Review: Iron by Aiki Flinthart

The Start to a Great New Series


Kalima, an Earth-colony world with little iron ore and no fossil fuels, is entrenched in a peaceful feudal society. The Jundom of Mamalakah is ruled by the ambitious Hanna Zah-Hill, wife of the Jun First. Deep in debt, she wants technological progress. But Mistress Li of Xintou House prefers to keep the status quo. And has the power to do so.

When Alere Connor – failed xintou-telepath but skilled swordswoman – is sent to act as mistress to Jun First Radan Zah-Hill, she unwittingly triggers a revolution against the House and against the throne.  On his deathbed, Radan reveals the existence of a hidden iron deposit.   With several factions vying for political domination of the Jundom, control of the iron would tip the balance of power. 

Alere is accused of the Jun First’s murder and flees for her life. She must reach and warn the Jun Second, Rafi Koh-Lin, on whose lands the iron ore lies.  If she fails,all-out war is inevitable – the first ever war in the seven hundred year history of Kalima.

On the way, Alere will uncover the old and bloody secret of her own existence; the reason for her failure as a xintou-telepath; and unlock and even darker future for herself and her companions.

But only if she survives.


I am a big fan of believable fantasy that provides breathtaking glimpses of another world, and Iron certainly did not disappoint. Alere Connor, the main character, lives in a feudal kingdom founded centuries ago by settlers from distant Earth. Iron is terribly scarce on this world and the settlers have used this to create a society that avoids full-scale war at all costs. For most of the first half, the plot will keep you guessing as Alere’s life takes one unpredictable turn after another. After that, the story settles into a more conventional, but still riveting, quest to prevent the first war from breaking out.

Kalima, as an Earth colony, is perfectly normal one moment and so alien the next. Pets are small, feathered reptiles, wagons are drawn by lumbering beasts, and wild roc eagles big enough to take humans prowl the sky.Behind it all the shadowy telepaths of Xintou House hold a frightening amount of power apart from the thrones of the Jundoms. 

Flinthart is a master of writing fight scenes from a woman’s perspective. Alere is not some mystical superhero, but a very real person who must use all her wits and the skills she has learned to stay one step ahead of her enemies. There are some wonderfully deft scenes where the more traditional sword and sorcery battles are replaced by much smarter action. The number of battles and their consequences provide an overall theme of sacrifice for the greater good that I felt may have been slightly overused. Poor Alere never gets a break from the privations she must endure, leaving this reader wishing she could do something the easy way just once. However, this does not detract from the overall enjoyment of reading this book and cheering for Alere in every encounter.

Iron is overall, a wonderful rollercoaster ride of conflicting emotions, that draws the reader through to a spectacular climax that is at once as personal as it is brutal. I look forward to reading the rest of the Kalima trilogy when it is released.

Five Stars

This review first appeared in the Aussie Speculative Fiction Review

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Author Interview: Angela Slatter on Restoration

Angela Slatter
Photo Credit: David Pollitt

Angela Slatter is the author of the novels Vigil, Corpselight and Restoration (Jo Fletcher Books), as well as eight short story collections including The Bitterwood Bible and Other Recountings, The Girl with No Hands and Other Tales, and A Feast of Sorrows: Stories. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Bulgarian, Russian, and Polish. She has won a World Fantasy Award, a British Fantasy Award, an Australian Shadows Award and Six Aurealis Awards. She has an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing.

Angela  takes a break from penning award-winning stories to talk to me about her latest novel Restoration.

It’s thrilling to be getting a new chapter in the Verity Fassbinder series complete with a psychotic angel and the foxy kitsune assassin. You draw your characters from a wide range of mythologies, and yet they all fit seamlessly into your stories. What attracts you to use a particular myth?

I guess they’re all just images/ideas I’ve had in my head for a long time. I’ve read mythology, fairy tales, folk tales, religion, legends, etc, all my life and anything I particularly like has just set up house in there! When I’m writing Verity stories I get a chance to let them into the light. I’m quite fascinated by different versions of angels as depicted across various religions, I am fascinated by the idea of them as being not what we’d like to think they are … I think John Connolly does an incredible job of his reworking of angelic mythology in the Charlie Parker series. I also love, love, love the various versions of fox spirits across Asian mythologies; there’s a description of Joyce, the kitsune, transforming as she runs and it’s basically an image that I just adore, the idea of fluid movement and change … I suppose I select something that’s been percolating for a long while and it feels like it’s time for it to go for a run …

Verity is an amazing character. I love the way she embodies strength and determination alongside all the petty irritations of life in a subtropical city. Where did you find the inspiration for her?

I guess she’s how I’d like to be in every aspect of my life! One reader made a comment that she loves these books because it’s like “Buffy and Veronica Mars grew up and went to live in Brisbane”, and I’d have to say that Buffy and Veronica Mars are two of my favourite characters! Add a touch of Ellen Ripley and you’ve pretty much got my main role models right there.

What attracted you to the world of mythology in the beginning?

They’re our oldest tales and I always loved stories of the impossible being possible. I love the thought of the unreal breaking through into the everyday and how people might find ways to deal with it. I preferred mythologies where the humans actually got a chance to win through – Greek mythology tends to be pretty much “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” and I think I found that a bit depressing when I was younger!
I do prefer fairy and folk tales – I don’t think that will surprise anyone – but I like to dip into mythology and pull out a god or two just to make things a bit more difficult for my characters.

What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?

A sense that they’ve had a damned good read and a wild ride? I want them to laugh and cry, get a bit tense and worried, and then come out at the end with a rush of satisfaction. And hopefully enjoying seeing Brisbane as a setting for an urban fantasy story instead of London, New York, etc. You know, just for a change.

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Well, I’ve been lucky that I’ve been able to learn from Margo Lanagan and Jeff VanderMeer at Clarion South, and done a workshop with Kelly Link. They’re all influences and have encouraged me over the years. I was lucky enough to meet Tanith Lee in 2013 at World Fantasy in Brighton, which was a huge highlight given how influential her Flat Earth series had been on me in my teenage years; and Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula books remain firm favourites and I learned a lot about storytelling from reading his work as a teenager.

What are you reading right now?

At the moment I am re-reading John Connolly’s The Black Angel, I’m about to start Infinite Jest, I’ve just finished Ellen Datlow’s Hauntings anthology as well as Caleb Carr’s Angel of Darkness, and I’ve just re-read Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods.

What’s next? Will there be another Verity Fassbinder novel?

Ah, who knows? I have one plotted, called Bastion, but it will depend on whether or not the publisher wants to do another one, and that will depend on sales. Or whether Netflix or Stan, or some other network picks her up for a TV series!