Cold Iron by D.L.McDermott

Cold Iron - D.L. McDermott
Beth is an archaeologist, struggling to make her own name when so much of her work – including her very unusual, even supernatural, ability to find dig sites are credited to her far-from-pleasant ex-husband. One of those finds leads her to a mound in Ireland – and a being that she releases.

Normally, dealing with her ex-husband’s theft of artefacts and attempts to frame her would be her main concern – but Conn, the ancient fae warrior, is seeking not just his sword, but Beth herself. The mortal woman has caught his eye and his fancy – and the fae never accept no for an answer.
But these new explorations have revealed a side of Beth she has long ignored – and could have implications for all of the fae, and the world beside.
This book had some strong positive ticks. The world building is solid, there has been some research or familiarity with old Irish myths and legends, we have some nice shout outs to mythology and mythological figures and a definite knowledge to some of the old tales which I really appreciated.
On top of that has been some very solid world building with some nice intriguing, interesting twists – particularly the druids and how they interact with the fae and their history. It’s novel, it’s original, it’s interesting and it has a lot of depth for exploration and nuance and potential conflict, I like it.
The fae are also presented in a way that is suitably alien and scary – and not in any way twee or shiny or friendly as well; scary fae are always good to read about.
The characterisation is pretty solid when it comes to Beth – she’s a character with a full, involved history, motivation and depth that has really created a character with a lot of depth behind her that reflects on her actions and thoughts really well. She’s a strong character, a fully fleshed character. Conn is much less so – he’s beautiful with a layer of angst for characterisation. His growth and evolution would be an interesting element to him but it’s pretty simplistic and expected – he’s not a bad character, he’s just not an amazing one either
One rather curious aspect of this book was the romance. It kept reaching the very edge of holding up some of the most awful tropes – and I was ready to tear it into little shreds – then twist right away from it with a subversion. The fae are, as I mentioned, not nice people in this book – at very least they’re arrogant, predatory and pretty lacking in anything resembling compassion and they have a vast sense of entitlement. Which means, when it comes to humans they find attractive, they don’t ask and they don’t care about consent.


There is a heavy theme of rape throughout the book. The fae think nothing of using their glamour or marks to force human women to want them – then when they’re done with them casting the women aside to waste away without the touch of the fae. This is evil. And it’s portrayed as such. No, really. When the ubersexy Con who is described in all his sexy glory starts making moves on Beth he is sexy and magical and magically sexy – and she says no, no and HELL NO. She spends a large part of the book adamantly drawing lines and boundaries around his behaviour and even he comes to respect that, giving her the tools to resist his glamour and to ensure that when they finally do move on to sex, there will not be even the slightest doubt about consent.

Something similar happens with Helene – but not only do we have outrage and fury at how the fae treated her, but an equal refusal to be bought or accept invasive romantic gestures that are supposed to win her over after the fact – especially since those gestures make little acknowledgement of her own personal space or autonomy.

This is definitely of the good – so many books would have portrayed this as sexy or romantic, but here it’s clear: Beth and Helene will not tolerate this bullshit and will be respected. Good.