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Book Review - IRONSKIN by Tina Connolly

Updated on January 25, 2013

The moor was grey, battlefield grey. It had been five years since the last fey was seen, but out here Jane could almost imagine the Great War still raged on.

It’s been five years since the Great War between humans and fey. Five years since Jane Eliot lost her brother and had to shield half of her face behind an iron mask. Known as Ironskin, Jane is one among many who were scarred by fey magic. These scars result in a curse of a particular emotion that if not protected by iron will infect everyone around them. Jane’s is rage and on several occasions she must force herself to calm down. Though the iron keeps it from spreading she still practices control, feeling better when she can douse the flames on her cheek where the scar lies.

Aware she won’t have much of a lavish lifestyle like her recently engaged younger sister, Jane answers an ad for a governess position. Noted as a “delicate situation,” Jane is hired and meets her student, five-year-old Dorie, a child born during the war and who possesses powers only known to the fey kind. Her father, the charismatic, yet closed off Edward Rochart wishes to bring Dorie out into the world, but until she can conceal her strange abilities from people, he keeps her hidden in their large estate. Stubborn and temperamental, Dorie proves a difficult charge for Jane, but she refuses to give up. Determined to reach this girl, she will do whatever it takes. Jane expects obstacles, what she doesn’t expect was falling in love with Mr. Rochart, a man who actually looks beyond the mask and into her soul.

If, while reading the above synopsis, you found yourself thinking of JANE EYRE, you’re not wrong. IRONSKIN is a steampunk retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s most popular novel. This tale is similar in certain areas, but author Tina Connolly does add in her own mystical twists. The tone and pacing of the two stories are also the same with two-thirds of the book following Jane’s arrival at the mansion, the tutoring she gives Dorie, and her realization that she loves Mr. Rochart. And as JANE EYRE is clouded by a Gothic premise, IRONSKIN too unveils a dangerous threat to the characters. As to the writing itself, Connolly clearly has talent. Her detailed descriptions and look into Jane’s thoughts are poetic and vivid. Certain parts, however, do go a little overboard as if she was trying too hard to replicate Bronte’s style. Still, the imagery works to her favor for in a steampunk universe—and fantasy world—setting is everything.

A diehard JANE EYRE fan, Jane and Rochester are the OTP (One True Pairing) of this reader’s heart and soul. This version’s core couple maintains their status of being on the same wavelength mentally, yet I was not fully convinced of Rochart’s passion for Jane. Perhaps it’s because there wasn’t as much interaction between them as there is in Bronte’s classic. Or maybe it was because this Edward didn’t sway me as the original still does. A sequel is planned for future publication so he has the chance to prove me wrong. So while we wait for its release I recommend IRONSKIN to you. Fans of fantasy, steampunk, and JANE EYRE should no doubt find enjoyment within its pages.


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