Author: Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #1
Page Count: 304
Publish Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
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.
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The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.
Now, before I get into this review I wanted to mention one quick thing. When I read this book I had no idea it was a retelling of the story Jane Eyre. Retellings rarely make it onto my TBR. That little fact wasn’t mentioned in the book description or anywhere else, so I went into the book thinking it was something new. Since I have never read Jane Eyre I have no way of comparing this book to that one. So, because of this, I am going to write this review based on how I felt about the novel as I read it, as a new book that was not a retelling of anything.
The basis of this story I liked. After a long five-year war with the Fey things are starting to return to normal. However, for those who have been injured in the war, namely through Fey bombs, life will never be the same. For they are the Ironskin, those who carry a Fey curse and must wear iron over these wounds to keep the curse at bay. The curse works differently for each person, as the type of curse is based on where the injury is. Jane’s cheek is marked and her curse is rage, where a boy later on in the book must cover his leg in iron to prevent the curse of hunger from seeping to other people. An interesting concept for sure.
Jane gets a job as a governess, or nanny if you will, for a child born during the war and thus she believes is Fey cursed. Enter Dory and her strange ways. Now, before we get into Dorie let’s look at Jane’s character for a moment. Jane is cursed with rage, though wearing her iron mask suppresses that curse. She will never live a normal life again, nor will any of the Ironskin, because of this curse. She is a hard character to get into, being a bit detached from things, which I can understand given her circumstances, not everyone likes or trusts the Ironskins. But even as the story progresses I find Jane is just too…flat of a character.
Next up is Edward, Dorie’s father and the one who is trying to hire someone to deal with his apparent “delicate situation. He’s another character I just couldn’t get into. He was so detached from everything, from his house, from his daughter, even his interactions with Jane for a large portion of the book were short and very unemotional. It was obvious he loved his daughter, yet spent nearly no time with her, only showing up now and then only to vanish moments later with no trace.
Finally, the third character that felt a little lifeless was Dorie herself. A five-year-old girl has strange powers due to the circumstances of her birth during the war. But since she had no scars it was hard for Jane to determine where and with what was she cursed. Now normal five-year-olds are a breed all themselves (I should know since I have a five-year-old son) and they are often energetic, randomly shout things, have relatively short attention spans, and hate being told no. Dorie didn’t feel like a five-year-old to me, granted that was likely related to her curse, but she exhibited almost no signs of typical child behavior. And the fact she still took naps was extremely odd to me.
Along with these three main characters there were plenty of minor characters including the cook, maid, and butler of the house. I kind of liked the cook, whereas the maid didn’t get enough time in the story for me to decide whether I liked her or not and the butler, Poule, well I sort of liked her at first but there were also parts that made me dislike her. On top of these, there were Jane’s sister, a plethora of ladies coming in and out of the house either to be worked on or to attend parties, and a few people from Jane’s past, namely the man who ran the foundry who made the iron coverings for those who were Fey cursed.
Overall the story had its appeal, but there were many parts where I was left wondering just what the direction of this scene was and what significance it would have later on. There were also a lot of loose ends that never got answered, though perhaps there will be reasons behind these in the second novel, for example, the old man that Jane sees leaving the garage after she follows the maid out there. There was no further mention of who that man was or why he had come there. The explanation as to how and why Edward can transform ugly women into those who possess what is referred to as “fey beauty” was interesting, even if that later proved to be a bad thing not only for Jane but everyone who had received this treatment.
I was glad to see the reappearance of the Fey, as the book was lacking the enemy element through a large portion of it. When the war ended the Fey had simply just disappeared, and that’s what prompted everyone to claim victory over them. But the Fey had clearly not been beaten and were simply lying in wait for a new opportunity to reappear among the humans. What happens next will only be revealed in the next book, but there was a good foundation for further plot twists and more involvement of the Fey in the future.
Even though I had a difficult time with the main characters and several portions of the story overall I did enjoy it for what it was. The world-building was really good in this book, describing the technology used, most of which was created by the Fey before the war happened, and how everyone had to adjust to losing that technology now that the Fey were no longer around to keep it running. However, now that I know it is a retelling of Jane Eyre I feel as though I should read that book to see just how the two compare.
Have you read Ironskin? What did you think of it?