Hello everybody. Today’s post is a spoiler free review of C.M. McGuire’s YA Fantasy Ironspark, followed by an interview with the author. This post is also part of a book tour organized by TBR And Beyond Tours. You’ll find more information about the tour at the end of this post, as well as links to all of the other blogs that are also participating in it.
A teen outcast must work together with new friends to keep her family and town safe from murderous Fae while also dealing with panic attacks, family issues, and a lesbian love triangle in C.M. McGuires’s kick-butt paranormal YA debut, Ironspark.
For the past nine years, ever since a bunch of those evil Tinkerbells abducted her mother, cursed her father, and forced her family into hiding, Bryn has devoted herself to learning everything she can about killing the Fae. Now it’s time to put those lessons to use. Then the Court Fae finally show up, and Bryn realizes she can’t handle this on her own. Thankfully, three friends offer to help: Gwen, a kindhearted water witch; Dom, a new foster kid pulled into her world; and Jasika, a schoolmate with her own grudge against the Fae. But trust is hard-won, and what little Bryn has gained is put to the test when she uncovers a book of Fae magic that belonged to her mother. With the Fae threat mounting every day, Bryn must choose between faith in her friends and power from a magic that could threaten her very humanity.
My review of Ironspark
Characters and relationships
The characters in this book are very well fleshed out and our main characters – Bryn, Dom, Jasika and Gwen – all have interesting character arcs. Bryn’s character growth is also done very well. The book starts with Bryn still coming to terms with the loss of her mother. Although she puts on a brave front when taking care of her younger brothers and when she’s out fairy hunting, she actually struggles with anxiety and panic attacks. Over the course of the book, we see her grow as a character as she slowly learns to open up to her new friends and share her burdens with them. I also completely fell in love with Gwen. She’s a water fairy, one of the water wives, and she is such a kind and gentle soul. Although I loved all the characters, Gwen was definitely my fav! I can’t wait to see how her character further develops in the next book. I also loved the friendship that develops between Bryn, Dom and Jasika, especially when they start to work together to deal with the Fae that are targeting their town. The book also features a very interesting queer romance, including an F/F love triangle. I won’t say too much about it to avoid spoilers, but I personally really liked the romance in this book and I can’t wait to see how things turn out for our characters in the sequel!
Fae lore and fairy hunting
I really enjoyed the Fae lore in this book! We get to see a lot of different Fae creatures, some beautiful and enchanting, like the water wives, and some downright creepy, like the drones. I also loved the ‘fairy hunting’ aspect of the story. I loved that there were some nods in there to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which I also love. For example, the dynamic between Bryn and her mentor, Father Gooding, reminded me a bit of Buffy and Giles. Plus, there is also a Scooby Gang reference at some point in the book, which I thought was really cool. If you love the Fae, and you also love Buffy, you’ll definitely fall in love with Ironspark.
I loved how well-written the queer rep was in this book. There is representation for bisexual, pansexual and asexual characters, as well as a couple of F/F romantic pairings. There is also a scene in the book where Bryn and her friends are discussing about their sexualities, which I thought was very well-written. I loved that the book featured an open discussion like this about queerness and sexuality. This is definitely something that I’d love to see more in YA literature.
Plot, pacing and tone
I thought the story was very interesting, with a lot of secrets to be uncovered and some really cool twists and reveals. The plot was also very well paced, with a good balance between action-heavy scenes and quieter, character-focused moments. And although there were several serious and emotional scenes throughout the book, the book also had a lot of snarky humor, which I really liked.
My final thoughts
Overall, this book was a very solid beginning to what promises to be an amazing series. The book definitely put a fresh spin on the Fae genre, with at its helm a wonderful kick-butt queer leading lady. I really look forward to the next book!
Interview with C.M. McGuire
QaS: Firstly, congratulations on the release of your debut novel! In the acknowledgements, you mentioned that you’ve been working on this book for ten years. Can you tell us a bit about your publication journey? What are some of your favorite memories of this journey so far?
CMMc: It was definitely a journey. I should preface that I did not write this book consistently for ten years. In between starting Ironspark and its publication, I think I wrote five other books that never made the cut. The big change came about five years ago when I decided to write it in first person. That’s when Bryn really came to life. Of course, it still didn’t seem too likely because around that time and for a few years after, I kept hearing the same thing: Fairies are out. Nobody wants to publish them.
I’ve already shared the story about me writing a scary scene for Ironspark in the dark because the power was out, and a roommate tapped on my shoulder… So I’ll say what I’m looking forward to is burning some of those rejection letters. I’m having an Unpublished Party (think bachelorette party but for an author). Guests and I will burn particularly brutal and painful rejections we’ve had.
QaS: In the book, we get to meet a lot of Fae creatures, such as the water wives and the shadelings among many others. Of all the Fae creatures that appear in the book, which one is your favorite?
CMMc: I should say the shadelings because I invented them but, honestly, I really love the Gwragedd Annwn. I was fascinated by them when I first read them in Brian Froud’s Faeries book. There’s something wonderful about a Fae who can be that astonishingly gentle.
QaS: Aside from Fae lore, Ironspark also features a lot of myths and legends, including Arthurian legends. What other myths or legends would you maybe like to explore in future books?
CMMc: Honestly, I have always wanted to incorporate more Indigenous folklore. Not from a first person perspective, mind you, because I’m not indigenous. But it always struck me as kind of weird that we’d have all these books about fairies and vampires and whatnot coming from other countries, but we don’t really tend to see the mythological figures who already belong to those areas. Meyer touched on the concept in Twilight, and Briggs definitely pushes it. I believe Gaiman had a history in American Gods wherein there were earlier conflicts between the gods. But otherwise, it’s rare.
Practically, I know why that’s the case, and it’s more the result of trends in publishing than people with stories to tell. But I would love to see Indigenous spirits making more of an appearance, in my own fiction or in others. Better yet, I’d love to see more focus on publishing Indigenous voices, period.
QaS: Language also plays an interesting role in the story. For example, in the book, our characters encounter magical spells that cannot be read by humans, as well as spells written in Welsh. With regards to that, what was your research process like?
CMMc: I’ll be honest, I used quick websites a lot for translations, and sort of intentionally tried to mix in some older, more archaic words with new ones, mixing Old English and Welsh and Gaelic, largely because I felt Bryn’s mother would have been writing in her book for a long time. It was more to hint at how all-over-the-place she was.
QaS: Aside from writing, you also make art, some of which can be found on your website. Do you use drawings and artwork as part of your planning process when working on your stories? Also, would you like to maybe make some artwork inspired by Ironspark some day?
CMMc: Sometimes, when I’m first starting a story, I like to draw the characters out, largely to get a feel for their appearance. Most of my art I do for stress relief, but I would love to someday make something for Ironspark. However, NOTHING I make could be as good as Samya Arif’s work on the current cover. She’s just amazing.
QaS: And finally, without spoiling too much, what can you tell us about what to expect from the next book?
CMMc: That’s so optimistic! I hope I get a next book. As I said above, I really want to bring in figures from Lenape folklore to make it clear that the events at the end of Ironspark have earned unwanted attention. I also intend to explore more of Mab’s backstory and exactly how Fae contracts are forged and broken.
About the author
When C.M. McGuire, author of Ironspark, was a child, she drove her family crazy with her nonstop stories. Lucky for them, she eventually learned to write and gave their ears a rest. This love of stories led her to college where she pursued history (semi-nonfictional storytelling), anthropology (where stories come from) and theater (attention-seeking storytelling). When she isn’t writing, she’s painting, crocheting, gardening, baking, and teaching the next generation to love stories as much as she does.
You can follow C.M. McGuire online at the following: