Monday, 24 November 2014

Book Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Pros: interesting world-building, great protagonist

Cons: banter between Jane and Rochart didn’t quite match Jane and Rochester

Jane Eliot has worn an iron mask over half of her face since the end of the fae war 5 years ago, when she was cursed with rage.  The mask keeps the rage at bay, but marks her as an ironskin, a reminder of worse times, and shunned by society.  Upon the engagement of her sister to an aristocrat greatly above their station, she takes a post as governess to a young girl who’s… different.  Jane believes she knows how to reach the child, but Dorie is not an ironskin like Jane.  And as Jane starts to fall for her brooding new master, she wonders if she’s the right person to help Dorie after all.

This is a fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre.  But while the plot remains largely the same, there are a lot of major and minor differences.  At times when she diverges from Jane Eyre, Connolly writes in a nod to the original.  For example, Jane in this one never went to a boarding school, but she did teach at one and comments that she’s glad she never had to attend it, given the horrible conditions the girls faced.  The ending is noticeably different, so don’t think that having read Jane Eyre will preclude your enjoying this book or remove all the plot surprises. 

I really enjoyed the fae aspects of the book, from the war to the curse to learning about the dwarvven and their interactions with the fae.  I liked that the fae had understandable reasons for the war (that you discover at the end of the book).  And I liked that the book kept much of the traditional view of fairy stories (the Irish and Welsh versions where someone who know someone was kidnapped by the fairies and later returned), rather than modern literary fairy tales.

Jane, as with her namesake, was a great protagonist.  Though young she’s determined and hard working, stubborn and loving.  I didn’t feel the same connection between her and Rochart as I did between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, their banter not hitting quite the same notes, but the relationship did grow naturally over time, which I appreciated.  Their ending surprised me as things got pretty bleak fast and I wasn’t sure how the author would be able to resolve things.

One of the main divergences from the original is the fact that Jane has a living sister with whom she has a complicated relationship.  Both of them envy and resent things about the other.  It was nice to see how things developed between them as well as Jane’s relationships with the other female members of the staff.  

This is the start of a series and I’m curious to see where the author will take things, as book two is from her sister’s point of view.

No comments: