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Ironskin Paperback – August 13, 2013
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“This is an astonishing book: an evocative re-imagination of Jane Eyre that concerns itself with beauty, love and social upheaval. Jane Eliot is an unforgettable protagonist, and the setting is strange and familiar at the same time. Connolly's fey creatures manage to be both ethereal and menacing. This lyrical and utterly marvelous debut is one of the standout books of the year.” ―RT Book Reviews, 4 ½ Stars, Top Pick!
“Connolly has created a complex and well-drawn world here, and the story is indeed an original and imaginative take on the gothic-fiction tradition. An intriguing and ambitious fantasy tale.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Connolly includes all the romance, mystery, and horror that a good gothic story needs, without the florid prose. Her writing is clean and fresh, but she gives us just enough bygone language to show she knows exactly what kind of story she's telling, even as she shakes it up.” ―Portland Monthly
About the Author
TINA CONNOLLY lives with her family in Portland, Oregon, in a house that came with a dragon in the basement and blackberry vines in the attic. Her stories have appeared all over, including in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a frequent reader for Podcastle, and narrates the Parsec-winning flash fiction podcast Toasted Cake. In the summer she works as a face painter, which means a glitter-filled house is an occupational hazard.
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This is a classic gothic romance, albeit with fey elements. Here, Jane has a sister, and traumatic experience as a warrior; there is no mad wife in the attic; and the child Jane is hired to look after is central to the plot and not peripheral. The main thing that differentiates this from most gothics- including "Jane Eyre"- is that here the heroine has a Past with secrets just like the hero does.
The fey element was essential to the plot(s), and very well thought out. Most of the novel kept a considered pace and revealed things to Jane- and us- at a well-measured rate. If that had continued to the end, I would have given this 5 stars; as it is, the ending seemed chaotic and rushed. While it didn't end on a cliffhanger, it's pretty obvious by the end that there are more books in the series.
I did enjoy most of the book, including the development of the various primary characters. However, the hasty ending detracted from my enjoyment, and I likely will not read more in the series.
That being said, this was a pretty good modern novel in the gothic tradition.
What I liked
The adaptation. This version, while not following the exact plotline of Jane Eyre, does an excellent job of maintaining the characterisations and emotional beats of the original story. Like Jane Eyre, our Jane Eliot lives at the fringes of her society, and this has a large influence on her character. Edward too, is very similar to the Edward Rochester of the book – his guilt for his past is a block in his admitting his feelings for Jane. Ironskin focusses mainly on the Jane/Edward relationship and hits most of the same emotional beats as the original with the love, betrayal and reunion. I didn’t feel Ironskin came quite up to the emotion of the Jane Eyre ending where Jane is finally reunited with Rochester. The fae side of the story was nicely woven in along with this key relationship.
Beauty as a theme. This is an interesting theme woven throughout the novel. Jane, physically scarred as she is by the Great War, is very sensitive to this, especially as she sees the “pretty ladies” who congregate around Edward. She must decide how best to compete for the love of the man she adores. The whole fey beauty becomes a major plot point.
Supporting characters. Although it focusses on Jane and Edward, I did enjoy the supporting characters in the book, especially Poole (half dwarven!) and Dorie. I liked how Jane’s relationships with them are developed through the book.
The narration. I was drawn to Ironskin as much by the plot as the audio narration sample. When deciding whether to buy the Audible book or the Kindle ebook I often listen to the sample. I loved Rosalyn Landor’s voice and narration in the sample and she did not disappoint in the least. I loved the entire narration. Maybe it’s because I am British (soon to be Canadian!), I generally warm to British narrators more than American ones. Landor narrates this with a wonderfully rich received pronunciation accent and brings a lot of life to the tale.
The pacing. With the focus on Jane’s time at the manor, the story moves along briskly. Like in the original, there are several hints at Rochart’s secret, and this keeps the audience intrigued.
What I didn’t like.
There was little I disliked about Ironskin. There were a few occasions where a more modern turn of phrase was used which I found a little off-putting, but other than that I really enjoyed it. Ironskin is the first in a series of books set in this world. The second, Copperhead, follows Jane’s younger sister, Helen. To be honest, I’ll probably give that a miss as the character of Helen rather irritating in Ironskin and I have no interest in following her story. However, the third book, Silverblind, due out later this year follows a grown up Dorie. Now that I am interested in, and will certainly pick it up in audiobook when it’s available.
I gave Ironskin four and a half stars out of five.
This book had great potential, but I never truly connected with the characters, despite it being on a Jane Eyre model of a story. The world is one after a Great War between the Fae and Humans. The female protagonist is Jane a Fae cursed governess, who goes to work looking after a Fae cursed little girl name Dorie. Whose father is an absent artist named Edward. The problem is that I really didn't care for the characters. I am still lost as to what caused the war. There were also continuity issues with the story that though minor did impact the storyline and how the characters interacted with one another. The continuity errors and the Fae curses just led to a mishmash of a tale.
The romance was not existent. I could not fathom how Jane could declare herself in love with Edward when they hardly had interacted. This story left me very perplexed.