|In the third of her Dark Swan series, Iron Crowned, Richelle Mead picks up right where she left King Dorian and Queen Eugenie – with Eugenie just ambling in after a fierce battle intended specifically to end her life.
Eugenie Markham's life is two-sided: she is half-human, half faerie (or gentry, as she calls it), and tries her best to divide her obligations accordingly. However, lately, her shamanistic human duties have been neglected as she attends to a war in the Otherworld that sprouted courtesy of the myth behind Eugenie's father, the Storm King.
Eugenie's consort, King Dorian of the Oak Land, is basically leading the war against the queen of the Rowan Land, Katrice. Eugenie knows little about warfare; given her chosen profession, her expertise lies more in hand-to-hand. Eugenie herself loathes the idea of the war, primarily because, as queen, people are fighting and dying and suffering for her.
The idea of the Iron Crown is presented to Eugenie by a seeress whose believability Eugenie finds questionable. However, when she's told by an obsessive ghost that the Iron Crown seems to be a one-way ticket to ending the war, Eugenie presents the idea to Dorian. Dorian hesitates to send Eugenie on such a misadventure – throughout the lengthy memory of the "shining ones." only few have managed claim ownership of the crown.
At least, Eugenie thinks Dorian hesitates. Given her human blood, the "iron" part of the crown is no problem for her, so the trip is not nearly as harrowing as she expects. What turns out to be the problem, however, is what the crown can actually do – since, as it turns out, it is definitely not just a status symbol. Dorian's betrayal fresh in her mind and heart, Eugenie does the unthinkable. Then she continues in what most of her friends consider a downward spiral as she ignores her Otherworld obligations despite the ongoing war.
When it comes right down to it, Eugenie plays her ace, the Iron Crown. But what are the repercussions. And in so doing, is she making moot all of the havoc she wreaked by avoiding the Otherworld? Also, in her revenge against Dorian, is she doing more harm than good?
The Iron Crowned is a more political novel than we've seen previously in this series. And, though more detail could have been used in some parts (for instance, the actual crusade to retrieve the Iron Crown, or during the latest rescue of her troublesome sister), it is likely the lack of unnecessary detail that made this third installation of the series more readable than the first two. Eugenie shows herself more mature during the first half of the novel, but quickly backslides after she gets ticked at Dorian, and reverts to her irritating old ways. The men in her life – the aforementioned King Dorian and the fox shapeshifter, Kiyo – are their usual selves: overbearing, condescending, judgmental, and sneaky, so don't look for improvements there.
Hopefully, Iron Crowned is indicative of how the series will continue. A little character growth and a lot less meaningless detail made a vast improvement, bringing my interest back to a series that had been lackluster from an author whose talents demand more.