Ironside by Holly Black
The thing about sequels, especially sequels you’ve had to wait several years for, is that the more you love the first book, the more you look forward to the sequel, and the chances of disappointment are that much greater. So it was with equal parts anticipation and hesitation that I started Ironside: A Modern Faery’s Tale by Holly Black.
Black’s debut book, Tithe, introduced us to Kaye, a 16 year old girl who moves to New Jersey to live with her grandmother and discovers she is a changeling, a faery who grew up in the mortal world after being switched with a human child. Now, after writing the Spiderwick Chronicles and Valiant, Black finally(!) returns with a story about Kaye.
Although a pixie, Kaye is still living in the mortal world, Ironside, and is a misfit in the faerie realm. Unsure of Roiben’s feelings toward her and drunk on faerie wine, Kaye allows herself to be baited by several faeries who speak of things unknown to her.
“A declaration,” the woman said. “You haven’t declared yourself.” It seemed to Kaye that the beetles paced a circle around the woman’s throat. Kaye shook her head.
“She doesn’t know.” The girl snickered, snatching an apple off the table and biting into it.
“To be his consort,” the woman spoke slowly, as though to an idiot. An iridescent green beetle dropped from her mouth. “One makes a declaration of love and asks for a quest to prove one’s worth.”
Kaye shuddered, watching the shimmering beetle scuttle up the woman’s dress to take its place at her neck. “A quest?”
“But if the declarer is not favored, the monarch will hand down an impossible expedition.”
“Or a deadly one,” the grinning petal girl supplied.
“Not that we think he would send you on a quest like that.”
“Not that we think he meant to hide anything from you.”
When Kaye declares herself to Roiben, the Seelie knight turned Unseelie King, Roiben sends Kaye on a quest to find a faery who can tell an untruth. It’s a seemingly impossible task, for the fae can stretch the truth and bend the truth, but cannot lie. Meanwhile, Roiben has an enormous task of his own: keep the Unseelie throne out of the hands of Silarial, the Seelie Queen he once loved.
Ironside is a worthy sequel to Tithe. As in Tithe, Holly Black treats readers to a complex, vivid story. The faerie realm is as beautiful and dangerous as ever, and Kaye and Roiben are faced with tasks of such difficulty that I had no idea how Black would resolve their dilemmas. The main characters, while they have grown and evolved since Tithe, remain consistent to the people/faeries we were first introduced to. We also get to return to, and learn more about, the faerie realm. Just as important, nothing happens in Ironside that ruins my love for Tithe, unlike other series I can think of.