Book Review: Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Ironskin-UK-finalJane 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.

What I Thought:

Ironskin by Tina Connolly is my first experience of what I guess I would categorise as a Steampunk novel, and the promotional literature advertised it as a sort-of Jane Eyre story. Certainly the character names – Jane, Mr Rochart and Dorie – take their inspiration from that novel, but although certain circumstances in Ironskin loosely resemble Jane Eyre, to sell it like that does it a bit of an injustice, as it stands very well on its own merits.

Jane is an engaging character, strong, an outsider and with a streak of vulnerability because of her fey curse and the death of her brother, she is determined to help Dorie Rochart escape her own fey curse which, unlike Jane’s does not have any outward signs. She believes Dorie can live a normal life, among ‘normal’ people, if she can just master her powers.

There are elements of the gothic novel in Ironskin – the Rochart mansion is a bleak place, on the edge of a deep, dark forest. There are wings of the house that are forbidden, and some that have been partially destroyed in the Great War. The staff, including a half-dwarf who doesn’t believe for a second that the fey have been beaten, and a hearty Irish cook, become Jane’s solace as she tries to find her place among them, and deal with her growing feelings for Mr Rochart.

The world of Ironskin is very well described, with descriptions of fey technology blending with descriptions of things that we would find everyday. In particular, Connolly’s descriptions of Mr Rochart’s women and their cackling society one-upmanship are a pleasure to read.

Although I was sent a copy of Ironskin to review, I was pleased to find that the second book in the series, Copperhead, was imminent and in the intervening period, the third and final instalment, Silverblind will be out in October. Both titles are now on my ‘Want to Read’ List and Ironskin itself is highly recommended.

Note: I was sent an e-copy of this book by the publisher to read and review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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