Friday, August 23, 2013

Review: Ironskin, by Tina Connolly

Author: Tina Connolly
Series: Ironskin #1
Rating: ✮✮✮

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.

I have to confess I've never read Jane Eyre. Really. It's on my list of classics to eventually read, though my goal of reading forty classics in 2013 fell by the wayside. (Damn you, comics! But not really, I love you.) As a result, I went into Ironskin completely unaware of what was a retelling and what was original story (well, obviously the fey stuff is original), which led to a pretty interesting reading experience.

The first two thirds of the novel unfold much like you'd expect it to. The story revolves around our main character, Jane, who is scarred with a fey curse on her cheek. Or the entire left half of her face, it's hard to tell at times. This scar is actually a bit of fey magic bomb shrapnel that sticks to the victim and lets out waves of some sort of emotion - in Jane's case, anger and rage.

This is where Ironskin thrives: in the world building and fey touches. There aren't huge dumps of exposition to describe Jane's world, but we experience the world through her instead. The fey aspects are so ingrained in her world and her life, that we get bits and pieces of the fey history, the fey-human war, and Jane's curse. Speaking of which, I really liked that bit of Jane's characterization. She wears an iron mask to protect others from being hit by the rage of her curse, but doesn't that mean all that rage has nowhere to go but within? Jane has spent years fighting against the anger she feels, and seeing it play out in her interactions and emotions is great.

The romance between Jane and Rochart, her employer, was very lukewarm to me. I just couldn't see what she saw in him, and it prompted me to accept it simply because that's how it's supposed to happen in Jane Eyre.

Then we get to the last third of the novel.

We've just spent the first part of the novel living through Jane, through her attempts to work with Rochart's daughter, through the lukewarm romance. The fey aspects of it are around in their daily lives, but never overt. A little mystery begins to unwind as Jane spends more time on the Rochart estate. This is all expected, right?

Then the fey stuff takes over quickly and completely. I can't even describe it without spoiling for the last sixty or so pages, but damn.

The last bit of Ironskin really threw me off. In any other novel the fey aspects of the plot would have delighted me (even if some parts made my skin crawl), but it seemed to come out of nowhere. Yes, seeds of it were planted early on in the novel, but the jump from placid country setting to FULL BLOWN FEY BATSHITTERY was insane.

And kinda fun. But mostly insane.

Two stars for the romance, four stars for the crazy.

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