Ironskin – Tina Connolly

About the book

Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a “delicate situation”—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio…and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

304 pages (hardcover)
Published on October 2, 2012
Published by Tor
Author’s webpage

This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

Click on the following link to purchase your copy of this book: Ironskin


Ironskin is a book that sucked me in based on its cover art and a day later, I’m sitting here kind of miffed by the whole experience of reading it. (I told my husband that and he said, “So why did you read it?” and I replied, “It’s the damn cover art. It was too pretty. I couldn’t let it just sit there and look at me!” That’s the truth. I love this cover art.) I’ve read a lot of books in my day, but I’ve never read one that came across as uncomfortable as this did. It was almost as if the author had a lot of big ideas that she wasn’t sure how to portray in her book and the reader can feel that acutely, which truly is unfortunate.

Ironskin is part fantasy and part steampunk. The story takes place in a world recovering from a horrible war which wounded the protagonist, Jane and her young charge, Dorie. These aspects of the book are actually quite fascinating. Jane’s injury is unique; as is the emotional turmoil she battles due to the iron mask she has to wear. The war between humans and fay is an interesting historical point which also keeps the reader engaged. Basically, there are plenty of aspects here which keep Ironskin from being overly similar to many other books which have comparable plots.

As I mentioned above, perhaps the one thing that really sticks out with Ironskin is how uncomfortable the book felt.  Connolly seems to have a hard time emotionally investing in her characters and world. While the concepts and emotions are interesting and have the potential to be quite powerful, I could almost feel her holding back as the book unfolded. This caused the author to fall into the bad habit of often telling rather than showing, and kept the world rather two-dimensional and washed out when it could have been quite unique, colorful and realistic.

This really bothered me to an unusual extent. Ironskin has an interesting setup, but due to the inability to engage in the characters or world, the book itself becomes more about the plot than anything else and the plot really isn’t anything special. It’s a love story, and once you see the word “governess” you can pretty much guess exactly what’s going to happen and how it will unfold. That’s the real problem, here. Ironskin doesn’t have a unique plot but it has a very fascinating world and rich history. If Connolly had accentuated the world and characters a bit more and made the story more about them and less about a very paint-by-numbers plot the book would have been a lot more interesting and successful than it was.

This is Connolly’s debut novel, and there are some tell-tale writing hiccups along the way like some redundant words, a lack of description in places which keeps the world from really popping, and some confusing events. While I do feel that some of these issues did accentuate the points I made above, I don’t feel like these should necessarily reflect negatively on the author. It’s obvious that Connolly has a good head on her shoulders, and some really unique ideas that make for a compelling story. Despite it all, her writing shows a lot of potential. I just feel that these things might iron out with time. That’s to be expected. Writing a book is hard work, and writing a first book is probably even more difficult. I think Connolly’s career is promising and, despite everything I’ve complained about here, I look forward to watching it unfold.

When I closed the book, I couldn’t stop myself from feeling some sense of loss, not because anything horrible happens to the characters, but because I felt that the author missed the mark with Ironskin. That really disappointed me, because Connolly’s world is unique with a rich history, but it comes across very washed out and two-dimensional. Further, the characters are emotionally appealing, but Connolly’s tendency to tell rather than show keeps them from being engaging. That being said, Ironskin does show the author’s potential and it sets a great foundation for a promising career. While this wasn’t my cup of tea, there will be plenty of readers that will enjoy this book for the sweet love story it tells.


3/5 stars

2 Responses

  • Wow, that’s really interesting, I don’t think I’ve ever run into a book like that before… I also got sucked into the cover, and was tempted to try it out, but now it sounds like there are lots of other books I’d enjoy more. Hopefully Connolly improves in the next book and keeps using those awesome ideas!

  • How mich of the narrative reloes on being a retelling of Jane Eyre? Because that was the vibe I got from the blurb. Is it a fantasy retelling or does it move beyond that?

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