Published by Amulet Books on October 11, 2016
Genres: Historical, Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
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In 1919, Ada Navarra—the intrepid daughter of immigrants—and Corinne Wells—a spunky, devil-may-care heiress—make an unlikely pair. But at the Cast Iron nightclub in Boston, anything and everything is possible. At night, on stage together, the two best friends, whose “afflicted” blood gives them the ability to create illusions through art, weave magic under the employ of Johnny Dervish, the club’s owner and a notorious gangster. By day, Ada and Corinne use these same skills to con the city’s elite in an attempt to keep the club afloat.
When a “job” goes awry and Ada is imprisoned, she realizes they’re on the precipice of danger. Only Corinne—her partner in crime—can break her out of Haversham Asylum. But once Ada is out, they face betrayal at every turn.
Oh man, this book has so much potential but unfortunately it fell short for me. Set in 1900s Boston with a touch of the supernatural, it sounded like a diverse The Diviners (which I loved), but there wasn’t that much happening in the plot to keep me interested.
There were many elements of the book I enjoyed. The first was the diversity, having both main characters, Corinne and Ada, experience racism and marginalisation being women of colour. Both girls have strained relationships with their families, especially their parents, which forms a catalyst for their close friendship. Ada is Portuguese and Swahali, and it was interesting seeing the language and her heritage being explored, which forms part of her mannerisms and her personality.
I thought the hemopathy aspect of the book was fascinating; I’ve never seen it explored before and it was interesting seeing it compared to witchery and psychic abilities. Corinne recites poetry to make see illusions or forget certain things, and Ada can manipulate emotions through playing music. The cost to having these abilities is infected blood which makes them adverse to iron, thereby making it difficult to live everyday life. Hemopaths are misunderstood and are often shunned by people in fear of their abilities, although I wish there was more back story and explanation behind it. It wasn’t until 60% of the book had passed when hemopathy was finally explained, but this wasn’t enough to satisfy my curiosity.
“If we’re in this together, then they don’t stand a chance”.
The plot heavily revolves around the activities of the Cast Iron club which the girls call their home. Many hemopaths have found Cast Iron as their sanctuary, due to the owner Johnny providing a safe haven for them. In exchange, the inhabitants of the Cast Iron club use their abilities to swindle local folk to keep the club running. As such as a large focus of the story, it was strange not hearing more about the activities of the Cast Iron club and the more unsavoury events and characters which are apparently a part of it. We barely got to see any interactions with Johnny, leading to a detachment to him.
Close girl friendships are something that I always welcome in a novel, and it was wonderful seeing Corinne and Ada care for each other. Their friendship definitely shone as they supported each other throughout every endeavour. I thought the love interests were unnecessary and rather dull though. I didn’t feel any chemistry between any of the couples and it definitely felt forced in some instances.
My biggest with Iron Cast, is the lack of focus for the plot and the dull and repetitive writing. There isn’t really a strong plot point, resulting in unnecessarily detail given to miniscule events, such as putting on a coat and a character’s feelings about one’s family member. The book dragged for me and I wanted more world building and detail – in particular why the Cast Iron club was established, how Johnny found the girls, more secondary character development and more back story behind the hemopaths and how they came to be.
While I enjoyed the diversity, hemopathy and female friendship in Iron Cast, I found the overall reading experience to be rather dull, especially as the plot didn’t seem to move anywhere. There were so many elements of it that had great potential, but I wanted more detail to really immerse myself into the world. If you enjoy historical fiction with a supernatural twist, you might enjoy Iron Cast more than I did.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5