Title:   The Iron Flower
Author:   Laurie Forest
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

High Priest Marcus Vogel and his influence—not to mention his army—is spreading quickly, along with his hate-filled, racist beliefs. The Gardnerian soldiers are tightening their hold everywhere, and the strict laws make life difficult, not to mention the fear their cruelty instills. Every non-Gardnerian is a target, and death is the sentence for many.

Elloren Gardner may be the granddaughter of a murderess, but she is a mage with almost no power. She’s determined to fight to save her friends and family. For Elloren, “family” is her brothers, her uncle, and her friends—of all races and species. Most of all, she wishes she weren’t Gardnerian and seen as the enemy by many she wants to help. As if that isn’t enough, she is the very image of her evil grandmother—and even the forest whispers dark things against her.

As the darkness around her grows worse, Elloren struggles to find a way out for her friends and family—any way out—and is willing to risk her life to save whoever she can. Then there’s Lukas Grey, commander of the military base and determined to win Elloren over, no matter what. The pull between them is strong, but Elloren has no way of knowing which side he’s truly on—or what he wants.

Let me say that I have not read The Black Witch, the first book in this series, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of The Iron Flower. (And, I’ll be buying and reading it immediately!) This was a fantastic read, and I was drawn in from the very first page. Elloren is fighting her heritage and what she’s always known as she realizes just how horrible those beliefs are. Diversity is something the Gardnerians hate, but Elloren sees its beauty—and will fight to protect it. This is a dark book, but completely compelling, and I read it in about 24 hours, staying up far too late to find out what happens!

Laurie Forest lives and writes in the woods of Vermont. The Iron Flower is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin Teen in exchange for an honest review.)