The Iron-Jawed Boy by Nikolas Lee

July 30, 2013 Review 0 ★★★

The Iron-Jawed Boy by Nikolas LeeThe Iron-Jawed Boy by Nikolas Lee
Series: Sky Guardian Chronicles #1
Published by Parthenon Publishing House on July, 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Young Adult
Pages: 274
Format: ARC
Source: the Author
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three-stars
Being the freak with the iron jaw isn’t easy for ten-year-old Ionikus Reaves. It’s cold, heavy, and worst of all, it’s bound to his skin with magic. Father attached it, but left only a riddle as to why, and now he’s in the war, fighting on behalf of the pompous, evil Illyrian gods who drafted him. Now with Father gone, Ion blames no one but the Illyrians for his new freak status.

Then Ion discovers that, due to an incredibly infuriating reincarnation, he’s a Guardian: a wind-riding, lightning-toting god created to serve the Illyrians he so hates. The gods promise to free Father, however, and possibly solve the mystery of Ion’s jaw--so long as he agrees to train as a Guardian--and Ion accepts. But Ion soon finds his new world to be a dark, secretive one, where not every promise a god makes, a god keeps, and not accepting who you are...can have the deadliest of consequences.

It's not just a tale full of mystery, magic, new worlds, and new gods, it's one abnormal boy's search for normal, and the surprising discoveries he makes along the way.

The Iron-Jawed Boy was an enjoyable book, with a unique idea. Other reviewers have suggested this as being a cross between Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. Ion is a ten-year-old boy with no idea of what kind of power he possesses. He’s a Caller (which reminds me a lot of Avatar, except it’s calling instead of bending), of course, but after he loses his family and is found once again he discovers that he’s more than just an ordinary Caller, he’s a Guardian, a reincarnated God who needs to learn how to use his extraordinary powers if he’s to save his father. And he has to do it all with a strange piece of iron strapped to his jaw.

The pacing in this book was decent, an it kept me reading but there wasn’t a break-neck speed to it, either. Usually when I get into a book I have a hard time putting it down, but not in this case. That’s not a bad thing, mind you, but I’m used to books that grip me and won’t let me go. The character voices were, for the most part, fairly distinctive. Ion, of course, as the main character, but the one that surprised me the most was Ion’s mother. I paid a lot of attention to the nuances there and by the end of the book I truly enjoyed it. While it definitely draws inspiration from many of the other books in this genre, the story is told in an original way and given its own spin, which is always nice to see!

What didn’t work for me? Ion was given everything. He didn’t have to work hard to master his powers (or work at all) so there was no real growth on his end. He didn’t sound like a 10-year-old boy, either. The food the characters are given (all sweets that have been artificially enhanced to be nutritious, yet the characters never gain weight or have cavities?) was… uh… gross? I like my sweets as much as the next person, but every scene where all they eat is cakes (and there were a lot of those) had my stomach churning. The language seemed off, as well, with the way people spoke shifting between modern slang and more of a standard fantasy diction, and we later discover that this book is set in the future? It didn’t make sense. Secondary characters were two-dimensional, and like Ion, they didn’t grow or change from when we first met them.

The thing is, this read like a really interesting rough draft. It was rough in places, there were some grammatical errors and mistakes, non-essential scenes, and a lot of telling instead of showing. I liked this book, but I’m disappointed because it could have been better. I hope that the sequel gets a better edit, and that the author expands more on his characters and gives them the chance to grow.

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