Karen Mahoney does an extraordinary job in wrapping up her "Iron Witch" trilogy in THE STONE DEMON. Her youthful and completely believable protagonist, Donna Underwood, has grown a great deal since her introduction in THE IRON WITCH and deals with the otherworldly threats to her family, friends and the rest of the entire world by her wits, self-determination and inner-strength. For me, it is the sense and theme of inner-strength that is most important here.
Donna is not unlike many youngsters and perhaps more than a fair share of young women, who doubt their abilities to deal with conflict and challenges. Rather than handing over responsibility for the handling of these affairs or surrendering her fate, to what may be often viewed as appropriate, to her male counterparts, Donna does her own ass-kicking. Certainly her friends, young male pals and adults, are called upon to assist and indeed become important to get the job done; Donna is fully prepared to face her fears and doubts to accomplish some very difficult things before the end of the book.
What makes this all the more important and truly heroic is that like anyone, Donna always has some nagging trepidation but overcomes those because she must. The odds may be stacked against her and those she cares for, but she will not give up without a fight or without trying her hardest.
The narrative is a nice blend of romance and action. Both are handled skillfully without gratuitous or easy copouts. The scenes of romance are touching and believable; though I am not a 17 year-old girl, likely reflect personal experiences and feelings. The action is fast and the sense of danger is felt for all concerned. Though violence occurs, it happens mostly in the mind of the reader as Mahoney does not dwell on it. Violence begets sacrifice and loss which is very much present by the end of the story. The losses create reflection and in most cases, respect but moreover, a real assessment of what sacrifice means and what violence does.
For parents, be advised that there are a few curse words used, but nothing a 13 year-old child has not heard on television or at school. Mahoney uses these instances sparingly and to the right effect. Also, there are some well-timed laughs along the way. I'm not sure I could've handled too much drama without a break and Mahoney does so at the right moments.
Donna's story is not over in my view. Though she has grown and learned, there are still lessons for her to acquire and master. There are goodbyes but the promise or at least the hint of reuniting many of these characters in the years to come. Fortunately, Donna is still searching for what love means and I would have been disappointed if, at 17, she'd figure it out at such a young age. There seems to be the realization dawning upon Donna that love, commitment, companionship and angst-filled desire may arrive at different times in her life and finding the right combination of all those things must be worked out as she continues to live this crazy thing we call, "life."
Recommended for any young reader, 13 - up and any adult who appreciates a good Urban Fantasy yarn.