I'm seriously having a hard time rating this book. If I were to rate it on how much I think anyone else will like it, I'm giving it a 4.
But as I have to review this based on what *I* feel… 2.5 it is.
A couple of people who have read this reassured me that the first half tend to be slow and everything will start to get better by the second half.
To a certain degree, this is true because this book had a heroine who I immediately fell into dislike 5-pages in.
It's the day before Meghan Chase's 16th birthday… and she's going to introduce herself to you by whining about being poor, the lack of Cheerios on the breakfast table and the attention everyone's giving her 4-year old step brother, Ethan, instead of her birthday. I'd eventually figure out WHY she's like this, but suffice to say, I'm already dreading the journey with this girl as my narrator.
She's everything horrible about being a 16-year old girl personified.
So when Ethan disappears after being taken by faeries, I found it a real stretch that she would come after him to get him back. Especially since it would entail leaving her trip to the DMV to get her license and go to the Nevernever, the dwelling place of faeries and other fantastical creatures, that exists through the magic of humans' imagination.
So you already get the picture, this is going to be a Through the Looking Glass and Peter Pan hybrid, made extra spicy by throwing in some Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night's Dream) and a little further on, The Never Ending Story.
Cool beans, right? I was pretty fine with all these thrown in the mix, especially if it meant the talking cat, Grimalkin, stays in most of the scenes a little longer.
I started to wriggle out of the dress, when I noticed Grimalkin still watching me, eyes glowing in the dark. "Could I get a little privacy?" I asked. The cat hissed.
"You have nothing I'd be interested in, human. Hurry up."
Note to authors, adding a talking cat in your story (yes even in contemporary New Adult) ups the entertainment factor exponentially. Make them talk in lolspeak and you've got a gold mine right there.
So up to this point I wasn't loving the story but I was pretty entertained with Grimalkin's "I'm a cat." deadpans. True, I felt Julie Kagawa was cheating a bit and playing to my cat lady sensibilities but whatevs.
There was something very Disney about Meghan's travels to the Seelie and Unseelie courts (there's even a freaking dance!) but jarringly fused with the savage violence and ruthlessness of the creatures in Nevernever. I found it oddly fascinating, like watching The Little Mermaid directed by John Woo. I actually imagined the book as though an animated film: the first half being Disney-fusion and the second half being Japanese animation.
And this is where I start to explain my 2-star rating.
I don't mind homages in any medium (I'm a Quentin Tarantino fan after all) but for me, there is a line that distinguishes the hat tips into fun entertainment from plain annoying. This book liked to play close to that line a little too often.
Because that halfway mark where I was expecting to like this even more, was the point where this started to read like a Gundam Wing Alternate Universe fanfiction, which as much as it shames me, I've had my fill of back in the day where Ash is Heero Yuy, Puck is Duo Maxwell and Meghan is Relena Darlian (not Peacecraft, mind you). I did a quick google search and came across the author's old blog post listing down her favorite bishounens (gorgeous anime heroes) confirming my suspicion triggered by this scene:
"War?" Something cold touched my cheek, and I glanced up to see snowflakes swirling in a lightning riddled sky. It was eerily beautiful, and I shivered. "What will happen then?"
Ash stepped closer. His fingers came up to brush the hair form my face, sending an electric shock through me from my spine to my toes. His cool breath tickled my ear as he leaned in.
"I'll kill you," he whispered, and walked away, joining his brothers at the table.
Well now at least I understand why the heroine is annoying.
Then I realize I have to throw in Fushigi Yuugi and Gundam Wing into the Alice in Wonderland-Peter Pan-A Midsummer Night's Dream-The Never Ending Story smoothie and from then on, I can't recover from the numerous "homages" anymore because I can't stop thinking what else was pulled and redressed from another anime or movie that I haven't watched that I'm attributing as an original idea when it too might fall into the "homage" category.
I'm not saying there's not enough imagination and originality in this book. There is. Probably. I can't say, because I haven't watched every single shoujo/mecha/steampunk anime out there.
So no matter how good the Iron Fey storyline was (I really liked the idea of Ferrum) and how much I liked the action sequences in this one, I'm afraid I have to abandon this series because I don't know if I'm liking this book or something else. I don't know why, this shouldn't bother me and I should feel like the author is sharing a private joke with me but I guess I like it better when I can "feel" the essence of the original idea and not have it staring at my face the entire time.
I could totally see myself liking and fangirling over Ash if I wasn't a big Heero Yuy fan myself.
But I still wouldn't care if Meghan ended up eaten by goblins and ogres.