Saturday, 6 October 2012

Review: Ironskin (Ironskin, #1) by Tina Connolly

Ironskin (Ironskin, #1) by Tina Connolly

Author: Tina Connolly
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Pages: 304
Genre: Science Fiction/Fantasy, Retelling, Fey
Source: e-Arc from publisher on Netgalley
Book Description from Goodreads: 
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.


     The story begins with an introduction to Jane, a survivor of The Great War against the fey. But she's not without scars, hers just happens to be a particularly angry one left behind on  her face - a parting gift from the fey. She hides behind an iron mask and veils, but it doesn't stop the constant whispers and paranoia of people around her as she tries to survive in a post war world. She works as a governess when she can, but her employers never fully trust her - until she responds to an ad for a governess at Silver Birch Hall, for a very unique case. 

     I was completely lured to this book by the stunning cover. If I didn't know better I'd think she was going to a masquerade ball with a gorgeous mask and dress in high society. But Jane's life isn't as glamorous as that...

     When the history behind Jane's scar is revealed - it shows how much she's suffered and lost at the hands of the fey and how much strength it must take to go on with life. I do admire her creativity, and her persistence - especially in dealing with the stubborn Dorie, but she's held back by her scars. Her longing for a normal face is a major obstacle, and I could see why, since the book is set in the time of approximately the Industrial Revolution - women didn't really have many prospects in life except to marry and those options are severely limited when you're cursed. She was a bit irritating in that she was constantly wavering in her decisions to love Rochart or not, to keep trying with Dorie or not, and especially between her actual beauty and her idea of beauty. 

     The secondary characters were much more interesting. Rochart resides in quiet obscurity as a tortured artist who crafts ethereal faces for the obscenely rich and who is barely present for his fey cursed daughter Dorie. But he's a bit too much of a mystery for my liking, and always talking in a cryptic ominous kind of way. Dorie's chased off countless governesses with her "gifts", and admittedly she sounds and acts like one of those little ghost girls you'd find in a haunted house who would lead you to your death. Dorie doesn't say much, but with her tiny but ferocious presence she manages to leave a very disturbing impression on the reader.

     The story is based loosely on Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I've never read Jane Eyre, and I know it's one of those "classics" that one should read, but I won't. It's not my kind of book. I had to read Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen for an English course once, and I only made it halfway all while rereading sentences and passages because it just wasn't clicking, it was painfully dull. Unfortunately, this story takes on a similar style of writing and tone. This kind of writing always makes me feel displaced from the story, like I'm just observing it from the outside. I couldn't really connect with the characters and I end up not caring about their petty lives. Everything is so stiff and formal. Several points were also repeated constantly throughout the book, at first it was a good reminder, but after awhile it just felt like Connolly was trying to fill space.

     The slightest saving grace to the story was that there'd be the odd intrusion of fey technology and magic that shatters this monotony - and that's what kept me reading. What I craved to know was the history and reasoning behind the fey war, and their mysterious disappearance. Although the first 3/4 of the book is excruciatingly slow, the last 1/4 is like this completely different story. It takes the reader on a hurtling reveal of all the secrets and recounts until everything horrific is shown to a now stronger and more confident Jane. 

Overall: 2/5 Tepid Cups of Tea
The concept is definitely intriguing, but I never felt fully drawn into the world and story. But when fey magic finally rears its head, it didn't seem that believable, and everything was confusing and shaky - it's like an action scene in a movie where the camera never actually captures anything - but at the end the hero has the villain dead at his feet but you're not sure how he got there. This book just wasn't for me, and I think Bronte purists might either love it or hate it.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with some of the problems you pointed out. I love the classic (it's not in the least as dull as Sense and Sensibility, by the way. I don't think Austen and Brontë would've been friends...) and Rochart was just too elusive here. Something you mention that I didn't know how to bring up in my review is the importance and discussion of beauty and different beauty ideals. I found it an interesting theme in the novel but also somewhat unsettling because I never knew how to evaluate Jane's decisions and opinions.
    Though overall we don't agree about the book, I like your review. You explain why things didn't work for you and remain respectful :)


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