Ironhold is an orderly place where “industry brings prosperity”, and where nature is pushed aside for progress. But when Orin Crowfall, a lowly servant boy, learns that the island itself is in grave danger, that knowledge makes him a target of powerful forces.
He narrowly escapes on a small boat, but then faces a fight for survival with his robot friend, Cody, in the stormy ocean, pursued by a terrifying sea monster. Can they make it to safety, somewhere beyond the horizon? And will Orin find a way back to save his family before everything is destroyed? To succeed, Orin will need to dig deep for courage, trust in new friends, and, ultimately, have faith in himself.
Two of the themes which shone through most strongly for me in this story was the relationship between humans and their environment, and the exploration of power and distribution of resources.
As Orin introduced us to life on Ironhold, we soon learnt that society was based on a very hierarchical system where those at the top had plenty, and those at the bottom had to scavenge for food in order to have enough to eat. This was mainly due to the scarcity of foodstuffs and crops on the island as a result of the abuse of the island’s natural resources. Sadly, this echoes life in some parts of the world now where resources are withheld from certain groups for political reasons or as a tactic of war. It would be interesting to see what system children would devise to ensure things were fair.
The relationships between humans and nature is literally woven into the very fabric of Ironhold in the form of the Eard – an organic being of almost godlike power, treated with reverence on some islands but drained and abused in Ironhold. Very cleverly, Hardy always manages to invite her readers to consider the impact humans have on their environment and the creatures they share it with, but never preaches. Readers are encouraged to consider how they might live in greater harmony with their surroundings.
As we’ve come to expect, humans and machines exist side-by-sidekick this rip-roaring tale, with technology being employed to aid humans in their daily lives and even becoming companions. I loved the relationship between Orin and his sentient robot, Cody. They constantly watch out for each other and trust each other with their lives.
Packed with action, ecological themes, and the struggle of good versus evil – there’s everything a reader could want!
*Many thanks to Scholastic for sending me this title to review*