Book Review: Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

Iron Hearted VioletBy Awnali Mills

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a sucker for a great cover, and if you combine that with a great title, I’ll probably read the book.  Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill was sitting, face out, on our shelves, and I was immediately sold.  A girl riding a dragon?  I’m in.

Cassian, the Andulan royal bard narrates the story of the passing of an age, and the end of the Andulan Kingdom.  The story centers on Violet, the ugly princess, and her stable boy best friend Demetrius.  The two of them are inseparable, tell wonderful stories, and explore every hidden part of the castle.  They find a terrible mirror and book which opens the door for the Nybbas, the forgotten thirteenth god, to begin attempting to break free of his prison.  The Nybbas whispers into everyone’s ears, playing on dissatisfactions, convincing people that they deserve better, deserve more, shouldn’t be content with what they have or how things are.  Discontent leads to manipulation.  The question is, are Violet and Demetrius strong enough to withstand the manipulation?  Can they rid the world of the evil Nybbas, or will their insecurities lead to their downfall and the destruction of everything?

I was enchanted by this book.  I loved the honesty and humility of the narrator who, from the advantage of hindsight, reveals his own weaknesses and mistakes with painful recognition of their consequences.  I loved that Violet was ugly—and everyone knows that princesses are beautiful.  I loved how Violet’s ugliness is both her downfall and her saving grace.  The story demonstrated the shallowness and uselessness of physical attractiveness and the importance of self-awareness and determination.  Iron Hearted Violet made me squirm a bit with the parallels I saw between the Nybbas and advertising—the little whispers that say you shouldn’t be happy with what you have or who you are, but this one little thing will make you happy, and don’t you really deserve it after all?

Put this book into the hands of kids who like fairy tales, castles, dragons (oh, yeah, there’s a dragon, too), or battles between good and evil.

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