Book Review of Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

Posted May 16, 2013 by Kara in Lyn / 10 Comments

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 9th, 2012
Pages: 432
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Source: I own a copy

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Description from Goodreads:

The end of their world begins with a story.
This one.

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.

Review: At the start of the book, Iron Hearted Violet had a lot of thing that seemed to promise a great story. Everything I was ready to see in a fantasy novel was combined into one book. The book hit all the right notes, but the pacing, inaccurate illustrations and lack of consistency crippled the storyline from the start.

Iron Hearted Violet raises an interesting point about the common misconception of royalty, especially princesses. Go to the Disney store, and you can see what issues face our little girls from a young age – a true princess is flawless. A true princess is beautiful. Something will be tossed in about bravery or a good heart, but a kind soul doesn’t sell dolls. Beautiful hair and a fair complexion drives the money machine. I found it interesting that this issue cropped up when Disney decided to give the Brave heroine a complete makeover to drive Merida’s popularity in the marketplace. Fans revolt. I grew up with Barbie dolls, and Ariel was my inspiration when I was a small girl, but it was nice to see a princess hit the scenes that reflected a realistic look. I don’t want to veer off topic, but this very idea about the aesthetically pleasing princess played a center roll in the novel. Right away, I loved this blatant rebellion against plastic-looking female royal heirs.

The entire voice of the book quickly drove the novel into a weirdly detached and whiny novel that never seemed to end. This book went on forever. I can handle a long book, but the inconsistent descriptions drove up the annoyance factor. The characters all seemed like their personalities were just made up as the author went along. I understand that the book was written from the point of view of the storyteller of the court, but the book would have stood a much better chance if it had taken on the voice of the main character. I am unsure if the author wished to make the book seem inconsistent to follow the realistic guidelines that fable-makers tend to assign feelings and actions to the people of their stories, but the results was a rambling emotional mess that really lost steam about mid-point. The world build was weak as well, and for a majority of the book, I felt a bit lost and struggled to keep up with the information and the people.

The illustrator seemed miss the memo about Violet’s appearance, which rubbed me the wrong way. Princess Violet, in the book, was consistently described as unpleasant to the eye. The illustrations, however, depicted a sweet-looking girl. If you’re going to have the bravery to stand up to this hyped up description of pretty, pretty princesses, then have the courage to take a chance and draw the story accurately as well. It sent the wrong message and seemed to cancel out the moral of the story when the girl in the pictures failed to match the girl in the book.

I wanted this book to be more, and it had a chance to be an outstanding novel. We need more authors telling girls that their worth is not equal to their appearances, and there is nothing wrong with looking different from the glossy and romantic images that are pushed on us from a young age. This novel, sad to say, was neutered from the start, and in the end, the book wimped out on an important message and deflated like a balloon after the party.  Was it bad? No. Did I set my expectations high? Yes. Could have it been better? Hell yes.

3/5 Dragons

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10 responses to “Book Review of Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

  1. The cover looks cool but that’s annoying if it doesn’t suit the character.

    Disney quickly went back to the old Merida. I think they were just trying to be too matchy-matchy and forgot the point (and that with that many artists/illustrators its easy to disconnect from intent of original).

    Book does sound interesting. Too bad it wasn’t great.

  2. Amy

    The cover is awesome, and the premise sounds good. It’s too bad that it didn’t completely work for you. I hate it when I feel like a book goes on and on. Great review chick!

  3. Oh man, that sucks. The illustrations, based on the cover, are badass, but that doesn’t mean anything if it’s not an accurate depiction of the text. If she’s supposed to be unpleasant-looking, who the eff is that adorable redhead? I think I still need to read this, because motherfucking dragon! But I’m lowering my expectations.

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