A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Iron Flower is the second book in the Black Witch Chronicles. The thought-provoking themes from the first book, The Black Witch, continue here. Author Laurie Forest examines prejudice, privilege, and even how to study history: from many perspectives beyond the dominant culture's take. As the banging of war drums gets louder in this sequel, the violence ratchets up as well. The publisher lists The Iron Flower for ages 12 and up, but with talk of sex trafficking and genocide, this series is a better fit for mature teen readers and beyond. With these readers, you can also have nuanced discussions about race and power and how to fight for what's right and look for the good in dire circumstances. Beyond the violence already mentioned, there's a massacre (described after the fact) and a species imprisoned and systematically tortured, drugged, mutilated, and executed (brutal prison conditions described). Expect two deaths of those close to the main character, one from drugging in prison, the other from torture. Mobs beat and mutilate (cutting off tips of ears and shaving hair) those they consider "other." Sexual content includes much kissing and groping and then stopping before sex, and the talk of "fertility rites" of Amaz women with one such encounter briefly described. The main character, a teen, and an adult get drunk on spirits to relieve stress. Another character nearly dies from drug withdrawal, from a drug she was forced to take.
What's the story?
In THE IRON FLOWER, Elloren is expected to wandfast to powerful military leader Lukas Grey, the step before marriage that would bind them for life. Her social-climbing aunt demands it, and that she stop hanging around with Icarals and Lupines and the rest of the non-Gardnerians she hopes Erthia will soon be rid of when the war starts. While Elloren nods and smiles for her aunt, promising to be wandfasted soon, she keeps many secrets. In the forest, Elloren hides an untamed dragon, one she helped steal from Lukas Grey's regiment with her non-Gardnerian friends. In her dorm, she's hiding a Selkie that she rescued from the cruel university groundskeeper. In her boot, she's hiding what she believes is the White Wand of prophesy that would yield untold power to help the oppressed, if only she had any power as a mage to access it. The wand, the trees around her, and white birds all find ways of communicating with her every time danger is near. And danger comes for Elloren's friends before she can stop her own Gardnerian people from the very worst of war crimes.
Is it any good?
Readers who like to get truly lost in emotionally intense fantasies for as many pages as possible, editing be darned, will adore this hefty sequel. Those who prefer stories tautly told, carefully pared down to what's necessary, may be frustrated with the 100 extra pages and dozen or so unnecessary characters author Laurie Forest crams into this sequel. There are also a few too many dramatic moments for one story. Elloren, the main character, bursts into tears over tragedies so many times you'll lose count. It's about as many times as she stares at Yvan longingly, and that's a lot.
Still, this series explores social justice themes with freshness and real depth. That's enough for four stars right there. Gardnerians are the closest things to humans, with some added iridescence and magic ability, and they are the latest warmongers in this planet's constant cycle of genocide. Elloren is supposed to be the catalyst for all this bloodshed, but she's the catalyst for hope instead. Her metamorphosis at the end of The Iron Flower promises an enticing Book 3.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the power struggles in The Iron Flower. What do the Gardnerians use to justify their hatred of anyone not like them? What conflicts in the past have contributed to this hate?
What needs to change for all inhabitants of Erthia to coexist? Is peace in this world possible?
Will you read the next in the Black Witch Chronicles? What do you think will happen to the main characters? How are they preparing for what's ahead?
- Author: Laurie Forest
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Adventures, Brothers and Sisters, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Ocean Creatures, Wild Animals
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Harlequin Teen
- Publication date: September 18, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 608
- Available on: Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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