Okay, I admit I wrote the title and the first line as an attention grabber. I don't actually compare books like I compare clothes while shopping (or while watching the Academy Awards).
Well, maybe just a little bit with my best friends over coffee.
But regardless, on Goodreads, I gave both Paranormalcy and the Iron King five stars and lengthy reviews.
I was struck by the very different tone of the two books, both written in first person.
In Paranormalcy, you have sixteen-year-old Evie, with all her vampire and gremlin ass-kicking attitude, her personality perfectly defined by her blinged-out pink taser that she uses for a weapon.
In the Iron King, you have sixteen-year-old Meghan, who has almost no attitude at all, except maybe a sort of brave stubbornness.
In Paranormalcy, the story is built around the main character and her Buffyish look on life. The paranormal elements and world-building feel more like tacked-on ornaments (though certainly very interesting ornaments, don't get me wrong).
In the Iron King, the story is built around the fey world, and Meghan sometimes just feels like a vehicle to move us through it. The emphasis is totally different, as is the tone. Paranormalcy: despite some tension, insecurity and tragedy, the tone of this book is pure fun. The Iron King's tone is deadly serious, with a occasional sprinkles of humor to keep it from being too dire.
Here's an example of character-centric, voice-centric Paranormalcy:
He [the vampire] hissed. Just as he reached for my neck, I tased him. I was there to tag and bag, not to kill. Besides, if I had to carry separate weapons for every paranormal I took out, I'd be dragging around a full luggage set. Tasers are a one-size-fits-all paranormal butt-kicking option. Mine's pink with rhinestones. Tasey and I have a lot of good times together.
Here's an example of world-centric Iron King:
We walked for hours, through a forest that seemed to be constantly closing in on us. In the corners of my eyes, branches, leaves, even tree trunks moved and shifted, reaching out for me. Sometimes I’d pass a tree or bush, only to see the same one farther down the path. Laughter echoed from the canopy overhead, and strange lights winked and bobbed in the distance. Once, a fox peek at us from beneath a fallen log, a human skull perched on its head. None of this bothered Grimalkin, who trotted down the forest trail with his tail up, never looking back to see if I followed.
I want to emphasize that while Iron King the focus is the strange and fantastic faery world, from the twilight shadows of the Wyldwood, the troll-kitchens of a faery court, a dance-club portal, and the steampunky world of the iron fey, there are also great characters in this book. Puck and Ash are well-developed opposites of impish fun and icy reserve. Grimalkin is a sly reinvention of the Cheshire Cat. A book can't make five stars on world-building alone: it must have a great plot (in this case, a harrowing quest) and great characters. But the world-building is still the core of this book. Even the main villain is defined by world-building, in a sense. Here's an amazing description of the Iron King, Machina:
The figure on the throne stood tall and elegant, with flowing silver hair and the pointed ears of the fey nobility. He faintly resembled Oberon, refined and graceful, yet incredibly powerful. Unlike Oberon and the finery of the Summer Court, the Iron King wore a stark black coat that flapped in the wind. Energy crackled around him, like thunder with no sound, and I caught flashes of lightning in his slanted black eyes. A metal stud glittered in one ear, a Bluetooth phone in the other. His face was beautiful and arrogant, all sharp planes and angles; I felt I could cut myself on his cheek if I got too close.
In Paranormalcy, you get some world-building as Evie describes how she sees various paranormal characters. Her description of the shapeshifter, Lend, is wild and beautiful. But it's all very much filtered through her voice, as opposed to the characters being filtered through the fantastic settings of the Iron King.
I loved them both. Though if you really pressed me, the Iron King feels like it has a slightly wider range, because everything isn't filtered through one super-distinctive voice, like in Paranormalcy.
Which do you like better? Hearing a story entirely filtered through one strong voice? Or do you prefer a slightly less dominating voice that lets you see the world-building and characters more through your own eyes?