Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Ironskin (Ironskin #1)

By Tina Connolly
Editions: ebook, hardcover
Expected publication: October 2nd 2012 by Tor Books
Genre: YA Paranormal / Steampunk / Romance
Source: NetGalley

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.
~ Goodreads Blurb

Wow, just, I mean… wow!! I thought this would be a retelling of Jane Eyre with a steampunk twist, but it was a genius reinterpretation with smart little references to the original, and a lot of charm and originality. This may be the classics geek in me squealing with delight, but I am nonetheless squealing 😀 This was just awesome!

Let’s talk about the retelling angle for a bit. The similarities and fun little references between Jane Eyre and Ironskin abound. Our main character is Jane Eliot (as opposed to Jane Eyre), and the byronic male character and lord of the manor is Edward Rochart (as opposed to Edward Rochester), while his home is Silver Birch and not Thornfield Hall – but the woods are full of thorns 😀 – , the daughter’s name is Dorie not Adele. Jane has a sister, Helen, which strangely coincides with the name of Jane Eyre’s friend in Lowood. Jane Eliot spends some time in an institution where she receives the iron mask and learns to bottle up inside her fairy curse so as to not let it affect others, but her time there is less horrible then Jane Eyre’s in Lowood.
However these sort of fun similarities go on as the book develops, and little hints of things will make you grin as you read if you’ve read Jane Eyre, little things like the moor and what role its appearance has on Jane’s life, or the appearance of Blanche Ingram and the funny little hint in Ironskin to a story of a man who locked up his crazy wife and pretended to be widowed, but it’s not our situation. If ever possible, our Edward has an even more twisted secret then Mr. Rochester’s, but I won’t tell you about it, of course 😀
The point here is, Ironskin doesn’t retell the story of Jane Eyre, it reinterprets it keeping some elements from the original but developing them and adding new and awesome traits to the story.

Now, the plot of this novel is a really cool blend of mystery, paranormal/fantasy elements, fantastical steampunk, some romance, drama, it’s a great mix and it made for awesome, awesome entertainment for me.  While it does put the YA spin on the story, to me it read more like a ‘commercial-ized’ literary. The focus is definitely on character development not action, though there is a good enough amount of action too and it picks up more from about the half of the story I think. I’m completely loving this sort of revival of imagery and poetry in prose, I think we’ve had enough of agitated action, I know I tend to feel that way more and more.
This read, because of all the beauty, was a very close to 5 rating, but there were little bits that held me back from the full 5.

Jane was lovely and I loved her immediately. Dorie as well was insta-love for me, and Edward was…well. Byronic, but this time I didn’t really fall for it for some reason. I think I would have if he’d been around more, I dunno, there is a lot of emphasis on Jane and Dorie’s interaction and I will confess to having wished for more Jane and Edward interaction instead.
Their chemistry was interesting, they had some banter going on, and there was a bit of rushed falling for one another but having read Jane Eyre, I’m not sure how to put this, this relationship didn’t build from the ground up, it had a foundation and the first floor already done in my head, you know what I mean? Had this been a read with no Jane Eyre as a foundation, I might have found this relationship evolving a bit too quickly perhaps.

The world of the story, with the fairies and everything, was fascinating. I loved the concept of it, the take on extreme beauty-seeking and the torture some go through to reach that impossible and somewhat inhuman (in the story) level of beauty perfection. There’s a moral here, and I loved how the point came across. That was one of my favorite elements of the fairy connection, so to speak.
The writing was awesome, a third person narrative from Jane’s POV that really appealed to me. Beautiful, gothic imagery, I mean the moor, the awesome, awesome, awesome Silver Birch home, just beautiful. The style isn’t classic but commercial, very accessible and direct though sort of poetic through imagery. I just loved it like crazy, for me it’s that kind of best of both worlds, you know?

As far as curb appeal goes, I mean, come on! Instant compulsive buy, extremely amazingly incredibly gorgeous cover, killer blurb, killer concept.

All in all, this is, for me, one of the best concepts and reads of the year, it’s fun, sort of playful, witty, beautiful and well done, and I believe you should try it for yourselves.

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Love retellings or not so much?


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