The Iron Butterfly by Chanda Hahn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pretty good book. I finished it up in a couple of days.
The Iron Butterfly is the story of Thalia, a young girl who has no idea who she is. She awakens in a dungeon to torturous experiments by an evil cult and narrowly escapes with the aid of a warrior. When she finds herself alone, she's soon taken in by a couple of men on their way to the Citadel, where the younger of the two, a denai (or magic user), is going to be a student. The leaders of the Citadel allow Thalia to stay as a servant while they investigate the cult and try to find her family. This is when Thalia learns that the Septori are not interested in letting her be, and their experiments were more successful than they had imagined.
This is a pure fantasy, featuring magic, evil cults, warring clans, a benevolent council, and a magic school. I enjoyed the character arc of Thalia, as she goes from terrified, weak prisoner, to confident warrior. She is the epitome of a strong female character as she meets (or attempts to meet) each challenge thrown at her, but she's still flawed. Despite her strength, the forces against her are immense. She tries and fails, over an over, but she never gives up. This is why I consider her strong. The fact that she is not all-powerful or all-knowing, as some fantasy heroes are, is what makes her relatable.
In addition to the good vs. evil plot, there is a budding romance (or two) as well. I'm not sure whether it will become a love triangle in later books, but it seems to be going in that direction. Still, Thalia seems steadily attracted to the main love interest and acts accordingly, even though that love interest just happens to have competition. She doesn't flip flop between them, which I found refreshing.
The only thing I didn't especially like was the catty denai girl who tries to rile up all the students against Thalia, but I think that was intentional. She's jealous, snobby, and mean-spirited, an archetype I've seen in many stories set in schools. I was reminded a little of the rivalry in The Masterharper of Pern and in the Harry Potter books. Outcast, young prodigy put upon by heartless, overindulged enemies, it's not exactly a unique feature of stories like these.
Overall, the story left me satisfied, but eager to read more. This is the second Chanda Hahn book I've read, and both have been like this. I must say she's a great storyteller. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of YA fantasy.
I found this book for free on Amazon.
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