September 4, 2012

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

The moment I heard about a steampunk retelling of Jane Eyre, I geared up for its release. I am always up for a retelling of this book. And I've had spectacular success in the past. This one is not YA, or even New Adult, and I could tell it relied more heavily on the rich fantasy aspects of the world and story, all of which I was eager to fall into. I love the cover, particularly the iron mask, and everything about it just had the ring of excellence to it. This is not to say that I wasn't apprehensive, because there's always a bit of that when you go into a retelling of any kind, isn't there? But do any of you ever start to tire of your own wariness when it comes to upcoming releases? I go back and forth between feeling justifyingly jaded (particularly when it comes to oversaturated genres or tropes) and feeling like shaking off all my suspicion and caution and just jumping in like I used to as a kid. Because the exhaustion of both maintaining expectations and forcing yourself not to have them . . . it's exhausting. So all of that to say that when an ARC floated my way via NetGalley, I didn't even blink before downloading it to my nook and settling in that evening.

Jane Eliot survived the Great War. They don't call it a victory as the Fey just up and disappeared rather than outright lost. But the humans who survived are altered beyond recognition. Some of them inwardly and some of them (like Jane) very much outwardly. Those struck by Fey fire during the war bear a curse. The curse not only affects the victim but spills out from the site of the wound onto all those they come into contact with. Each curse is different. For Jane, it is rage. From the jagged scars on her face that never heal, rages pours through her and onto those she encounters. That is until she stumbles across the Foundry. There ironworkers create what they call ironskin. These pieces of iron attach to their bodies over the wounds, sealing them in, preventing the curses from affecting passersby. And so Jane wears a mask, and all the rage is bottled inside.  Nevertheless, when she applies for a job taking care of the reclusive Mr. Rochart's daughter Dorie, she does cherish some small hope that in this wild, remote location she might find a place where she could belong. Of course, Mr. Rochart, his daughter, and the entire household are so strange that Jane begins to feel the normal one. Despite her mask and veil. Despite the rage boiling under her skin. For something very wrong lurks behind the doors of her new home and Jane may find her mask is not the only one keeping curses at bay.

This is a fantastic setup. I found myself instantly caught up in the whole notion of the ironskin, of seeping curses from fey wounds, of Jane filled with an unnatural post-war rage. I even enjoyed Connolly's revisionist version of Mr. Rochart's uber-creepy secret. The whole world, its history, the way it was peopled, and the horrors they bore set my imagination racing. I couldn't wait to watch it play out. But then it . . . didn't. Unfortunately, I felt as though the writing itself never matched up to the premise, which was grandly dark. The words just plodded along, never rising above serviceable, never engaging in an organic way with the world's potential to really give the story wings. Add to that the fact that the characterization just stagnated after the beginning. Jane herself is primed to be a force in her own story, yet she remains flat throughout. Mr. Rochart comes off as a mere placeholder, and I felt as though I was waiting the entire novel for the "real" Mr. Rochart to reveal himself, or at least make an entrance on stage. No such luck. And without any actual chemistry between those two key players, it's quite impossible difficult to make this particular tale work on any level. Without that connection, the hints at the horrific left me simply cold, without that delicious chill that comes when it is happening to people you care about and have some emotional investment in. In lesser problems, several twists felt fairly predictable to me, and I was uncomfortable with some of the implications when it came to the various races and/or creatures in this world and the way they were viewed. The end result was, as you can imagine, me struggling to finish the book and mourning the myriad of missed opportunities and empty characterizations where so much richness was possible.

Ironskin is due out October 2nd.

Pre-order: Amazon B&N The Book Depository

Linkage
Ivy Book Bindings - "It has a lot to love, but somehow, it wasn't the right book for me."
Life of a Bookworm - "The idea was refreshing and I liked the premise, but I ended up disappointed with this story."

22 comments:

  1. This seems to be what I'm hearing from everyone about the book. It's an electric premise but the book just doesn't sell it. It's very sad.

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    1. Is it? I hadn't heard much, but the few that I had were less than glowing. With a few author blurb exceptions which in retrospect utterly floor me. *shakes head*

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  2. Oh, poop. I'll read it anyway, but I'll lower my expectations.

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  3. While the concept for Ironskin sounds good, based on your lukewarm review, I think I'll pass. This fall is a bit crazy on my TBR and anything I can drop, I totally will.

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    1. This is a definite pass, April. Just not worth your time amid a busy fall.

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  4. That's too bad that this book seems so full of promise and then unable to uphold all that promise. That's always the worst feeling whenever you're reading a book. I, too, love Jane Eyre and would love to read some retellings. But perhaps I'll just read that other retelling you mentioned that you really enjoyed.

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    1. It is a dismal feeling. But I'm all tingly at the thought that you may go read JANE now. It's the opposite of this one in pretty much every way, and I absolutely love it. Lindner really killed it. Let me know if you do!

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  5. Phooey. Off to cancel my pre-order. My TBR pile is also daunting enough. This can go on a maybe-someday library read list.

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    1. Yeah, definitely not a keeper. Maybe someday for sure.

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  6. I have an ARC of this (I was intrigued because of the JE retelling aspect), and I think I'll give it a whirl soon, but your issues with it sound like things that would bother me too.

    And, I think I'll read Jane soon--I've meant to for ages and for some reason just haven't.

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    1. I was honestly so bored finishing it.

      But you really must read JANE. :)

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    2. I just put it on hold at my library--it will happen soon! :)

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  7. Awwww! I had high hopes for this book. I'm tired of being disappointed in book!

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  8. This sounded fantastic! I'm bummed that it flopped

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    1. I know. I was really bummed. I'm still in a bit of a funk over it, actually. Need to find the right pick-me-up.

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  9. At first I was thinking that this might be a book I would love. But now I'm thinking that I'll hold off. Thanks for your honest feelings.

    BTW...I found your blog through My Friend Amy's BBAW post. :)

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    1. Hey, Mindy! I'm glad you found your way over here. Amy's the best. I just read her post and it gave me the warm fuzzies. Lol.

      Yeah, sorry to be a downer on this one but I just can't recommend it.

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  10. How sad! At first I thought that it being a retelling of something as awesome as Jane Eyre would have to be at least half decent...but..I guess not! :(

    Thanks for saving me time from reading it! Great review!

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    1. Yeah, my thoughts exactly. It was just so . . . cold and flat. Sigh.

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