Artist and writer S.M. Vidaurri’s watercolor treatment features predominant greys and blues with occasional splashes of red (a recurring robin, for example). The word he crafts is one of “constant winter,” and it’s populated by anthropomorphic animals. These creatures live in an age of quiet rebellion, post-wartime, where a faction of animals plan a revolution while those in power seek their hideouts. The story is rife with paranoia, threats of betrayal lurk in the wintry corners of dialogue balloons. A rabbit, Hardin, is the focus of the first chapter as he escapes an enemy’s clutches with stolen documents. All of this—the war, the rebellion, what lies within the documents--unfolds at a measured pace, and it keeps the reader at a crossroad: quickly turn the pages to uncover the mystery, or linger to appreciate the stark, absorbing artwork.
As future chapters develop, Hardin’s children become the focus while the threatening forces grow closer to their targets. There’s a train sequence that is heightened by its chugging course through the snow; plot points slowly collide, upsetting the quiet nature of the book with an explosive reveal. If all the heartbreak of the finale weren’t enough, Iron ends with a letter from a son to his father. It casts one last ray of wintertime light onto a character, opening his motivations long after it is too late.
Publisher Archaia continues to produce these under-the-radar gems—see also our spotlight on their much louder and fast-paced Tale of Sand—that reward any reader lucky enough to happen upon them.