Sunday, November 25, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Ironskin by Tina Connolly is a fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre with a slight post-apocalyptic vibe to it. Sound interesting? It is.

Jane is ironskin -- one of the scarred survivors of the Great War. She was hit in the face by a blast of fey magic, and without the iron mask that she wears, everyone around her would be affected by rage seeping from her wound. When Jane sees an advertisement for a governess position to Dorie, a little girl born during the Great War, worded in a way that makes it clear that the child is somehow different, Jane thinks she knows what to expect. When she arrives at the half-ruined manor house on the moor, however, both Dorie and her father are much more enigmatic than Jane could ever have expected. Her life there will prove challenging, but ultimately, it might just set her free.

For someone who is not really much of a Jane Eyre fan, I sure do seem to read a lot of retellings of that story lately -- this makes the third in the past few years. (The other two, if you're curious, are Jane by April Lindner and The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett, which is not a straight-up retelling, but certainly incorporates large chunks of the plot. And I also read Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn some years ago, so that would make four.) I like the original well enough, but I never loved it the way some people do. On the other hand, that might enable me to appreciate retellings without constantly comparing them to the original. Then again, that's exactly what I'm about to do, at least a little bit.

First of all, this isn't a straight-up retelling, so don't expect it to match up on every point. In some ways, this is a good thing. For instance, this is the first Jane Eyre retelling that I've read that actually makes the child into a fully-fledged character, rather than a vehicle to get Jane and Rochester in the same general area. I thought Dorie was interesting and realistic, and I was truly interested to see if Jane would be able to help Dorie control her unique abilities. In other cases, however, it is not such a good thing. For instance, in this story Jane has a flighty sister named Helen, who bears absolutely no resemblance to Helen in the original. This took me out of the story more than once as I tried to find some connection between the two Helens.

As for the story itself, I thought it started out with a nice blend of action and exposition, though it dragged a bit in the last half of the book. And I had a little trouble buying the romance -- it suffered at the expense of Jane's character development, which is not necessarily something to complain about. It appears that there will be a sequel to this story, and while I'm not sure if I will pursue it or not, I thought the author did a good job of tying up enough loose ends to make a satisfying conclusion, while still leaving open possibilities for future plot developments.

(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)

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