Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill with Illustrations by Iacopo Bruno (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $16.99, Ages 8 and up) is reviewed today by Hilary Taber.
Violet is not your average princess. She has a wild mane of red hair, eyes that don’t match in color, and a lopsided face. Also, she manages to get herself into a fair amount of trouble in her quest for adventure. However, she is goodhearted, and extremely brave! While the castle she lives in holds many secrets, there is no secret that comes so close to real danger as the story of a god named Nybbas. Nybbas is determined to be set free of his magical prison inside the castle in order to unleash his cruelty upon Violet’s kingdom. After finding a miniature library inside the castle in a small and mysterious room, Violet unknowingly becomes increasingly controlled by Nybbas. She must call upon all of her courage, storytelling skills, her family, friends, and one dragon to wage a war upon Nybbas. Yet, how can Violet defeat an immortal god?
Additionally, Nybbas knows Violet’s secret weakness. She longs to be a “real princess.” From all the stories that Violet has heard, real princesses are beautiful, not brave. When a magical offer is made by Nybbas to transform Violet into a version of the perfectly beautiful princesses in the stories she has heard all her life, she finds herself more than tempted to accept. The ever-changing castle that holds so many secrets, and the release of the evil god Nymbbas that Violet must lead the battle to fight kept me gripped until the very end. Iron Hearted Violet presents a world of so-called stories that are discovered to be full of truth, and an exploration of what it really means to be a princess. Fans of Gail Carson Levine’s novels such as Ella Enchanted, and especially J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series will find much to be pleased with within the pages of this middle grade novel. Additionally, Iron Hearted Violet is a 2012 Andre Norton Award Finalist (an award given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for the best young adult or middle grade fantasy book published in the United States), and a Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner. Visit the Little, Brown Books for Young Readers website to read an excerpt by clicking here.