- Date published: 2nd October 2012
- Publisher: Tor Books
- Format: Ebook, 304 pages
- Series: Ironskin, Book 1
- ISBN 13: 9781429993043 ISBN10: 1429993049
- Categories: Fantasy
- Goodreads / The Book Depository / Booktopia / Bookworld
- Source: provided for review by the publisher
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.
It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.
When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.
Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her scars and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio…and come out as beautiful as the fey.
Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things are true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of a new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.
Ironskin is a supernatural/steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre, not that I realised that until more than half way through the book, and I enjoyed it a lot because it kept the spirit of the original without heavily constraining itself to stick to its plot.
I liked Jane, I could easily sympathise with her and her struggle to accept life as an ironskin. I think her dilemmas are realistic, and that her experiences are in keeping with my expectations. Her sister, Helen, despises Jane for being braver than her, and Jane is struck by guilt because she wasn’t there when their mother passed away. I think all the characters are painted admirably, and although I would have liked to see more of Edward, and understand him better, his creepy, haunted aura is enhanced by his absence.
I liked the supporting cast a lot, there aren’t many, but each character is fleshed out and believable. My favourite is Poule, who is tenacious but loyal, and doesn’t lose her head in a crisis. I also liked the Cook because of her forthrightness and unapologetic nature. I hope the next book keeps following the interesting household that Rochart keeps.
I do wonder at the love story between Jane and Edward – they hardly interact with one another but suddenly profess their love. There are a few stolen kisses but even this small amount of romance is overshadowed by the supernatural element. I like to think they bonded over their mutual love of Dorie, Edward’s daughter, who is one of the most interesting characters in the whole book. I feel that Tina Connolly has channeled a five-year-old remarkably well. I thought the passages where Jane goes through her teaching exercises with Dorie would get boring, but they were fun and entertaining, and I liked how stubborn they both were throughout.
The supernatural element in this book is provided by the fey, ethereal creatures who supplied humans with magical technology to stave off the development of steam/coal based industries. They entered into a war with the humans that only ended five years ago, and although some humans have already forgotten the horror of those times, many remember and are wary of going into forests and wandering around at night. The world is painted vividly and it’s easy to feel the fear of the characters when they talk about the fey – this is a time when fear of the unknown has permeated every facet of life.
Connolly’s début is certainly commendable, and I enjoyed it a lot. Bursting with great characters and a thrilling plot, Ironskin will be enjoyed by the adult and young adult audience alike. I can’t wait for the second book of the series, Copperhead, to be released later this year, especially since it will be a retelling of Beauty and the Beast!