Ironskin by Tina Connolly is a fantasy retelling of Jane Eyre with a slight post-apocalyptic vibe to it. Sound interesting? It is.
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.
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.
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
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)