Iron Cast by Destiny Soria
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Thanks to Amulet Books for giving me this ARC!
'Iron Cast' had all the elements that I've been searching for in YA fiction for so long. So long. Honestly, I had started to lose faith in the genre as a whole. It felt like I was reading carbon copy books, all with the same tropes and glaring problems. My reviews were starting to feel repetitive and boring (just like the books I was reading, presumably). 'Iron Cast' is the book that finally pulled me out of my rut!
This novel, first and foremost, was about the strong friendship between two powerful, unique women. Female characters are often written as rivals, so it was wonderfully refreshing to see two women love and support each other. Corinne and Ada were incredibly different characters - from their upbringings and experiences, to their personalities and mannerisms. Their voices were so distinct that I never had trouble separating their POVs, even when I was bleary-eyed and exhausted. They disagreed on plenty of things, but Soria never used this as an excuse to pit Corinne and Ada against each other for the sake of drama. There were plenty of twists and turns in this story as it was - because it had a well-written plot, and did not rely on petty disagreements between friends to drive the plot forward.
The romance in this novel was kept to a bare minimum - thank God. Finally, a book that did not feel the need to force romance between the threads of a story where it did not belong! Ada and Corinne had love interests, both of whom were interesting and (mostly) supportive, but these love interests did not monopolise the story in any way. Ada's romance was especially well-written, in my opinion - when people are in their first relationship, it's natural to be tentative and a little scared of their feelings. Soria wrote Ada and Charlie's relationship in an honest, yet beautiful, way.
Despite how much I loved this book, I still had some issues with it. Firstly, the pacing was off. The book was slow to start, and it really only picked up about halfway through. Really, most of the action does not occur until the last 15% of the novel. Historical fiction often has this problem, so it was not entirely unexpected. And what Soria loses in pacing, she makes up for in exceptional world-building. The luxe, rich backdrop made me long to be in Corinne and Ada's world, despite the glaring social inequities.
'Iron Cast' definitely broached a lot of sensitive topics, such as societal prejudices, and what happens when we codify these into law. The treatment of hemopaths was reminiscent of the treatment of African-Americans or Jewish people in the early 20th century. Soria was respectful, and yet honest, in her depiction of these problems. Ada experienced both prejudice against hemopaths, and racism throughout the story. Though the racism was not central to the storyline, it was ever-present in her everyday dealings. This was a sobering and poignant reminder that racism is pervasive in society - it's there, whether it helps the story along or not.
Overall, this was a beautiful novel about Ada and Corinne's friendship, with some brilliant twists and turns. Even though the pacing is not perfect, I would still recommend this book to anyone who has been disillusioned with YA fiction as a whole recently - 'Iron Cast' will reaffirm your love of everything YA.