August 29, 2022

Review: Master of Iron

Master of Iron Master of Iron by Tricia Levenseller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second book in the Bladesmith duology, and a distinct improvement over the first one. From what I can tell, the recent trend in YA publishing is to have two books in a series instead of three: the first to introduce the world and set the stakes, and the second to bring everything home. This series definitely benefits by having only two volumes. This is a tighter, leaner story, with the plot, characterization, the progression of the romance, and the worldbuilding all ramped up and expertly interwoven as the story concludes.

The strength of this book is the characterization. The protagonist, Ziva, is depicted as having a severe anxiety disorder, and I'm also wondering if she has OCD and/or is on the autism spectrum. At any rate, she is a neurodivergent character that is handled very well. Despite her limitations on being around people and coping with the desperate situations she is thrust into, in this story she makes concrete efforts on improving herself and helping the people around her. This is especially so in her burgeoning romance with the mercenary, Kellyn. Ziva has to learn to speak up, to communicate her wants and needs to Kellyn, and help him understand how her brain works. (And kudos to the author for bringing up and discussing birth control in a fantasy context! In this world women have contraceptive herbs, but all too often the subject is simply never touched on.) It would be easy for the romance to overwhelm the plot, but the author does not let this happen. There are are slower parts where Ziva and Kellyn talk and work out their relationship issues, and then there are faster chapters where they fight and run for their lives. These alternating sections are well paced and the book never seems to drag.

I thought the worldbuilding was a bit light and generic in the first volume, but in this one it's fleshed out more. We meet the rulers of the other realms and get a better sense of the country as a whole. I also liked the realism of the setting--there is no fast-moving means of transportation (like magical horses) here. Ziva and Kellyn take weeks to get to where they are going and they are filthy when they arrive.

All in all, this book definitely paid off the promise of the first. I loved it.

View all my reviews

No comments: