Ironskin – Tina Connolly

I received this book from Netgalley – thanks to them and the publisher.

I admit, I’m a little disappointed. This started off at a gallop, and I was happy to cling to it for the ride. About halfway through I thought I had an inkling of where it was going – I was almost sure of it, in fact – and it was awesome. At that moment I expected the story to continue to run hard and fast and wonderful and cross the finish line with banners flying and five gold stars trailing.

I was totally wrong about the direction. I don’t think that was why I didn’t enjoy the second half as much as I expected to, but it might have factored in.

This was not, apparently, intended as a take-off on the story of Jane Eyre. From the author’s notes, a beta reader picked up on the existing similarities and commented on it, and Tina Connolly ran with it. And it was well done, I think, as far as it went. The main character is Jane (not Eyre); she becomes governess to Dorie, the daughter of Edward Rochart, in a secluded fey-built and fey-damaged mansion; and that’s about as far as it goes. I thought the plot was going to adhere more closely, and quite honestly I was a bit excited about that. It didn’t.

(Yes, I know – had it followed Jane Eyre point for point I probably would have gotten cranky. What I expected, though, based on the first half, was a sort of nodding acquaintance with Charlotte Brontë, a fond and knowledgeable sort of flirtation with the book; an homage. And I maintain that that would have been great.)

The war against the fey is over, but Jane Eliot still bears the scars. No: she bears the wound; it won’t heal to become a scar, because it is a cursed wound which remains forever open. Fey weapons often caused such, leaving black and terrifying holes in their victims which radiate a terrible emotion which can overwhelm not only the wounded but anyone nearby: ravenous hunger, or terror, or – in Jane’s case – rage. The only way those cursed so can even begin to try to find normal post-war lives is to wear iron, anathema to the fey and fey work, fitted to cover the wounds (in Jane’s case, the left side of her face): ironskins. Of course, having to make your way with an iron mask covering half your face isn’t going to be conducive to a normal life. But Jane is hopeful that in this lonely place she might be able to find a rhythm again, and do some good with the extraordinary child she has come to tend.

It’s a great idea. But when it was introduced that Dorie’s father is an artist who makes grotesque masks, I had a flashback to the Twilight Zone episode “The Masks” – it seemed as though the obvious way for the story to go was that same route. And, unfortunately, that’s pretty much what it did. I still can’t help but sigh a little for my idea … Also, I have to say that the basic facts of it (young woman isolated in big house with small child, a couple of servants, and the child’s father who disappears for lengthy and unexplained periods, with a forest near the house which is very, very dangerous) are much too similar to Galen Beckett’s The Magicians and Mrs. Quent. That book much more consciously derived … shall we say inspiration? – from Bronte (and Austen). It was pretty good. I can’t help mourning the possibility that Ironskin could have been amazing.

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4 Responses to Ironskin – Tina Connolly

  1. If you REALLY want to read a book that is an adapation of Jane Eyre, I can recommend The Flight of Gemma Hardy. I thought it was really good.

  2. tmso says:

    Well, it does have a killer cover. I might like it, given the warning. I know I often find that the books I like the best are the ones I have the least expectations for.

  3. stewartry says:

    That does sound good – just put it on my Goodreads wishlist. Thanks! You’re listening to Jane Eyre now, right?

  4. stewartry says:

    It is a great cover, isn’t it? And it’s a really neat job of worldbuilding. I think it might have been mostly “It’s not you, it’s me”, but I couldn’t tell anymore after a certain point …

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