Book Reviews

Book Review: The Iron Ghost by Jen Williams


You’ve been trudging through the slush and cold for days. You’re shaking with exhaustion, your extremities tingling in a sensation akin to burning.
Stumbling into base-camp, you’re grateful you made it before nightfall. The flames of the camp fire are a welcome sight after endless days of blinding snow, of mountains looming over you, of questioning your sanity.
A softly steaming tin mug is thrust into your hands and a familiar voice purrs,
“You don’t half travel far for a good story, do you?”
“You? How are you – No, that’s not why I’m – ”
“Sit down before you fall down. This time, I reckon you need a special kind of story. A story for your very soul. You treasure your soul, don’t you? What price would you pay for yours? Would you strike a bargain with a mage? A demon? Or would you entrust it to the very spirit of these mountains? Let me tell you of wyverns, mountains that move, cities sunk below waves, grief and loss and vengeance…”


That’s right, Wydrin, Sebestian and Frith are back and are on “one last job”.

I have a confession. I didn’t fall as deeply into this one, Jen Williams’ second book of her Copper Cat Trilogy, as I did The Copper Promise

The first book was like a fever, but this was more like a slower burn.
It did take me a while to feel as invested as last time. I think my problem may have been that during the first part of the book, there were lots of little reminders of what happened in the last book (e.g. during dialogue), that I didn’t feel I necessarily needed (as I’d only just read the last book) and so slowed the flow of the narrative a little.

Another thing I struggled with at first was the jump in time; events in the second book do not continue immediately on from the first, and you are given hints of things you missed. The characters suddenly have a different chemistry because of these events, and I found it a little disorientating.

But the flow soon picked back up again as the action begins to kick in. And that’s something you can certainly commend Jen for; her books are rammed with plenty of action. The combat is exciting and you genuinely don’t know where Jen is going to take you next, or what the characters will be pitted against. Jen has a wonderful, broad, sometimes bizarre, imagination and the things she brings to life in her pages never cease to amaze. I’d be hard pressed to think of another instance where I’ve read a line like “follow that centipede”.

Don’t worry though, just like The Copper Promise, this isn’t a book which focuses all its attention on the action and so produces shallow characters. Jen balances the book beautifully; our heroes are truly put through their paces emotionally, with hangovers carried forward from the first book (big tick for continuity)  and plenty of reflections upon their actions. Their drives and desires are explored but never become tiresome. We marvel in their strengths but their vulnerabilities are equally as important.

The Iron Ghost is available on The Book Depository
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