I will admit that with Ironskin I fell into the trap of judging a book by its cover. I came across this novel completely by chance on NetGalley and requested an early copy purely based on the beautiful front cover. Lucky for me I was not let down and I was completely engrossed in the story of Jane Eliot from the first few pages and could not put it down. Ironskin is a well-rounded fusion of the classics with fantasy. It takes some of the best elements of Bronte’s Jane Eyre and mixed this with the fey to make a story that was engaging from start to finish.
The story starts with the poor and scarred Jane Eliot arriving at the estate of Edward Rochart, employed as the governess to his unusual and rather naughty daughter, Dorie. Jane was the victim of the fey war that not only killed her brother but scarred her face. The damage to her face is not just superficial as the fey bombs were imbued with curses and anyone that was hit with shrapnel was left with a permanent wound that leaked a curse. Jane’s cheek leaks rage that not only affected her but those around her. Others were cursed with depression, hunger, fear etc and the only treatment was to cover the injured area with iron and hence the title of the book, Ironskin. Jane not only needs the work but when she first meets Dorie she realizes that they have something in common as they are both outcasts due to the damage inflicted on them by the fey. Jane is determined to help Dorie and in the process win the approval of the inscrutable, Mr Rochart.
Connolly borrows heavily from Jane Eyre in her description and portrayal of both Jane and Mr Rochart. While Rochart is not hiding his mad wife in the tower he does have a dastardly secret that he is trying to hide, not just from Jane but from everyone else. Jane is as perplexed by the number of unattractive women that enter the house and leave as beauties as she is about the wall of horrific masks that line the walls of Edward’s studio. While we can guess what he may be up to its not until the final chapters that with a rather gothic flare, Connolly exposes to both the reader and to Jane what Mr Rochart is trying to hide. Connolly also borrows one of most famous lines from one of my other favourite classic novels, Pride and Prejudice with Rochart saying to Jane
“And yet I am certain that to once lose Jane’s good opinion is to lose it forever,” he said, and that bit of cowlick waved madly.
I loved this line and not just because it is from one of my all time favourite novels. I am not always the biggest fan of the re-telling of classics or the blatant re-use of dialogue but I feel that Connolly got the mix right in Ironskin. There is just enough of Jane Eyre for it to be recognizable but enough of the plot changed so that it is original and considering this is Connolly’s debut novel this is quite an achievement.
Jane, like the original Jane Eyre, is a survivor and doesn’t spend her days bemoaning her lot in life, her disfigurement, the deaths of her brother and mother or that her sister is marrying a cad just to escape poverty. She also, doesn’t hide behind her mask and is determined to make a success out of her job and with Dorie despite what is happening around her. One thing from Jane Eyre that was used, that I didn’t like in the original story, was that Jane almost immediately falls for Mr Rochart. He is barely around in the story until towards the end and does nothing that would make him endearing or loveable. This is one part of the story that I wish Connolly would have changed and created a love interest that was a little more worthy of the heroine.
I really enjoyed Ironskin and my one small criticism was that it ended rather abruptly. One minute I was reading the resolution and the next line it was the author’s acknowledgments. This may have been the result that I was reading an early electronic copy and the formatting was a bit temperamental with headers and footers in the middle of pages. Even taking this into consideration the story just seemed to end quite suddenly. I am also a bit confused but intrigued as to how Connolly will make this into a series as the plot seemed to have been wrapped up rather successfully. I hope that Connolly has the ability to continue the series as well as she has started and doesn’t falter with the second instalment. I feel this will be a challenge now that she has used Jane Eyre to her advantage in Ironskin and won’t be able to recapture this effect again.
I really enjoyed Ironskin much more so than I was expecting when I realized it was based on Jane Eyre. I don’t like the re-telling of the classics in a fantasy or paranormal world but it really worked in its favour and was an engaging read from the start. Even if you aren’t a fan of the classics this a great fantasy novel that is sure to have you wondering what is behind the iron mask. A fantastic debut for Connolly and I am hoping she can keep my interest for the rest of the series.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Untitled (2013)
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