Review: Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

Genre: fantasy Age Level: middle grade Series: N/A
Genre: fantasy
Age Level: middle grade
Series: N/A

The end of their world begins with a story.
This one.

In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn’t most fairy tales.

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being—called the Nybbas—imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true—not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas’s triumph . . . or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.

Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.


I find that a lot of books take themselves too seriously. They try to follow all the conventions and include all the right elements. But they lose something, something critical. Something that should be the number one priority of every book – to tell a story. I don’t want a collection of perfectly placed words and emotions. I want to be told a tale. To lose myself in a fantastical land narrated by a powerful voice. I didn’t realize how much I craved this until I read Iron Hearted Violet.

Iron Hearted Violet takes every familiar fairy tale aspect and dumps them on their heads. There is no central quest, no noble call to adventure. There are princesses that aren’t gorgeous, princes that are quiet and determined, scholarly kings, understanding queens and loyal dragons. The fantasy world is steeped in mythology which is rather unusual. It is so completely unique.  

Cassian  is selfish, cowardly and weak yet somehow manages to be the most amazing narrator. He starts at the beginning, highlighting important moments in Violet’s life before beginning the main tale. He jumps around from character to character, revealing snippets about their lives and then moving on to another character when something interesting happens. Cassian doesn’t just tell you what they are doing, but reveals their feelings and provides a detailed account of every important event.

The book is addictive and slowly plotted, allowing you to savour the story. Violet must learn that beauty is useless in comparison to smarts and and strength. She must step into the role of queen and learn to do what is needed to defend her kingdom. There is so much substance to the tale just below the surface.

It’s just wonderful. Complex and gripping and just a perfect story. Highly recommended.

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


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