Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Title: Ironskin
Author: Tina Connolly
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: October 2, 2012
Pages: 304 pages (hardcover)
How I Got the Book: ARC from the publisher via NetGalley
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Promotional Materials and More: author website

Ironskin (Ironskin, #1)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.


Review:


Retellings can be tricky to pull off. In my experience, they work best when they capture the original's magic by relying on its plot and characters in certain places and diverging from the original in others in order to give it the feel that it's a book of its own, not a complete repeat of the original. It can be a difficult balance to create and unfortunately, I don't think Ironskin manages it, as a retelling of Jane Eyre with steampunk influences and fairies.

One of the high points of Ironskin was the development of the relationship between Jane and her charge Dorie, who can do strange things like move objects without touching them and yet is not fey. Strange children are among my favorite sorts of characters and Dorie fits the bill perfectly! The beginning of the novel was the best kind of grabbing and I loved how Connolly developed her ideas throughout the novel. It appears there will be a sequel and I might be interested in reading it to see where it will take readers next.

While there are things I genuinely like, the novel became a slog for me to read after the 25% mark (roughly 70 pages). There are long stretches in the beginning where little to nothing happens and neither the plot nor the characters drive the story. What Mr. Rochart is doing with the women isn't given any attention until well over halfway through the novel and within the last 100 pages, the book veers off unexpectedly into territory most often traveled by run-of-the-mill urban fantasy novels.

Most of all, Ironskin fails to capture the magic of Jane Eyre, transfer any of the source material's strengths to itself, or create a resemblance between the characters of one and the other. Jane and Mr. Rochart's romance lacks the compelling element of Jane and Mr. Rochester's (and I say that as someone who didn't care for Mr. Rochester). The two novels focus on entirely different themes and events and in the end, they're only loosely related to one another. Ironskin would have been better off to drop all the elements it has as a retelling of Charlotte Bronte's classic and simply be an original novel. No retellings or anything.

Readers coming to this book because it's a Jane Eyre retelling with steampunk and fairies may find themselves unsatisfied with the novel, but anyone who wants it because it sounds like a great idea regardless of its status as a retelling (or better yet, are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre) may enjoy it more than I did.

2 stars!


What am I reading next?: The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer