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The Iron Thorn (Iron Codex Series #1)

The Iron Thorn (Iron Codex Series #1)

4.3 47
by Caitlin Kittredge

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In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and


In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
     Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her first book for young readers, urban fantasist Kittredge (the Nocturne City series) presents a fevered if somewhat unlikely mashup of steampunk, the Cthulhu mythos, and traditional fairy tale, set in an alternate 1950s America. Talented engineering student Aoife Grayson, the illegitimate daughter of a madwoman and a reclusive scholar, fully expects to go insane on her upcoming 16th birthday because, as her only friend Cal reminds her, "the Grayson line has bad blood. From the first infected on down," and it is clear that the Proctors, who rule the ghoul-haunted, necrovirus-stricken city of Lovecraft, are watching her closely. Fleeing Lovecraft, accompanied by Cal and Dean, her handsome but disreputable heretic guide, Aoife heads for Arkham and her father's ancestral mansion, intent on saving her mad brother, Conrad, from a hideous fate. There she discovers marvelous inventions, gruesome monsters, a complex plot that spans several worlds, and the secret of her own identity. Though the material borrowed from H.P. Lovecraft occasionally calls too much attention to itself, Kittredge generates significant thrills and chills in this fast-moving tale, first in a planned series. Ages 12–up. (Feb.)
VOYA - Amy Fiske
Lovecraft, Massachusetts, is grim place where Rationality is the religion that keeps magic and madness at bay. The ruling Proctors keep a tight rein on citizens in this dark, steampunk fantasy. Aoife Grayson, almost sixteen and one of the few female students at the School of Engines, wants nothing more than to be an engineer in a society run by a giant steam engine. Madness, caused by a necrovirus, is epidemic and has wreaked havoc on her family. Both her mother and brother succumbed to madness on their sixteenth birthdays. Her mother languishes in an asylum; her brother assaults her and vanishes. Aoife struggles to stay focused until she finds a letter from her brother that reads, "Find the witch's alphabet. Save yourself."? The letter launches Aoife on a journey off the map of the known Rational world into a netherworld of secrets, magic and shocking revelations. Can she find her brother and escape the family curse? Kittredge seamlessly merges a steampunk dystopia with supernatural fantasy. The world-building is masterful, richly detailed, and so atmospheric it nearly drips off the page. Aoife is a single-minded heroine on a quest, joined by steadfast friend, Cal, and dangerous underworld bad boy, Dean. The resulting love triangle adds seasoning to the mix. Tension builds and the plot twists until, eventually, no one and nothing is as it seems. Fans of steampunk and supernatural fantasy will love this book and will look forward to the rest of the series. Reviewer: Amy Fiske
Kirkus Reviews

Lovecraftian steampunk–urban faerie mashup from an adult paranormal author. Orphaned Aoife Grayson lives in Lovecraft, Mass., where the necrovirus transforms humans to nightmare creatures and reason rules so supreme that believers in magic are called heretics and killed. At the bidding of her mad brother, Aoife, best friend Cal and bad-boy guide Dean flee the safety and rules of Lovecraft for Aoife's father's mansion in Arkham. There she learns she has latent magical power relating to machines and a longstanding family connection to the dark fairy Land of Thorn. Detailed descriptions overwhelm (do readers care about every outfit?), characters don't behave consistently (in one case this eventually proves deliberate, but the twist seems even more implausible than the earlier behavior) and the pieces don't come together until the very end, rather abruptly despite the novel's heft. If readers could put on Aoife's blue-glass goggles to see the bones beneath the overwriting, this would be a winner; sadly, it's hard to imagine most making it through the bloat. Better editing could have saved this. (Steampunk fantasy. YA)

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Aoife Grayson is terrified that she will go mad when she turns 16. She believes that she carries a latent form of a necrovirus that has already affected her brother, who has disappeared, and her mother, who is locked up in a madhouse. The setting is an alternate version of New England, where Boston is known as Lovecraft, a town powered by a mysterious underground engine and ruled by Proctors who enforce a rationalistic worldview that denies the existence of magic, blames madness on a necrovirus outbreak, and keeps the populace safe from the apocryphal night creatures who are said to feed on human flesh. Aoife, who is studying at Lovecraft's School of Engines, receives a mysterious letter from her missing brother that leads her to escape the city with her friend Cal. The pair recruits Dean Harrison as a guide as they hitch a ride on an airship to Aoife's ancestral mansion, which has long been abandoned except for the young maid, Bethina. At Graystone, Aoife discovers her father's journals that help her to understand her family's secrets and her own destiny. The journals also lead her into a fairy realm, the Land of Thorn, where she meets Tremaine, one of the "Kindly Folk" who may or may not be telling her the truth. Kittredge has fashioned a unique, action-filled, and compelling combination of steampunk, H. P. Lovecraft-inspired horror, and straight fantasy that should enchant fans of all three genres.—Tim Wadham, St. Louis County Library, MO

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Iron Codex Series , #1
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.70(d)
810L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Ashes of the World

There are seventeen madhouses in the city of Lovecraft. I've visited all of them.

My mother likes to tell me about her dreams when I visit. She sits in the window of the Cristobel Charitable Asylum and strokes the iron bars covering the glass like they are the strings of a harp. "I went to the lily field last night," she murmurs.

Her dreams are never dreams. They are always journeys, explorations, excavations of her mad mind, or, if her mood is bleak, ominous portents for me to heed.

The smooth brass gears of my chronometer churned past four-thirty and I put it back in my skirt pocket. Soon the asylum would close to visitors and I could go home. The dark came early in October. It's not safe for a girl to be out walking on her own, in Hallows' Eve weather.

I called it that, the sort of days when the sky was the same color as the smoke from the Nephilim Foundry across the river, and you could taste winter on the back of your tongue.

When I didn't immediately reply, my mother picked up her hand mirror and threw it at my head. There was no glass in it—hadn't been for years, at least six madhouses ago. The doctors wrote it into her file, neat and spidery, after she tried to cut her wrists open with the pieces. No mirrors. No glass. Patient is a danger to herself.

"I'm talking to you!" she shouted. "You might not think it's important, but I went to the lily field! I saw the dead girls move their hands! Open eyes looking up! Up into the world that they so desperately desire!"

It's a real shame that my mother is mad. She could make a fortune writing sensational novels, those gothics with the cheap covers and breakable spines that Mrs. Fortune, my house marm at the Lovecraft Academy, eats up.

My stomach closed like a fist, but my voice came out soothing. I've had practice being soothing, calming. Too much practice. "Nerissa," I said, because that's her name and we never address each other as mother and daughter but always as Nerissa and Aoife. "I'm listening to you. But you're not making any sense." Just like usual. I left the last part off. She'd only find something else to throw.

I picked up the mirror and ran my thumb over the backing. It was silver, and it had been pretty, once. When I was a child I'd played at being beautiful while my mother sat by the window of Our Lady of Rationality, the first madhouse in my memory, run by Rationalist nuns. Their silent black-clad forms fluttered like specters outside my mother's cell while they prayed to the Master Builder, the epitome of human reason, for her recovery. All the medical science and logic in the world couldn't cure my mother, but the nuns tried. And when they failed, she was sent on to another madhouse, where no one prayed for anything.

Nerissa gave a snort, ruffling the ragged fringe above her eyes. "Oh, am I? And what would you know of sense, miss? You and those ironmongers locked away in that dank school, the gears turning and turning to grind your bones . . ."

I stopped listening. Listen to my mother long enough and you started to believe her. And believing Nerissa broke my heart.

My thumb sank into the depression in the mirror frame, left where an unscrupulous orderly had pried out a ruby, or so my mother said. She accused everyone of everything, sooner or later. I'd been a nightjar, come to drink her blood and steal her life, a ghost, a torturer, a spy. When she turned her rage on me, I gathered my books and left, knowing that we wouldn't speak again for weeks. On the days when she talked about her dreams, the visits could stretch for hours.

"I went to the lily field . . . ," my mother whispered, pressing her forehead against the window bars. Her fingers slipped between them to leave ghost marks on the glass.

Time gone by, her dreams fascinated me. The lily field, the dark tower, the maidens fair. She told them over and over, in soft lyrical tones. No other mother told such fanciful bedtime stories. No other mother saw the lands beyond the living, the rational and the iron. Nerissa had been lost in dreams, in one fashion or another, my entire life.

Now each time I visited I hoped she'd wake up from her fog. And each time, I left disappointed. When I graduated from the Lovecraft Academy, I could be too busy to see her at all, with my respectable job and respectable life. Until then, Nerissa needed someone to hear her dreams, and the duty fell to me. I felt the weight of being a dutiful daughter like a stone strapped to my legs.

I picked up my satchel and stood. "I'm going to go home." The air horn hadn't sounded the end of hours yet, but I could see the dark drawing in beyond the panes.

Nerissa was up, cat-quick, and wrapping her fingers around my wrist. Her hand was cold, like always, and her nightgown fluttered around her skin-and-bones body. I had always been taller, sturdier than my slight mother. I'd say I took after my father, if I'd ever met him.

"Don't leave me here," Nerissa hissed. "Don't leave me to look into their eyes alone. The dead girls will dance, Aoife, dance on the ashes of the world. . . ."

Meet the Author

CAITLIN KITTREDGE is the author of the Nocturne City series, the upcoming Black London adventures for St. Martin's Press, as well as the Icarus Project superhero saga for Bantam Spectra (with Jackie Kessler) (all adult projects). She lives and writes in Massachusetts. You can visit her at CaitlinKittredge.com.

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The Iron Thorn: The Iron Codex Series, Book 1 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 46 reviews.
Nikkayme More than 1 year ago
4.5 The Iron Thorn is my first real venture into steampunk and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. The world of Lovecraft, an alternate 1950's Massachusetts, is all iron and machines. I could feel the cold, hard metal with each page. Caitlin Kittredge is a master at bringing this world to life and is so detailed in her storytelling that I not only read about Aoife's journey, but I became a member of her rogue group. Aoife herself is far from the 1950's standard of an upstanding lady. Her brash behavior and strong demeanor makes her stand out amongst other girls, and it does not go unnoticed. Not by her best friend Cal, nor Dean, their rough and tumble guide out of Lovecraft. This possible love interest is nearly eclipsed by Aoife's search for her wayward, and most likely mad brother, Conrad. Her need to help him propels her into a world of magic and witchcraft and things she never would have believed to be real. The magic plays a huge role in the story and I hadn't really expected that, though I welcomed it. Learning all the details of the past that Aoife never knew opens up so many doors and unexpected twists. I didn't even know that one very large aspect of the story was going to come into play, though in hindsight I probably should have. Either way, I loved it. I loved getting to know Aoife, wanting to punch Cal, inching closer to Dean, and discovering an interest in the clockwork house of Graystone. The necrovirus that lays dormant in Aoife's blood is never forgotten about, even as she desperately tries to find her brother before the madness takes hold. Her encounter with ghouls and voices and diaries that show her images really add to this feeling of a lingering insanity. Surrounding all of this is Dean. I'm pretty sure I need to have a closet (like several other bloggers) to lock book boys in to keep forever. Dean is joining Will from Angelfire in my closet because I want him. He has a James Dean air about him with all his swagger and bravado, but he can be vulnerable too. I can't blame Aoife for wanting to let him in. The Iron Thorn is creepy and dark and filled with things that go bump in the night and I wouldn't want it any other way. It's a story full of secrets and surprises, old-fashioned ideas and language, but more so about a girl desperate to cling to the only family she ever had, despite the fact that she may be losing her mind. Long as it may be, The Iron Thorn opens up a trilogy that I plan on devouring and rereading many times in the future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the story and had trouble putting it down for such mundane tasks as cooking dinner for the family and going to bed. I was sorry to see it was a series (have to wait for the next installment), then elated to find that both the second and third books are already out. Yay! I love the characters, the startling revolt ions and the spooky otherworldly creatures. Gotta go order pizza and grab some No-Doz so I can read undisturbed. Haha!
Ophelia777 More than 1 year ago
this book is unbelievably good. I could not put it down--492 pages of me saying, "no mom, I don't can't eat right now, can't you see I'm reading?!" it is worth buying by a million, and i will definitely be buying the sequel.
EllzReadz More than 1 year ago
My thoughts...The Iron Thorn was my first journey into the world of Steampunk and I have to say I like what I saw. This novel was impossible for me to put down. I was immediately drawn in by the characters. Aoife (Ee-fah) is in a race against time as she tries to help her brother. A cryptic message sends her and her friend Conrad on a journey outside the safe confines of their city. The dangers are great, as are the people. As their journey begins, they meet a guide named Dean who quickly became my favorite character. This world they live in is full of secrets, as are the people. I enjoyed the character development and the unfolding of various mysteries surrounding the characters. These become people you would want to have your back: strong, determined, and steadfast. No matter what challenges they face, these friends stick together. There are so many words I could use to describe the action in The Iron Thorn. The first one that comes to mind is scary. Parts of this book had me checking the locks and under the bed before I went to sleep. It was full of things that go bump in the night. There was some violence and gore, as well as plenty of magic. The best part was the mystery. The Iron Thorn is full of riddles and secrets for the reader to puzzle. Initially I was a bit intimidated by the length of The Iron Thorn. The advanced reader's copy came in at 492 pages. However, Caitlin Kittredge did a brilliant job of reeling me and holding my attention to the very end. The only problem is now I want more. Days later I am still thinking about this magical world.
ChelseaW More than 1 year ago
Aoife is about to turn sixteen and has a lot on her mind. Sixteen is the age both her mother and brother went mad, and in the City of Lovecraft, madness is not taken to very kindly. A few weeks shy of her birthday, she receives a mysterious note from Conrad asking her to help him. Grabbing her best friend Calvin, the two of them set off to figure out what really happened to her brother. This task will not be easy, however, as right away they encounter terrible things that want to eat them, imprison them, and infect them with the deadly necrovirus. But Aoife must push on, as the alternative choice is much worse. Wow, was this book ever quite the fantastic adventure! The details were fully imagined and thoroughly thought out. I felt as though I actually went somewhere and did something extraordinary with these characters. There were secrets I was not expecting and twists I never would have thought possible. The whole book was this great gothic/paranormal/steampunk combination. Aoife is a very smart girl, never succumbing to her feelings for a boy or giving in to a moment of girlish weakness. She was truly a girl for readers to aspire to be. She stayed strong through some very creepy creatures and hair-raising situations. Kittredge's writing had the perfect amount of beautiful description to offset her captivating dialog and action. The worlds felt so real and alive, and the use of machines and clockwork were some of the best executions I have read to date in the steampunk genre. Fans of Cherie Priest's Boneshaker will devour this book. I have not read any of Kittredge's adult books (and I am not yet sure I will) but this book will haunt my thoughts until the next installment in the Iron Codex comes out!
MIdnightRose1 More than 1 year ago
The Iron Thorn was not was I was expecting it to be, it was more. I read the advanced readers copy of this and was blown away. Kittredge tells the story in a way that makes you think you know where the story is going, but then wonderfully and unexpectedly she throws you for a loop. This book's characters were facinating, and I loved Aoife ( and Dean of course ) and how they all had a certain unique element about them. The story line of this book is what really got me though; the hidden secrets, the virus, the madness, and the magic.This review hasn't really done the book justice but it truely was an amazing book. It is definitely worth the read, and I highly recomend it. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read this book in book form and really loved it but felt there was more to the story between the characters. I keep checking to see if there is a continuing of the characters like with shattered mirror. It really is a good read.
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Shannon Carty More than 1 year ago
I have the second one on my wishlist. It was a fun blend of fantasy/scifi
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Almare More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was very good. In the begging i was confuzed alot because the author never really explanes where they are what the deal is with the world is and important things like that. Its almost like they throw you into this world and you have to figure it out as you go. If you get though the first half of the book the rest is an amazing ride i really enjoyed it!
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