The Iron Garden

by Jessamy Corob Cook

Some rules are made to be broken. But if you break the rules, you face the consequences…


Eleven-year-old Beatrix knows all about rules. She knows all about punishments. She knows all about being quiet, sitting still and not answering back. And she’s had enough.

A garden made all of iron – beautifully crafted, unsettlingly realistic – has been causing a stir in Victorian London. When Beatrix is taken to visit it, she finds a real white rose growing from an iron stem and she can’t resist taking it home. She doesn’t care that it’s against the rules. But the rose doesn’t stop growing, and things quickly get out of control.

An enchanted forest, a girl with a missing brother, a man with a sinister plot, and a dangerous deal with underground fairies all await Beatrix in this magical fairy tale adventure. Beatrix must find a way to undo her mistake and bring back the old, familiar, normal London. But does she really want to go back to a world without magic?

About the Author

Jessamy grew up in the countryside in a house full of books. An incurable lover of stories, she trained as an actor and has performed all over the UK. When she’s not dressing up and pretending to be somebody else, she teaches drama to kids. Jessamy loves travelling – whether in the real world or the story-world – and spent a year studying in Massachusetts. She now lives in London and will never get bored of exploring such a fascinating city, though her inner country-bumpkin still needs to see some trees, mud and a few sheep every now and then. She can’t imagine a better way of getting through a lockdown than completing an MA in Writing for Young People.

The Iron Garden by Jessamy Corob Cook, introduced by Ellie Halls, Dominic Royston, Marine Brenier and Freya Norley

The Iron Garden beautifully mixes the magic of the fae with the smoky mystery of old-fashioned London. EH

Jessamy’s writing draws you in and, before you know it, you’re left ensnared in its sensational story. Jessamy is so easily able to capture the mind of a child with her writing, that it leaves you desperately turning the pages. DR

The Iron Garden is a wonderful fairytale-like story. Jessamy has a delightful narratorial voice that really brings the story alive. It drew me in from the start, and Beatrix’s world kept me reading. Contrasting stiff Victorian manners with wild magic, it’s full of unexpected elements that put a smile on my face. MB

Jessamy not only has a fantastically unique, dark fairytale feel to her story, she also has a unique way of writing it. With lush, descriptive prose interspersed with original metaphors and imagery, Jessamy weaves Beatrix’s adventure into a tale with warmth and humour. FN

What was your inspiration for this story?

One of our assignments was to write a piece of historical fiction, so I went to visit the V&A in search of ideas. The collection of ironwork captured my imagination at once: it’s imposing and striking – the works are black, stark, solid, but also intricate and delicate and the level of craftsmanship that must have gone into them is astonishing. A single iron rose became the seed from which my story grew.

What was your most memorable moment on the MA?

The first class of the Forms, Ages and Stages module, where we discussed Charlotte’s Web. It was wonderful to be amongst people who cared about children’s literature as much as I did – others who felt children’s stories worthy of rigorous, passionate in-depth discussion.

What is the most important thing you learned on the MA?

That I’m not a planner, and that’s OK. Writing is a process of discovery; it’s OK to dive headfirst into an idea with no clue where it’s going – you just have to trust that whatever you find will be glorious.

What’s your favourite part of the writing process?

Stumbling upon connections: whether it’s a seed you’ve sown earlier in your story that miraculously links with something much later (without any conscious planning on your part), or whether you’re reading something that might have nothing to do with your story, but a line or image reflects or illuminates an idea you’ve been grappling with in your own writing.

What do you like doing when you’re not writing?

I’m an actor; I love performing in, and watching, theatre. I also love dancing, singing, running, travelling and exploring. And, of course, I love to read.

What is your top piece of advice for aspiring writers?

It’s said a lot, but it’s true: let yourself write badly. It’s the only way you’ll ever write well. No one ever sat down at a piano for the first time and expected to be a master pianist. It takes time, it takes work and it takes lots of messy, ugly mistakes. Writing is the same.

What was your favourite book as a child?

I had many, many favourites, but I’ll restrain myself and just mention four: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman (I wanted to be a witch and fly on cloud-pine through falling snow with my owl daemon); Bloomability by Sharon Creech (gloriously uplifting, deceptively simple, covertly profound); Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (wish-fulfilment for an aspiring performer); Harry Potter by JK Rowling (magic!).

What place in fiction do you most want to visit?

Middle-earth. I want to go to a party in Hobbiton and a banquet in Rivendell. I want to see the Golden Hall of Edoras, the Golden Wood of Lothlórien, the White Tower of Minas Tirith and the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep. I want to see dragons (at safe distance) and meet hobbits and wizards and dwarves and elves.