The next book I’m reviewing is IRON by Aiki Flinthart. As well as being a wonderful writer, Brisbane-based Flinthart is an archer, a martial artist, a painter, a musician, runs a business, and manages to find room for her family too.
IRON is a sci-fi story that reads like an action-packed fantasy, and it blew me away. The story is set on Kalima, a human colony on a far-flung planet, cut off from Earth. And Kalima’s history means it is short on one very important resource. Iron.
Alere, the protagonist, lives in the city of Madina as a ward of Xintou house under Mistress Li. Xintous are gifted with mind-reading and coercive abilities, however Alere lacks the genetic xintou ability and instead trains as a weishi (a warrior) and a jiaoji (courtesan). She is given the task of serving as jiaoji for Medina’s jun (ruler), who has waited for her arrival. On his deathbed, he sends Alere on a mission to find her unknown father and stop a war over a hidden iron deposit.
Her world is thrown into chaos when she is accused of the Jun’s murder and flees Madina with her weishi trainer, Kett. Alere battles self-doubt, and worthlessness, obligations and responsibility against her own desire of freedom, and jealousy, guilt and fear. And then there’s the weishi of Madina who believe she’s responsible for the jun’s death and are pursuing her to bring her to justice, not to mention other foes and they meet along the way.
The story and characters are wonderful, complex and engaging, but the real highlight for me is the world that Flinthart has created. What brings the world of Kalima to life so well is the smattering of arabic and mandarin throughout. And because this is done so well, you can’t help but be transported into Alere’s world.
About here is where I would mention what I thought were the weak points of the story. And I’m struggling to think of any. It’s set in an amazing sci-fi world, there’s gripping and incredibly well-written fight scenes, there are revelations and danger at every turn, and great characters. I guess some people might think there’s too much use of the mandarin and arabic words, but I feel there’s enough context provided to grasp their meaning. I never had to use the appendix at the back, but it is there!
In conclusion, IRON deserves a five-star rating, the first five-star rating I’ve given this year. It’s technically sci-fi, but as I said, it reads like a fantasy, and have no hesitation in recommending it to both fantasy and sci-fi fans. I have a massive TBR pile, but after finishing IRON I just want to jump right into the sequel, FIRE.
As well as the Kalima chronicles, Flinthart has written several other series – find out more about them here.
- Originally published March 2019