Monday, January 14, 2013

Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

Pug nose, blotchy skin, mismatched eyes... meet the ugly princess. Now that's an interesting premise. Ignore the illustrations that make ugly Princess Violet look cute. Obviously, the artist didn't get the theme in this enjoyable fantasy. Violet has a strong personality, quick mind, and mouth. She's likable and strong-willed with a best friend, Demetrius, whom she explores the castle with on a daily basis. The castle is alive and has corridors that grow, shrink, and move making their adventures exciting. When the two stumble upon an ominous painting they release an evil into the world that threatens to destroy humankind. They must look within themselves to save the world.

I couldn't put this book down. Kelly Barnhill writes with a lot of action and tension. Her plot points aren't always clear, but overall I find her stories quite different and entertaining. The narrator tells the story in first person omniscient and then there is a switch to 3rd person with other characters. The narrator is the court storyteller and he weaves the story with humor, self-deprecation, and foreshadowing. He disappears in the middle of the story but he's a coward and it takes him longer to find courage than Violet and Demetrius so it didn't bother me. Some might find it jarring when he jumps back into the mix after an absence.

Themes of friendship, loyalty, heroism, love, internal strength versus looks, kindness, importance of stories and more are sprinkled throughout this novel. There is plenty to discuss and the creation story is unique. The dragon steals the show with its wisdom and humor and I wanted him to whisper in the king's mind the wrongness of enslaving him. I understood that the Nybbas used mirrors to control people but I didn't quite understand why the queen got sick and how she knew the future. There was no mirror involved with her so it wasn't clear how the Nybbas was working his magic. I also wanted more of an explanation of the creatures that came out of the Mountain King's mirror and their history with the Nybbas. The story with the old gods and the Nybbas needed more hashing out, but it didn't keep me from reading the entire book in one sitting. A fun fantasy.

Reading Level 6.5
3 out of 5 Smileys

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