Author: Tina Connolly
Page Count: 304
Publisher: Tor Books
Notable Notables: Reverse Beauty and the Beast elements
Recommended Readers: Fans of gothic fantasy
This book has been on my to-read shelf for a while now, so I was ecstatic to find it at my local library because it’s an unlikely find at a mainstream bookstore.
I’ve seen Ironskin promoted a few different ways. It’s a reverse Beauty and the Beast where the girl is “disfigured,” forced to wear an iron mask to hold back a fey curse of anger. It’s steampunk. It’s Jane Eyre but with fey. Some of these are only half-right while others are completely wrong.
For instance, I wouldn’t call this steampunk at all but rather a gothic romance. (I’m worried now that that genre’s becoming obscure if more people haven’t picked up on that.) It has a dash of Jane Eyre in that the main character’s name is Jane Eliot, and she comes to work as a governess for Edward Rochart’s daughter Dorie, who is also fey cursed. Edward has his own secret in the attic, but it isn’t a madwoman for a wife. Rather, women come to him and his studio, and when they leave, they are as beautiful as the fey. Finally, like the Beast, Jane similarly struggles with accepting her own appearance and the anger she still harbors that flares up with her curse.
Ultimately, though, this was a haunting, beautiful, gothic story at its core. From the eeriness of the fey and Dorie’s mumblings of “Mother,” from the secrets Edward Rochart is hiding to the “so wistful it feels doomed” romance between him and Jane, it felt dream-like to read, like I was wandering among ghosts but content to be there. Plus, what the fey were attempting to do was incredibly creepy.
Ironskin sounds basic at first, but I loved how this was a story about harnessing one’s defects instead of just managing them and tapering them down. I loved that this was about healing as well as being brave enough to take the final step toward something better, if unknown. It was about making your own destiny instead of having it make you.
There are other books that follow, but I must confess I prefer Ironskin as a standalone. I felt complete once the book ended, despite that the fey conspiracy wasn’t yet wrapped up. For me, the book was more about Jane, Dorie, and Edward than it was about the fey, which is why I’m happy ending their story where I did. Should I wish to continue, I can, but I don’t know.
I left off on a good note. Why ruin it?