Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill

Posted November 16, 2017 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

Iron Hearted Violet

Iron Hearted Violet

by Kelly Barnhill

Publisher: Little Brown and Company on October 9, 2012
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Target Age Group: Middle Grade
Rating: ★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads

The end of their world begins with a story.

This one.

In most fairy tales, princesses are beautiful, dragons are terrifying, and stories are harmless. This isn't most fairy tales.

Princess Violet is plain, reckless, and quite possibly too clever for her own good. Particularly when it comes to telling stories. One day she and her best friend, Demetrius, stumble upon a hidden room and find a peculiar book. A forbidden book. It tells a story of an evil being - called the Nybbas - imprisoned in their world. The story cannot be true - not really. But then the whispers start. Violet and Demetrius, along with an ancient, scarred dragon, may hold the key to the Nybbas's triumph...or its demise. It all depends on how they tell the story. After all, stories make their own rules.

Iron Hearted Violet is a story of a princess unlike any other. It is a story of the last dragon in existence, deathly afraid of its own reflection. Above all, it is a story about the power of stories, our belief in them, and how one enchanted tale changed the course of an entire kingdom.


Violet wants to be the best princess for her people.

Violet is not a beautiful princess.  Not a “proper” princess.  This is made abundantly clear to her in whispers and misspoken quips.  It eats away at the girl, whose hair is not shiny and whose eyes are not symmetrical.  Her father is bold, her mother is kind, and Violet is just… Violet.  She accepts this with a princess’ grace, but still, it eats away at her.  She tries to distract herself with her friend, Demetrius, and exploring their mysterious castle.

Our course, the castle has more than meets the eye, and some passages have more secrets than others.

This ought to be a classic children’s story.

Listening to Iron Hearted Violet was like experiencing classic children’s tales like The Never Ending Story or Dragonheart.  There’s a richness to this story that is positively enchanting.  It is narrated by a storyteller, and contains an imperfect protagonist who means well but does not always make the best choices.  The fantasy world is accepted and gentle – not loud and in your face.  Really, most everything in this book is perfectly fine.

Until it isn’t.

Violet is sweet and well-intentioned.

The protagonist is not your typical sort.  First of all, she’s ugly.  She’s not described as “pretty enough” or “plain” – she’s flat-out described as ugly.  Second, she’s not particularly brave or snarky.  She’s just… Violet.  That’s why I like her.  She is just doing the best she can and that makes her incredibly relatable.  She wants people to like her and she wants to do the right thing.

I also really enjoyed how the story starts with everything alright, rather than in the thick of things.  One tiny thing shifts out of place, and another shifts into place, and then we have our conflict.  A lot of books I’ve been reading it’s pretty clear that any exposition serves just so you know the character’s names before anything BIG happens.

I really liked this book.

This is the sort of tale I would have loved as a child, and I intend to add it to my personal library.  It was, simply put, charming!  It teaches children to appreciate who they are and the gifts they are given, but it’s not written so childishly that a teen or adult could not enjoy it.  It makes fun of traditional fairytales and is interesting enough to keep you reading.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★ 1/2
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★
Narrator: ★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★


Have you read this book or anything by this author?  If so, did you enjoy it?  Tell me all about your experience in the comments!

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