Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly
Published October 2nd 2012 by Tor Books
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.
I’ve never read Jane Eyre, but fey and steampunk were my first YA book loves, and so it was pretty hard to resist Ironskin (and, that description of Rochart’s studio in the synopsis! woow). Ultimately, though, I ended up waffling between stars because none of them felt quiiiite right.
I loved the moody, gloomy, whispery, dark atmosphere of the story! The writing was so wonderfully atmospheric and just clicked into place alongside the fey, steampunk, fantastical, and historical elements. And, at some places, Ironskin really delivered: the idea behind the fey-cursed war victims and the iron masks to limit the curses (such as curses of rage!) were fresh and fascinating.
It was hard to keep up with the author’s intentions, however, and in every sense. Though the parts of the world-building that I did grasp were interesting, there were a lot of parts of the world-building and background set-up that simply fell through the cracks; rather than on solid foundations, the story felt settled on tenuous ground. There were a lot of things about the fey, a lot of secondary characters, and even some actions made by the main characters that were confusing, out of place, or otherwise awkward and seemingly ill-fitted to the plot, even though the result was that things lined up the way they had to for the next stage in the story’s development.
And, the characters? The characters! Jane was sweet and put-together, but lacked the presence of a main character – she felt pretty thin, if that makes sense. Rochart’s character is dark and brooding, but falls leagues short of the “mysterious and alluring” category, and plunges headfirst into “moody and creepy.” His character is confusing, his characterization weak, and his romance? with Jane made me really confused – they barely know each other!! They said like two things to each other outside of his daughter, and he was a major moody creep for all of it!!! Dorie had the potential to be an interesting character, but her plot thread was start-stop jerky, uneven, and confusing, as if most of it was just a build-up to Rochart’s own “reveal,” but everything was foreshadowed and emphasized so heavily that the cat was basically out of the bag before it really even got into it. On a whole, though, I don’t have too much to say about the characters, primarily because they didn’t seem to carry any depth at all. It was hard to care – in either which way – for them, Jane and Rochart included, when they didn’t feel like much of anything.
And, to wrap things up, the ending too was hard to follow: a lukewarm flavor like the rest of the story, with considerable helpings of confusion.
Ironskin was wonderfully atmospheric and littered with fascinating elements, but ultimately bogged down by confusing plot choices and one-dimensional characters.