Ironskin by Tina Connolly is a story taking place in maybe the 1920’s after the Great War. In this book the Great War was an awful war – decades before the Fae had come and given their technology to humans in exchange for stopping the industrial revolution and the pollution that came along with it. But people are people and the Fae are the Fae so it should come as no surprise when the Fae begin to terrorize the people. Jane Eliot our leading heroine has been greatly affected by the war, during the war she was greatly scarred and left with this never ending rage. To protect herself and others she now wears an iron mask which covers half her face. Jane is living in a challenging time where beauty is everything and the men are returning from the Great War which means Jane is having trouble keeping employment and not being a burden. These circumstances takes Jane to the country and the house of Edward Rochert who seeks a governess for his daughter who has also been touched by the Fae. However this job is far more than Jane initially bargained for.
I am not really sure what I think of this book - while I enjoyed it there were parts for me that were left lacking. I loved the concepts – Jane Eyre meets The Man in the Iron Mask. People are not what they seem, combined with a coming of age story – not so much coming into adulthood but coming into ones self. I read Jane Eyre years ago and that was a book I loved – and while I never read The Man with the Iron Mask I did watch the movie and this I think was part of the challenge of why I felt something was missing. Watching Jane Eyre fall in love was both heartbreaking and touching – watching Jane Eliot fall in love well I kind of missed it as in I am not sure why she loved him.
Ok so for the purposes of this review I am going to push these two classics aside and try to just focus on the story. The things I loved was the world building – Connolly did an awesome job creating this alterative universe where humans depended on the fae for the technology and how that dependence came back to bite them with vengeance – never trust the Fae! I also loved the writing or they style of writing. I think when I go on to the next book I may switch to an audiobook as I loved the choice of words and flow of her writing if that makes sense. I also really liked that beauty was a theme – there is also a mystery around women, who enter Rochert’s closed studio and why was Dorie (the young child) so taken with pretty ladies – is this a sign of the Fae? Finally I liked the characters Jane is a bit of a cold fish but she has this inner fire which made her a complex and interesting heroine. I also liked the side characters like crazy Dorie and Poe.
Some of the challenges of this story was the actual pacing and plot twists, often it felt unfinished ad awkward. For example we get flashbacks but these flashbacks are not all that different instead it is a retelling of the same event with deeper meaning each time written in different ways – which for me makes they story drag. I did not feel like I gained any additional insight. Then there were other parts when I desperately wanted to know more and I think many of those sections could have had more detail. My final grip is really a comparison between this book and Jane Eyre – in Jane Eyre there is this kind of twisted magic between Jane and Mr. Rochester but in this version it fell short I never understood why Jane and Mr. Rochart were even attracted to each other.