K. Bird's Reviews > Ironskin

Ironskin by Tina Connolly
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Oct 11, 12

Read from October 06 to 11, 2012

One of the reasons I read Connolly's work is for the somewhat madness-tinged darkness she brings to characters in her stories.

You're never quite sure what horrific thing will happen to a character you've just grown fond of-- and it's that edginess she brings to Ironskin that makes it so worth reading.

That-- and dreamy passages where small things from the story become metaphors in clever ways.

Jane is an Ironskin; her face permanently scarred by a feybomb from the Great War. She wears an iron mask to hide the damage and to bottle in the curse that came along with the damage. Fey rage fills her and those around her without the mask.

She takes a position at an isolated estate only to find out her young charge is also changed by the fey. Can she help Dorie enter human society? What does Dorie's father do with all those beautiful society women who come to his house?

The story is loosely based on Jane Eyre, but if you're looking for a retelling that is just a twist on the original, this book is not what you're looking for. Ironskin takes some characters and loose plot outlines from Jane Eyre, but Connolly has made it totally her own by adding the mysterious fey and a country recovering from the loss of fey-run tech and war. But most of all, and this is what I look for in a book, Ironskin is about Jane and how she takes her disfigurement and her own, crippled self-image, and makes something strong.

The romance is not the focus of this book (sadly.) I would have enjoyed more repartee between Edward Rochart and Jane, but Jane's own transformation as well as her work with Dorie kept me plunging along in the story.

And also the aforementioned metaphor passages such as this one where Jane first sees herself as desirable:

"She was not trying to seduce Edward, not trying some ploy to entrap him in the night. No, it was more the thought that with her face turned away perhaps he would see her as she should've been, a girl in a blue dress with embroidered dots like stars."

Or this one where Jane, ashamed she thought of herself as beautiful, compares herself to an abandoned book in the library no one has read:

"Maybe she was worth speaking to when she stood there, but when she was gone? Then, she was like the book she had taken from the library and still not returned. Because would you notice if "Ilhronian History of the 16th Century" was missing from a shelf? Not very likely. It was the sort of book you wouldn't even remember owning, seeing, or reading. And it certainly wouldn't lure you with a pretty blue spine, not when its contents were so unspeakably dull."

So come to Ironskin for the fey and the Jane Eyre allusions, but stay for the horror of what Edward Rochart does and for the lovely prose.

This Book's Snack Rating: Dark chocolate with cocoa nibs and chili pepper for the dark, sweet prose and the hot spice of gothic horror
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