The end of their world begins with a story.
In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn’t most fairy tales.
Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being — called the Nybbas — imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true — not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.
Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.
My attention was immediately captivated by the synopsis of the novel. I mean, how could I or anyone resist an outspoken and plain princess, her best friend and a mean dragon?
Iron Hearted Violet was a different book than I had imagined it would be. Oh it had all the elements I expected it to but it had something more, something that I hadn’t thought it would concern itself with. Substance. I thought it would be an adventure story that would leave me delighted, and it was, but there are heavier themes in the novel that kept me thinking long after I had turned the last page.
The way the novel is framed distinguishes it from the rest of its coterie. The narrator of Iron Hearted Violet is an old man, the Court Storyteller (some might call him the historian, if you will) so you are always at a distance from the main characters of the novel and usually this would be vexing but Barnhill very cleverly uses this distance to draw attention to aspects of the main characters that the reader would not be privy to were we present in the main characters’ heads. We are with Violet and Demetrius from when they are born to their teens and through the storyteller’s eyes, we see Violet grow, devour stories, make up stories and make a friend: Demetrius. We see her parents who are actually properly present (some of the times and not throughout) and we see her growing up and beyond what everyone hoped her to be.
The world building is solid and the characterizations are well done. The reader gets a sense of who Violet and Demetrius are even through the storyteller’s eyes. The fae folk are also fun and appropriate to the story. The setting works amazingly.
Violet is born a princess in a world that has some very fixed expectations about what a princess should look like. Violet is not beautiful. In fact, there are those who would say that Violet is ugly and others who would argue that she is beautiful in her own way. Either ways, Violet does not feel beautiful and the villain of the piece preys on that insecurity of hers to manipulate her into a position that will facilitate her breaking out of the prison she has been held captive in for generations. There is this poignant scene when Violet realizes that she is not beautiful and this made the novel so much better and put it in context of the superficial society we live in. I loved the way the issue of her looks is resolved. Violet finds out that there is more to life than the way you look and really, there is something to be said for feet that actually do what they are supposed to instead of just looking pretty and small.
If that was an enigmatic sentence, you should read the novel to find out what I’m talking about. Do I recommend it? Yes I do. The plot is intriguing, the characters likeable and the resolution believable. Villain slaying princesses, no matter what they look like, win the day. Read this. You won’t be disappointed.