Young Adult literature is an exciting place to be. As J. K. Rowling proved in Harry Potter, Young Adult isn’t just kid stuff. I adored the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins and, yes, I’ll admit it, even the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot. When I heard the buzz around Julie Kagawa‘s The Iron King, I had to check it out.
I’ll be blunt. I like Kagawa’s books about the Iron Fey and I’ll seek out the next installments. The fairies occupying Kagawa’s world are vicious, petty and vain creatures, far removed from the Disneyfied version of happy creatures making flower necklaces. They draw more inspiration from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Indeed, the infamous Puck is a major character in Kagawa’s books. The descriptions of the worlds the fairies occupy are at times opulent, at times vague, but done in a way that makes sense given the first person point of view. Our narrator, Meghan Chase doesn’t have time to consider the curtains when she’s running for her life from fairies with shiny, sharp teeth. So far, the series balances action with moments of reflection that say more about our human world than the one occupied by mythological creatures.
But, and if one is going to muse on something like this, there better be a but, I find myself troubled by the over all message that seems to be emerging. Although neither the Summer nor the Winter Fey emerge as particularly heroic, the Iron Fey represent the villainous forces our heroine and her rag-tag team of outsiders must defeat. The Summer and Winter Fey draw their magic from human imagination, creativity and lust. The Iron Fey, developing from technology, destroy the forces the rest of the Fey hold dear.
The anti-technology message in The Iron King and The Iron Daughter rings loud and clear. We’ve heard similar arguments before – TV rots the mind, video games destroy our capacity to think. I finished the second book the day after Steve Jobs’ death was announced. He, to me, is a prime example of how technology and creativity are not mutually exclusive. Consider the explosion of e-media. Looking at Rube Goldberg Machines on You-Tube with my children a few months ago showed people using their creativity to create a ‘buzz-worthy’ video. We spent nearly an hour watching them, then spent longer trying to create our own. I’m a firm believer that technology can enhance, not destroy, creativity.
I wonder how many people are reading Kagawa’s series on an e-reader? Do they pick up the same uncomfortable message I do? There are several more books in the series. I intend to read on. In that way Kagawa succeeded. I have to continue to find out if my fears are substantiated.