Despite some issues I really, really loved this book. The world isn’t something I encounter in YA very often: A fantasy/steampunk/clockpunk world set in an alternate 1950s. That, to me, is beyond awesome so right off the bat I was poised to love this book. And I definitely did. I found the world building very thoughtful and well done--a city running on a great Engine that protects them from the things that can cause madness, a world torn by the battle between science and magic (which itself isn’t an original idea but here it is pulled off exceedingly well). Kittredge definitely creates a very distant but still recognizable 1950s, where girls and women can hold certain jobs but still be expected to be “nice girls” and find husbands one day. The plot kept me intrigued throughout the book, even the times when the pacing was a bit too slow, though that was rarely a problem. The climax near the end was extremely well written and powerful, and it does offer some exciting possibilities for the next book. The characters all have strong voices, though the strongest of them was probably Dean’s. His dialogue never felt forced or strained, in fact it was probably the smoothest and more consistent voice in the book. Cal, Aoife’s best and only friend, started off as a very nice character, but he slowly turned into a kind of stereotype of the typical ‘50s male; chauvinistic and sexist, expecting Aoife to conform to societal standards. He stays this way pretty much throughout the entire novel, to the point where I honestly started wondering why he was even there. He was serving little to no purpose except as a tool of creating some conflict for Aoife while the rest of the plot waited to be introduced. While at least Kittredge shows that his opinions and views of women were unreasonable, it got to the point where I just rolled my eyes whenever he showed up on the page. However Kittredge completely turns this on its head near the end of the book in a way that honestly made me put down the book and laugh with joy. It’s honestly brilliant and is a major part of why I love this book. I was afraid, at first, that the traveling trio of Dean, Aoife and Cal would turn out to be a love triangle. It swung dangerously close to that mark briefly, but then it reins itself back in and, honestly, there was never any doubt in my mind who Aoife preferred. Aoife never stopped to think “hey, maybe I do like Cal as more than a friend” and when presented with the idea by another character, she waves it off. No, Cal was always her best and only friend, her confidant, but I never got the impression she saw it going further than that, probably because of her necrovirus. The way this turned out was so pleasing, because I am sick of the love triangles in YA, especially love triangles where it’s obvious who the girl is going to be with in the end. Speaking of romance, Dean and Aoife were rather sweet. Dean respects her and her agency, which is always a big plus in my book. While there were a few scenes that made me discontent, over all they’re a sweet couple that work in YA. However I do think that, if there are going to be three books in this series, Kittredge could have taken the time to develop their relationship a bit more. The entire book takes place a little over a week or so, and yet she and Dean are kissing by the middle of it. Perhaps there’s a reason for this that will be revealed later but for now, it doesn’t sit well with me. There was one main complaint I had during the novel and that was, besides Aoife, there weren’t many female characters. And the women Aoife does meet during her journey--hell, even before she starts traveling--she doesn’t view very kindly. She’s seldom outright rude to them, but her opinion of them is always very low. If they’re rightfully scared of something unearthly, she thinks them hysterical and silly. If they’re showing even a bit of kindness or interest in Cal or Dean, she gets territorial and possessive. There’s even a scene in the book where, after Cal sees Dean and Aoife kiss and throws a snitfit, and Aoife has to go after him to make sure he doesn’t run off to the Proctors in revenge, Dean mentions a girl he got into a fight over, and Aoife just stops and asks, “Was she pretty?” Um, hello, this is not the time. You need to go stop your former best friend from turning you all in. Then I started to wonder why this bothered me so much, since, after all, the era is an alternate 1950s. Women are still taught to be critical and unkind towards each other even today; surely it was the same back then, too, if not worse? And then I realized: Well, duh, it’s because almost every YA book out there holds the same attitude towards teenage girls and their relationships with each other. Only it’s worse because the young adult books I’ve read that represent and normalize this attitude are set in modern times, when we really should know better by now, and should be calling this stuff out as unreasonable and, worse, destructive. After that I was much more forgiving of Aoife’s attitude towards the few female characters in the novel, even if it still grated. There is a chance in the next book that Aoife will change her way, as another female character joins the main cast, and I hope that same character gets more screen time and development than she did in this book. I sincerely hope so. All in all I truly loved The Iron Thorn, even with its flaws. The characters were strong and three dimensional, the worldbuilding was extremely well done, and the cliffhanger at the end--yes, there is a cliffhanger--will keep me eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.