Monday, November 12, 2012
Iron Hearted Violet
I just finished Kelly Barnhill's latest novel Iron Hearted Violet. It is a longer novel - over 400 pages - aimed at a middle grade audience. The hook on the cover says, "The end of their world begins with a story. This one."
Violet is an intelligent, determined, adventurous, but not very pretty, Princess who is beloved by her kingdom. Her best friend is a stable boy, Demetrius, who is constant and kind and loves to explore with Violet. When Violet's father, King Randall, sets out with a party on a quest to capture the last living dragon everything begins to unravel. Violet's mother falls sick and Violet begins exploring the hidden corners and takes a book, a forbidden book, through which she begins communicating with the Nybbas - the evil 13th God. With the Nybbas trying to escape his imprisonment and gain power - the world as they know it hangs in the balance. Violet, Demetrius and the Dragon must work together to try and keep the Nybbas from overtaking their world.
This is a beautifully written book. Barnhill weaves together internal stories to create a complete tale and an interesting and appealing world. The story has many facets to it and touches on some more serious themes on its way to a emotionally conflicting ending.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Violet and Demetrius. The realness of their friendship was one of the keys for me that carried the book. In the middle of the book Violet becomes very unlikeable, perhaps too flawed, but it is this relationship and the hope associated with it that carried me through waiting for Violet to grow and develop.
The story is told by the master storyteller of the kingdom - Cassian. The telling, and sometimes lack of telling, of stories is essential to the plot at large so I can see why Barnhill choose this point of view. At the same time I sometimes felt this to be a little too intrusive and would have preferred a younger narrator with less overall knowledge. It would have helped, specifically in the middle of the story, to have known Violet on a more personal level and seen the world through her eyes.
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read set in a complex world. I think the character development could have been stronger, but that the development of the world and its stories was very strong and created an interesting setting for a story that twists and turns to a hopeful, although not happy, ending.
I received this book from the publisher but all opinions are my own.