthy descriptions of life of Fairy and they’re very ordinary. Although there are hints of an underlying darkness, anything remotely threatening is immediately brushed aside.

It’s not until the final third of the novel that the explanations start to come, at which point it felt a little too late for them to be really satisfying. Finn’s torture seemed jarringly out of place as the only violent act in the novel (even though it largely took place off-page) and it raised too many questions that aren’t adequately explained. What are the motivations of the Unseleighe beyond just being evil? How could they immediately locate Finn on his first visit to Earth when they haven’t found Lexis in fourteen years? Why can Sylvia and Lexis both manipulate cold iron when it’s supposed to be fatal to elves? None of these are more than touched upon in this book so I really hope that Higa intends to develop them in the sequel.

Yet it’s in the characterisation of Lexis that I felt Higa excelled. For the most part, she acted and sounded like a real teenager. Her preoccupation with popularity, the stress she feels when choosing a high school and the fickle arguments that she has with her best friend all may seem a little shallow but these are concerns that any teenage girl can relate to. Her relationship with William also felt very natural and built slowly over the course of the story. However, at the same time, Lexis also could behave really strangely. The discovery that she’s an immortal elf doesn’t seem to faze her much at all and she shrugs off the death of a close friend’s father, describing it with very clinical terms straight to the bereaved’s face.

Yet the rest of the characters did not receive the same level of care. With the exception of Lexis, no one had any development. William and Carolyn are just stock friends, Finn pretty much walks out of the story after his kidnapping and the storyline with Samantha and the other popular girls goes nowhere. Worse still are Lexis’s parents. Throughout the story they come across as being increasingly irresponsible and childish, withholding information from Lexis that could save her life and punishing her for breaking rules that she didn’t know existed. I really didn’t understand what their problems were. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble by being open from the start.

Anyhow, I think I’ve made my point. On the whole, I found Cold Iron to be a disappointment. While the concept of the story showed promise, it was just awkwardly written and lacking in both tension and character development. I personally think that it should have had a couple more redrafts and a thorough edit before it was made available to purchase online.

Cold Iron can be purchased as a Paperback on Amazon.co.uk

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© Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kim Dyer and Arkham Reviews with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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