Ironskin by Tina Connolly
Author: Tina Connolly
Genre: Fiction (Fantasy / Fey / Governess / Skeletons in the Closet / PTSD / Jane Eyre Inspired / Sisters )
Publisher/Publication Date: Tor Book (10/2/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Did I finish?: I did.
One-sentence summary: A war-scarred governess finds her new charge is touched by the fey -- fairies -- and working with her unleashes demons from her past and new challenges.
Reading Challenges: E-books, NetGalley
Do I like the cover?: I was sort of 'whatever' about it initially, but while reading, I realized it is from a specific scene in the novel and that made me happy. Now I like how flashy and slinky and pretty it is!
First line: The moor was grey, battlefield grey.
Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy if you like techno-fantasy, governesses in love with their employers, and the world of fey.
Why did I get this book?: The cover - so flashy!
Review: I missed in the early pub info that this was a send up/re-imagination of Jane Eyre, making this the third such book I've read this year! While it has nods toward Bronte's classic -- most notably the romance between governess Jane and her employer Edward Rochart -- the novel isn't strictly a Jane Eyre retelling.
Jane Eliot moves to a rural estate to act as a governess to a girl born during the Great War. The Great War, fought between humans and fey, left the world in shambles and Jane scarred by a fey weapon that requires her to wear half an iron mask. Her employer, Edward Rochart, is handsome and mysterious, apt to disappear without a word, who wanders in the dangerous woods now and then, and keeps company with the country's richest and prettiest women. But parts of the house are forbidden to Jane, as is the truth of Edward's past, and Jane is curious about both. Stuff happens -- stuff totally unrelated to Jane Eyre and stuff closely related to it -- and by the novel's explosively odd end, I was pretty satisfied.
Connolly's world building is thin but it worked for me -- the unknown fey technology that fueled the human world is now no longer an option, and the fey are still a mysterious, frightening specter. The Industrial Revolution as we know it was delayed as a result of the heavy dependence of fey technology and so we have coal-burning power plants just coming into smoky existence, while cars run on remaining fey 'bluepacks'. I don't think this is 'steampunk' precisely, but it is a kind of techno-fantasy that I liked -- light on the science and gears, light on the speculative technologies --
In terms of romance, this one was 'eh' for me. I don't get the appeal of the Rochester archetype, but then again, I'm not a fan of the Byronic hero, so in that sense, the romance between Jane and Edward was wasted on me. The does-he-love me schtick, while authentic perhaps to the original novel, made me impatient. It was the odd note in Jane's otherwise rather strong and sensible disposition.
I was most intrigued by Connolly's toying around with the vaunted concepts of 'beauty' and 'anger' in this book. Women are often told not to mix with anger; literature is full of women struggling to tamp down their strong feelings. In this case, Jane literally has to struggle to control her rage -- it's part of her 'fey curse', a lingering wound from a fey bomb, causing unceasing rage to radiate from her face, impacting her and infecting those who are around her. While Jane has to tame her rage -- in the form of her 'ironskin' mask, which dampens the effects -- she also comes to learn to work with it, and in time, her rage proves an essential element to her success. I rather appreciated that.
I am very curious for the sequel -- I was surprised by the novel's end and some of Jane's choices -- and I'm very interested in seeing where Connolly takes Jane and her fey world.
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I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Ironskin to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian readers, ends 10/19. Be sure to check out my interview with Tina Connolly for another chance to enter!