Angie's Reviews > Ironskin

Ironskin by Tina Connolly
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's review
Sep 04, 12

it was ok
bookshelves: retellings, steampunk
Read in August, 2012

Originally reviewed here.

The moment I heard about a steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre, I geared up for its release. I am always up for a retelling of this book. And I've had spectacular success in the past. This one is not YA, or even New Adult, and I could tell it relied more heavily on the rich fantasy aspects of the world and story, all of which I was eager to fall into. I love the cover, particularly the iron mask, and everything about it just had the ring of excellence to it. This is not to say that I wasn't apprehensive, because there's always a bit of that when you go into a retelling of any kind, isn't there? But do any of you ever start to tire of your own wariness when it comes to upcoming releases? I go back and forth between feeling justifyingly jaded (particularly when it comes to oversaturated genres or tropes) and feeling like shaking off all my suspicion and caution and just jumping in like I used to as a kid. Because the exhaustion of both maintaining expectations and forcing yourself not to have them . . . it's exhausting. So all of that to say that when an ARC floated my way via NetGalley, I didn't even blink before downloading it to my nook and settling in that evening.

Jane Eliot survived the Great War. They don't call it a victory as the Fey just up and disappeared rather than outright lost. But the humans who survived are altered beyond recognition. Some of them inwardly and some of them (like Jane) very much outwardly. Those struck by Fey fire during the war bear a curse. The curse not only affects the victim but spills out from the site of the wound onto all those they come into contact with. Each curse is different. For Jane, it is rage. From the jagged scars on her face that never heal, rages pours through her and onto those she encounters. That is until she stumbles across the Foundry. There ironworkers create what they call ironskin. These pieces of iron attach to their bodies over the wounds, sealing them in, preventing the curses from affecting passersby. And so Jane wears a mask, and all the rage is bottled inside. Nevertheless, when she applies for a job taking care of the reclusive Mr. Rochart's daughter Dorie, she does cherish some small hope that in this wild, remote location she might find a place where she could belong. Of course, Mr. Rochart, his daughter, and the entire household are so strange that Jane begins to feel the normal one. Despite her mask and veil. Despite the rage boiling under her skin. For something very wrong lurks behind the doors of her new home and Jane may find her mask is not the only one keeping curses at bay.

This is a fantastic setup. I found myself instantly caught up in the whole notion of the ironskin, of seeping curses from fey wounds, of Jane filled with an unnatural post-war rage. I even enjoyed Connolly's revisionist version of Mr. Rochart's uber-creepy secret. The whole world, its history, the way it was peopled, and the horrors they bore set my imagination racing. I couldn't wait to watch it play out. But then it . . . didn't. Unfortunately, I felt as though the writing itself never matched up to the premise, which was grandly dark. The words just plodded along, never rising above serviceable, never engaging in an organic way with the world's potential to really give the story wings. Add to that the fact that the characterization just stagnated after the beginning. Jane herself is primed to be a force in her own story, yet she remains flat throughout. Mr. Rochart comes off as a mere placeholder, and I felt as though I was waiting the entire novel for the "real" Mr. Rochart to reveal himself, or at least make an entrance on stage. No such luck. And without any actual chemistry between those two key players, it's quite impossible difficult to make this particular tale work on any level. Without that connection, the hints at the horrific left me simply cold, without that delicious chill that comes when it is happening to people you care about and have some emotional investment in. In lesser problems, several twists felt fairly predictable to me, and I was uncomfortable with some of the implications when it came to the various races and/or creatures in this world and the way they were viewed. The end result was, as you can imagine, me struggling to finish the book and mourning the myriad of missed opportunities and empty characterizations where so much richness was possible.
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Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thanks for always doing such thoughtful reviews, Angie! I'm really interested in what other retellings of Jane Eyre you've enjoyed in the past? I'm always up for a retelling of it too!

Angie I'm glad my thoughts come across clearly to someone! My favorite retelling of Jane Eyre is Jane by April Lindner. It's contemporary New Adult and I felt it was just pitch perfect.

I also enjoyed Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn. It's a scifi retelling and quite good.

message 3: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Thank you! :)

Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship Oh good god, "new adult"?? I just googled it, and... really? At some point you just have to give people credit for figuring out for themselves what books will speak to them most--we don't need any more age ghettos.

Angie I see your point, Emma. I kind of find the emergence of sub-genres interesting, so I've sort of followed the term since it came to my attention.

Shannon (Giraffe Days) I put this on my wishlist instead of just pre-ordering it, because of that wariness you spoke of - I love Jane Eyre, but all these new YA novels are too often lacklustre and extremely disappointing. So thanks for this review, Angie; despite the great premise, I think I'll skip it. :)

Oh and I'm refusing to acknowledge this "New Adult" label that's started up (and I can be really stubborn!) - it's sounds so tacky and patronising and weird. Why this constant need to define a reader's age group?? Who keeps coming up with these things? It's almost as bad as "mummy porn" which I'm vetoing as well.

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