Iron-Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill is the most thought-provoking middle grade fiction book I’ve read recently.
In the fantasy genre, it tells the story of an unusual princess – an ugly one. She and her friend awaken an evil god, the Nybbas, who whispers lies to the entire kingdom. Violet and Demetrius must find more allies and use all their wits to get to the final battle.
I love Violet’s journey to reconcile herself to her unusual appearance. She is a strong heroine. I am not so thrilled with the way the 12 gods are depicted – as distant, somewhat arrogant and certainly not all-knowing.
Several scenes at the end of the book have grabbed my attention – Violet’s relationship with the last dragon in her universe, Auntie’s belief and doubt in an afterlife (& the runty god’s response to her), and the author’s description of Violet’s love for the dragon, her people and her world. The last description reminds me of CS Lewis’s Aslan ‘he is not a safe lion.’
The audiobook is excellent – and makes me want to read the last part of the book so I can muse over some of the above scenes.
Highly recommended as a book club book for middle school and older.