Sunday, September 23, 2012

Review: Ironskin

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Initially 3.5 stars, but after careful thought now I moved it to 4. I really liked it!
This is a true Gothic novel with a well crafted fantasy twist. It has all the seducing elements that a Gothic novel brings: Tortured characters, and atmosphere of mystery and suspense, a complicated: yet very delimited social roles, the setting in an isolated huge mansion which is full of secrets (It even has a ruined section due to a war), and most important of all: told from the viewpoint of a woman - Jane Eliot- who is frustrated but focused on conquering a curse that binds her and whose life is shaken by the powerful lord of the manor who employed her - Edward Rochard - as a tutor for his child, Dorie.

Sounds fascinating, right?

Add to the above elements a bit of Fey magic, some dwarves, a war between humans and fairies and mix it all up with the powerful voice of Jane. The premise is that the Fey world is known to ours, however a great war occurred 5 years ago which caused horrible curses on humans (and killed Jane's brother), rendering those directly wounded by Fey, curses which cause feelings of pain, anger, rage. Many curses are different. In this case, Jane's is rage. The only way she can control it to spread around is by wearing Ironskin on her face (location where she was wounded by the curse). Thus our background story is weaved with threads of grief and self-discovery. For all of the characters Jane relates to: her sister, Dorie -the child she is taking care of - Cook, the maid Poule, Edward Rochard and of course Jane herself.

The era is set in is perhaps a 19th Century England. We are being constantly reminded that there are Fay and in this case is useful, since some elements make it anachronic, specially some technology that seems ahead of this time, but it is okay since these items are conveniently connected to fairies ;)

I liked the language and the descriptions. For example: '(...) a million oddities inscribed on the map of his face (...)' and 'still he wore his clothes and they did not wear him'.

The notions of beauty and what is expected from it is explored in a fascinating way. Obviously, Jane has issues. She has to wear a mask! She is not happy about this, but understands that without it she will be someone else and she feels conflicted about these feelings.

The romance is sweet and looks more simple than what it really is. Of course we've all read what happened to Jane Eyre, and this is obviously loosely based on Bronte's story. As such, we expect a tortured/dramatic romance between her and Edward, which believe me, it will not disappoint you.

The way the story unfolds is captivating. I was glued to my e-reader! But the ending was very strange... I will not spoil it here of course, I just wish all that build up came earlier on the story and all the issues that Jane was dealing with where solved earlier... I know I know I am an impatient one but it just felt that the last chapter was all full of revelations that could have been better played earlier. It was a bit hard to really believe that Jane did not expect all of this at all. Seriously? You saw those masks in Edward's study and did not think thoroughly about why they were that different? You did not really really paid attention to all that strangeness in Dorie? And it took you that long to understand yourself? ... okay I know the last one is just me venting out (I can't even imagine being on her shoes- or mask) but maybe I wanted more action! And YES, all the action came -but only at the end- .... good thing I see a sequel coming next year, which I will obviously read.

This was a mesmerizing reading treat. Thanks again Tor/Forge and NetGalley for giving me the chance to red this in advance!

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