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Iron Hearted Violet    by Kelly Barnhill order for
Iron Hearted Violet
by Kelly Barnhill
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Everyone knows the princesses in fairy tales are always the most beautiful girls in all the land. Kelly Barnhill bucks this tradition with Violet, the heroine of Iron Hearted Violet, who will learn, along with middle grade readers, that looks do not a princess make.

Violet is the princess of the Andulean Realms but her mismatched eyes, lopsided face, and other plain features go against what the princesses in the stories always looked like. Violet may not be pretty, but she is smart and can tell a tale to rival even the Realms' court storyteller. Along with her best friend, Demetrius, the stable boy, Violet explores the castle, finding the tunnels of the little folk of legend.

One day, Violet and Demetrius stumble upon a library with a mysterious painting of chained dragons and a mirrored figure that Violet knows immediately must be the thirteenth god, the Nybbas, that is never to be named. Violet becomes obsessed, wanting to know about the god and the dragons, but Demetrius must follow her father to capture the one remaining dragon.

While he is gone, the queen dies, and in despair, Violet is persuaded by the Nybbas to wish herself into a proper princess. When her own father does not recognize her, Violet is thrown into jail, and that is when she starts to realize what it really means to a be a princess and what she must do to save the Andulean Realms.

For most of the book, the story seems to be pulled in multiple directions. We have the adventurous Violet who has heard her whole life that princesses are supposed to be pretty. We have the dragon legends and the king's obsession with finding one and studying it. We have the mysterious Nybbas, and finally, we have the threat of war. By the end, all of these storylines come together, but they make the plot seem disjointed in the beginning.

Another confusing thing is the narrator, Cassian. He is the court storyteller, and narrates in first person because he was there. But he is less there than most first person narrators, but too much there for the type of book where the narrator just gets the story started and comments infrequently throughout. This also made it hard to get into the story.

Iron Hearted Violet is an adventurous story for younger readers and has a good lesson. Kelly Barnhill just takes a tad too long to really show what the story is about and how all of the characters and storylines fit in.

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