* * * * (4 stars)
Iron Bloom is the tale of a young woman, Rose, blessed (or cursed) with extraordinary size, strength, and endurance. She discovers that the thing she's best at is fighting, and sets about trying to put her gifts to good use in the world, only to learn what terrible things there are in the world.
This was exciting and a lot of fun. I liked Rose; she never takes her gifts and abilities for granted. She wonders why she has such strength and amazing ability to heal; some people call her God-Touched or even a Warrior Goddess, but to her it's more of a curse and she can't help wondering when her luck is going to run out. Even when she thinks she's done for, though, she still finds the will to try one more time to strike down whatever enemy she's fighting. (I hope that the question of where her superhuman strength and constitution came from is addressed in later books; I'm curious.)
And even though it's what she's best at, she doesn't enjoy fighting and killing. But even worse to her is to see innocent people suffering and not try to do anything about it. She also has a tender heart; she wants to love and be loved and have a family of her own someday. I enjoyed reading a kickass female character who still has this tender, feminine side to her.
The book is fast-paced; maybe a little too fast. There were spots where I would have liked it to slow down and spread out a bit, to let me catch my breath. But I'll take charging straight ahead non-stop over pages of pointless meandering.
There are a lot of intersting things going on in this world - a lost history of magic, a golden hero-prince who I have to wonder if maybe he's too good to be true, and an evil death-worshipping barbarian warrior who doesn't care about conquering, just about killing. I'm looking forward to seeing more of these threads developed, and to following Rose's story, in the other books in this series.