Ironskin by Tina Connolly; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: Ironskin

Author: Tina Connolly

Published: October 2012

Number of Pages: 304

Rating: 3/5

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. [From Goodreads]

Quote: I chose the first two sentences, because those were all I had to hear before I was interested…

The moor was grey, battlefield grey. It had been five years since the last fey was seen, but out here Jane could almost imagine the Great War still raged on.


I met Tina Connolly at Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Association’s Fall Conference this year, and as soon as she described her book, I was hooked. Jane Eyre? Fey? It didn’t even cross my mind to be skeptical – it was too great a prospect.

Ironskin captures some of the best aspects of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre without copying the story or seeming unoriginal. Actually, part of Ironskin’s originality stems from its Eyre roots. I was impressed by the skill with which Connolly took a classic story and made it her own, weaving fantasy through it and creating something new that will appeal to a Young Adult audience.

Fey are a difficult species to master, considering they are so often found in YA books nowadays. I was concerned, as the book began, that I would find the fey boring or predictable, but they were perhaps the most astounding part of the book. I did not at all expect what I got in the fantasy department. Connolly’s fey are entirely different from any others I’ve read about, and perfectly terrifying. I love that they are a combination of scary elements. Each aspect of their species is frightening in its own way.

The story begins slowly, hinting at mysteries and dark pasts and even darker futures, but the development creeps along. This is just the sort of plot I enjoy in a slightly gothic novel. You get a sneaking suspicion that something bad is going to happen, but you must anticipate it while the author artfully takes his or her time. Thankfully, Connolly does not disappoint. I read the end of the book in the wee hours of the morning, sitting on a creaky bed in an old hotel, while rain beat against the windows (I was in DC, and Hurricane Sandy was approaching). What an ideal atmosphere for reading this sort of book! The end, which was remarkably disturbing and dramatic anyway, was incredible when I was in the correct mindset. I remember grasping the book in my hands and going for far too long without blinking. Such is the reward of the suspense.

I think this book will appeal to those who like a book that takes a quirky approach to a common theme, those who have a special place in their heart for Jane Eyre, and those who enjoy the maddening suspense of a great gothic horror book. Though Ironskin certainly has the feel of classic literature, I don’t think fans of contemporary literature will find it bothersome. The romance and fantasy are just the sort that will appeal to anyone who has an interest in one or both of those genres (and, let’s face it – who doesn’t?).

Overall, Ironskin is a unique book. It is a uniqueness that pays homage to the classics, which is quite the feat. If you’re interested in this fascinating story, stay tuned for an interview with Tina Connolly!

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