Review: The Iron Witch

The Iron Witch is the first book in a new series, The Iron Witch Saga, by author Karen Mahoney.

Originally listed for release on February 8, 2011, both the paperback and eBook are available as of January 20, 2011 in the U.S. for purchase at Amazon and the paperback is available at Barnes & Noble. Published by Flux, the paperback is 312 pages.

The Iron Witch is one of the books that can be chosen for the 2011 Debut Author Challenge hosted by Kristi at

Goodreads description:

Freak. That’s what her classmates call seventeen-year-old Donna Underwood. When she was seven, a horrific fey attack killed her father and drove her mother mad. Donna’s own nearly fatal injuries from the assault were fixed by magic—the iron tattoos branding her hands and arms. The child of alchemists, Donna feels cursed by the magical heritage that destroyed her parents and any chance she had for a normal life. The only thing that keeps her sane and grounded is her relationship with her best friend, Navin Sharma.

When the darkest outcasts of Faerie—the vicious wood elves—abduct Navin, Donna finally has to accept her role in the centuries old war between the humans and the fey. Assisted by Xan, a gorgeous half-fey dropout with secrets of his own, Donna races to save her friend—even if it means betraying everything her parents and the alchemist community fought to the death to protect.

Being a part of the Order of the Dragon, a secret and ancient society of alchemists, should have made Donna Underwood feel special. It didn’t. Just because her parents were legends and her aunt was up and coming in the ranks didn’t make being the youngest person in her Order mean much to her.

She would have preferred to be a normal teenager. She would have preferred to have both her parents back – her father alive and her mother not trapped in a mental institute.

She would have liked to have arms and hands that weren’t encased in a swirling pattern of moving tattoos created from a blend of iron and silver. Arms and hands specially made to replace the ones that she lost to the fey creature that attacked her and killed her father.

As much as she wanted no part of this world, she still kept its secrets and hid her magical tattoos, even from her best friend Navin Sharma.

But all this changed when she began to see things in the shadows, the dark wood elves that had remained in the Elflands for years since her attack, but were now making their presence known and boldly confronting her and her friends.

Forced to reveal her secrets to Navin and to Alexander Grayson, the handsome green-eyed boy she just met with secrets of his own, Donna is drawn into the world of alchemy that she had always hoped to avoid.


The Iron Witch is the debut novel for author Karen Mahoney. It is a wonderfully imaginative tale that combines the ancient art of alchemy with the world of the fey, all set in the modern day America.

Seen from the perspective of Donna Underwood, a girl who at the age of seven lost her father, lost her mother to madness and lost her arms to an attack by the wood elves, the story has a good flow and easy pace. When used, Donna’s journal entries offer a nice transition between parts of the story and give a first-person insight into Donna’s character.

While this book only begins to touch on the concepts of alchemy, the elves and faeries, and readers are only teased with what exactly goes on in the Order of the Dragon and who its members really are, it sets things up nicely for the subsequent books in the series.

The ending, which arrives rather abruptly, does leave things up in the air and there are a number of questions that are left unanswered for the future books.

This is a great first story for the author, which will hopefully be expanded upon as the series evolves, and is a delightful and charming story for readers who enjoy the genre.

Reviewer gives this book [rating=4]

On a personal note:

I totally enjoyed this story. Some parts even had me biting my nails. (Ugly habit yes, but couldn’t be helped.)

The premise of this story was very different than many of the YA stories I’ve read and I liked the idea of the characters magically enhanced arms and hands.

I wished there was a bit more build-up at the beginning before everything started to happen, and more information given about the Order.

The idea of the alchemists is something exciting and new for me as a reader and I would have loved to have seen more of it. I certainly hope that the next books delve further into this.

I also really think Xan will develop into a great character, but again not as much has been revealed in this first book, and the initial meeting and connection between him and Donna seemed slightly rushed.

The only question I wonder about is why it was set in America. I’m not sure if that is only part of the U.S. edition, but it seems that it would have felt a lot more natural set in England.

From the character names, to a few ideas and phrases that have a British feel (Sunday tea, having curry at a friends’ home, the terms “trouser-suit,” “press cuttings,” and “newsprint blanket”) it didn’t seem necessary for it to be set in America. There is nothing wrong with the U.K. is there? I don’t think so.

But, I am now officially hooked on this new series and can’t wait to read book two.


The second book in the series, The Wood Queen is slated for release in February of 2012 and The Stone Demon will be published in 2013.

To read an excerpt on the publisher’s website, click here.

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