The Iron King - Julie Kagawa Good things first: this book would make a great drinking game!Take a shot if... - Meghan says or does something stupid - Meghan almost gets herself killed and rescued by some hot/sassy/mysterious guy - somebody (mostly Puck) is SMIRKING - somebody has beady or black eyes without pupils - something is being overshadowed by a shadow cast by something big - scenes change after two pagesThank me later for the most intoxicated night of your life.Also: I hate product placement it books; I don't care if a specific brand is part of the average teenager's life; instead of contributing to the authenticity of the plot I feel it cheapens the narrative.Furthermore, this book featured a description of a characters asset that I found so excrutiatingly stupid that I --now get this-- that I facepalmed. To reiterate: I actually PUT THE BOOK DOWN and SLAPPED MY FOREHEAD. I have never, ever in my life done this with ANY book. Ever.Now to the good stuff.First, me musing about stories and recycling ideas in general below the cut:This book is an amalgam of elements that have already been used in world-famous stories like Labyrinth, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Neverending Story, and, of course, A Midsummer Night's Dream on which the characters of The Iron King are mainly based.This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, since I believe that (almost) everything and all stories have already been told in one form or other and that there is nothing truly and completely original any more. And I am okay with that. I love stories that take elements that have already been done and combine them to give them their own wicked or unexpected twist or manage to disguise the fact that parts are heavily borrowed from somewhere else. I do, however, also think that "everything's already been done" is not an excuse or a blank pass for poor plotting, writing, and execution (or, worse, an automatic guarantee for quality).Because this is what this book is: poorly executed and lacking skilfull art and/or editing behind it. Yes, it takes some of literature's most fascinating and potentially interesting characters and tries to mingle them with ideas that, basically, have a lot of potential. But the execution just doesn't do it justice.Now let me just preface my rant: I generally love fantasy! Books, movies, comics, TV, anything, anytime.The characters, especially our "heroine", are incredibly flat and poorly fleshed-out. Puck in all his wicked glory had SO FREAKING MUCH potential to sweep the readers of their feet with his faery-ness-ness (yes, this is a word!) but... he is presented in such a shallow and flat way that you ALMOST don't notice him very CONVENIENTLY being disposed of in the last third, never to be seen again (at least in the first book), to make space for the bloodless lusting (seriously, who would call that love?) between Meghan and our tragical-dark-and-brooding-love-interest that is Ash. While Ash grew on me towards the end (but seriously, "shocking" backstory was painfully obvious), I never could figure what he ever saw in Meghan and why, all of a sudden, he was falling for her.Because you see, Meghan...... might be one of the blandest protagonists and stupidest damsels-in-distress you might ever have encountered in YA land. See, I get that she is new to the Nevernever and doesn't know its ways but after the second or at least third time she gets herself into a life-threatening situation you would have reckoned she might learn something and actually try to think ahead. Never happens. Her stupid action get her in danger page after page, just to be conveniently saved by one of her cute love interest warrior guys. I really would have loved if Meghan was shown as helpless at first but somehow acquiring actual skills to save her own stupid ass sometimes. At times it read just like this: "I have to save Ethan! *hissy fit/forcing everybody to help her/determined look*" - *behaves stupidly* - *almost dying* - *BUT THEN THERE WAS ASH/PUCK/GRIMALKIN/OBERON/... (notice how they're all guys?)* - "Thanks for saving me! But now we have to save Ethan!" - lather, rinse, repeat.So much for a strong heroine. Sigh. I seriously don't get what everybody saw in her (or her alleged "power" that she even refuses to properly work for).And those life-threatening adventures page after page after page? They actually do happen with this frequency, it's almost ridiculous and dizzying (or, in my case, mind-numbingly exhausting). Bordering on sensory over-stimulation (man, if books were light, this book would be a stroboscope), one dangerous situation is mastered in one to two pages and then the next adventure happens, two pages later the next, and so one. No time to rest, take a breath and admire the wonder that is the Nevernever.Speaking of which, the world building...Yes, the scenes are often atmospheric and realistic enough, I could picture the situation more or less clearly in my mind. But that is not what good world building is about. I didn't see the Nevernever as an organic world. I wanted to know more: how does this work, what is this race, what's their back story, what about the magic? Nothing is fleshed out, everything is simply alluded to and you have to fill in the gaps by yourself, which actually isn't happening since Kagawa doesn't give you any hints and doesn't explain later.And how would an author, when there is so limited space and so many OTHER IDEAS that have to be used? Seriously, Kagawa tried to use every possible situation and every impossible creature in her novel, so much so almost all creatures (only described by their looks, nothing else about the peculiarities of their respective races or anything) introduced in one scene are simply COMPLETELY forgotten about and NEVER EVER seen again later in the novel. Bummer. Revelations were also almost always very anticlimatic. Yawn.What would have been great: focus on a handful of main ideas and characters and actually flesh them out, give them time to develop and room for the adventures to play out, and package that in such engaging writing that it never feels boring despite the "few" scenes/creatures.The writing, while not awful per se, is functional and truly has its moments. With at times slim descriptions it managed to pull me in -- just to jerk me out of the story moments later with some ridiculous phrasing, odd or overdone description, or simply some confusing and illogical dialogue.To sum it up: this book wasn't completely awful, and at times I was engaged enough to enjoy the read, but I never really felt the urge to pick it up again, and most of the time completely forgot what I read soon after. Towards the end, I just wanted it to be over.