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.
3 1/2 stars
Thank you to NetGalley and Tor/Forge for the ability to read this eARC! You can get a copy for yourself on October 2, 2012
There are books that I would die to have enjoyed completely, and this is one of them. Sadly, it fell short of my expectations.
In case you didn’t already realize, this book is a fey/steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre–you know, that book by Charlotte Bronte we all had to read in school. Jane Eyre was a school book that I actually didn’t mind, surprisingly, and I had high hopes for the awesomeness that could come out of adding fantasy elements.
For much of the book, however, it seems like Connelly stays too close to its original text. The names are hardly changed (not a big deal, but still) and the biggest part for me is that Ironskin reads just as slow as Jane Eyre did for a majority of the text. Retelling or no, this is still a YA book and people still want a faster pace than classic books–that’s why I read YA, at least.
My biggest problem was characterization. I never connected with Jane as a character–she was far too stiff all the time. Worse, she all of a sudden simply decided she was in love with Mr. Rochart without ANY kind of connection being made between them at all. This Mr. Rochart is more absent and strange than the one in Jane Eyre, and that’s saying something. Several other decisions and plot points were also simply made without any preamble or reasoning, and that bothered me to no end. Much of the story seemed to happen without much reason other than that it had to happen for the sake of the story.
I did, however, greatly enjoy the idea behind the story. This retelling was far more interesting than the original. However, the plot holes that were left in several places continued to irk me throughout the book. I can’t ask many of the questions I wish without giving away the plot, but I found myself at least mildly confused throughout the entire novel.
So why the 3 1/2 star rating, then? Because of the idea. This refreshing, interesting idea that–yes–wasn’t fleshed out to all its credit. Also, towards the end of the novel, the pace picked up greatly and was actually exciting. If Connolly had put that kind of pacing into the first three-fourths or so of the novel, I would have been much more invested. Also, moving towards the end, the story began to depart more and more from it’s very serious Jane Eyre parallels that were present in the beginning. I kept waiting for key plot points of Jane Eyre to crop up, some with dread (St. John, anyone?), but fewer of them actually came up, and when they did they were decidedly different from the original text. The end of Ironskin did not entirely make up for the beginning, but it did make the rating of this book much higher than I thought it would be.
All in all, though I enjoyed Ironskin, I wanted more from it than I was given. Perhaps this book requires more love for the classics than I have, or more patience, but I consistently felt like I was being let down by all the potential it most certainly had. The end of the book was a great deal more exciting than the beginning, but in truth I was lucky to make it that far. I have put the second Ironskin novel, currently untitled and due out in 2013, on my TBR list just because I’m curious to see where Connolly will take this story now that she’s exhausted Jane Eyre. Perhaps being freed from that model will open up more of the story’s potential.