Author: Tina Connolly
Genre: supernatural, retellings, steampunk
Series: Ironskin #1
Pages: 302 (ARC paperback edition)
Published: October 2 2012
Source: TLC Book Tours
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 own 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 is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.
It's easily apparent from the very start of this deceptively good novel that Ironskin is a story loosely based on Charlotte Brontë's beloved classic Jane Eyre. Fortunately for me, I have never read the original, and that's one of the reasons I think I was free to enjoy this supernaturalized version as much as I did. I had no predispositions or favorites or even opinions going in - Connolly was free to do whatever she wanted with any of the characters, or with the plot, and it all worked out amazingly for me. Ironskin was a creative outlet of steam (really more fey-)punk, that managed to be both entertaining, and full of surprises. A few twists were expected, but Tina Connolly managed to pull the rug out from under my feet more than once before this short-ish novel was over. With a solidly built world, and a strong protagonist who changes and develops as the pages progress, I found a lot to recommend about this novel.
A debut novel, Ironskin comes loaded with great characters, a compelling storyline, and with a unique, new interpretation of steampunk. The ideas and fey-punk (bluepacks, etc.) that Connolly has envisioned for her alternate world of fey, dwarvven, and more work well for the frame of the plot, but are not truly steampunk. There's more of a supernatural feel to Ironskin as well - from Rochart to his daughter, magic is alive and
The characters took a bit longer to gel than the rest of the novel. I was easily enraptured by Connolly's lovely and often very visual writing to the benefit of the atmosphere, but her characters were a different story. With a slower-paced novel like this one, it's more difficult to get a grip on personalities, ambitions, and more. Jane, for the fiirst hundred or so pages, can be hard to empathize with, or relate to. She wasn't as astute as could be hoped for, but in the end, her journey to self-realization makes up for it. Thankfully with this author and engaging novel, the time spent building Jane, Dorie, and Rochart into distinct beings all payout in the end. The romance between the two adults is many things: expected, tumultuous, well-handled, and slow-building. No headlong rush into instalove here! The conflicts and complications that frequently spring up between Rochart and his damaged employee are part and parcel to the up-and-down relationship the two endure as they struggle to trust one another and protect Dorie. There isn't a ton of chemistry between the two for the first 200 pages, but Connolly manages to rectify that in time with some chance meetings and subtle conversations to build their relationship into something more believable than it started out as.
With the Gothic edge one would expect of something based on a Brontë sisters work, the world and technology of Ironskin is one of the most alluring concepts; both interesting and creepy. The unsettling setting, the unknown details of Jane's life at Silver Birch, the tension between the ironskins and the rest of the populace and more make for an encompassing, suspense-filled atmosphere. Ironskin is a well-written novel where the slightly creepy ambiance is as much of a part of the novel as the plot itself or the characters that grow from outlines into fully fleshed and three-dimensional people. The world, full of history and war and curses is a complex and imaginative more. Connolly is thankfully one of those few authors that don't inundate their audience with all the details immediately in an infodump, but one that parses out small, pertinent pieces of information slowly as the novel progresses along, creating an informative, large worldview of the time and place Jane lives in.
Ambitious and impressive, Ironskin wraps up the main plotline/mystery neatly and succinctly in those 302 pages. With a few open-ended plotlines obviously leading up the next book in this series, Connolly is a writer who knows how to hook her readers. I certainly eagerly awaiting to see what new struggles and battles Jane will encounter as well as gaining more knowledge about the Great War that lead up to the current conflict. With a strong ending, an intriguing and original interpretation of a beloved classic, realistic characters with human (and otherwise..) flaws, and mysteries a plenty, Ironskin is a rewarding and fun read.