Iron-Bound Flames by Melanie K. Moschella

Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Ashley Herbert

Iron-Bound Flames is the debut work by Melanie K. Moschella, the first book in her Raek Rider’s series. It is an engaging and thought-provoking book that will be a great addition to the epic fantasy genre.

When a lonely kitchen maid, Meera Hailship, impulsively volunteers to feed a dangerous creature imprisoned in the king’s palace, it sets her on an unexpected path of danger and discovery. She strikes an agreement with the dragon-like creature, called a reak, and the two form an unexpected friendship. This friendship leads her deep into palace intrigue and forces her to choose between obedience to the king and the dictates of her conscience.

To help the reak and his rider, Meera will have to convince the king to rid the reak of his iron muzzle. As Meera is pulled deeper into the machinations of palace life, she must play a dangerous game to keep herself and her friend alive. Ultimately Meera must decide if she will risk her life to do what is right.

Set in a typical epic fantasy world of human kingdoms at war with each other, the book is populated by magical beings who are looked at with fear and suspicion by humans. It is Meera’s open-mindedness and refusal to see magical beings like the reak as evil that begins her journey. The world building was good, with enough detail to give the reader a clear idea of the setting, but not so much that it took away from the real story- Meera and her journey.

I was drawn quickly into the story. The premise was engaging, leaving the reader wanting to know how Meera will navigate the tricky situation she finds herself in. The tension continues to grow throughout the story, as Meera must walk a tightrope of pleasing the king and helping her friend. As magic is seen as suspect, Meera must hide her friendship with the reak and manipulate the king in order to save it’s life. This is a difficult challenge in a world where obedience to the king must be absolute, and to go against him would constitute treason.

What I enjoyed the most was the character development in the book. The plot was important but took a backseat to character development. The real story was driven by Meera. Meera’s journey reminded me a bit of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. From the beginning the reader is engaged with Meera, and as she grapples with her conscience and tries to do what is right we see her grow and root for her to succeed. The story had all the important plot points that readers would expect, an exciting climax, and a satisfying ending that leaves the reader wanting more.

The book raises important questions about obedience to power vs. obedience to our conscience. When the ruler’s authority is absolute, how does a person of conscience act when asked to do something that isn’t right? To what extent should we “go along to get along?” When you must choose between obedience to authority and compassion, what would you choose? I came away feeling that Meera’s journey is a universal one, one of discovering our most cherished values and holding on to them, no matter what the people in authority might say. I was inspired by the way Meera found the strength to stay true to what was right.

I must warn the reader that the book contains material that might be upsetting for some readers. There is a trigger warning at the beginning of the book, warning that the story might not be for everyone. She suggests that the reader go to her website and look at the contents warning page to decide if they want to read further.

I would highly recommend the book to adult fantasy fans. Especially women who are looking for a female fantasy character who is ethical, strong, and resilient. If you want a fantasy story with a female hero’s journey, this is the book for you. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Ashley Herbert is a fantasy writer, avid reader, and mother of two. She writes freelance articles and is working on her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Finder. Visit her Facebook page to read some of her short stories, as well as excerpts from her new novel, and updates.