Ironskin by Tina Connelly is a retelling of Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist. Unlike similar classic/fantasy blends such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Jane Slayre, Ironskin avoids the humorous side of such a juxtaposition and plays it relatively straight. It tells the story of Jane Eliot, a young woman who must wear an iron mask to contain the effects of a injury sustained in the war against the fae. Although the war is long over, she is still very much an outcast and takes employment with one Mr. Rochart looking after his young daughter, Dorie. Dorie, it seems, has also been affected by the fae.
What I liked
The adaptation. This version, while not following the exact plotline of Jane Eyre, does an excellent job of maintaining the characterisations and emotional beats of the original story. Like Jane Eyre, our Jane Eliot lives at the fringes of her society, and this has a large influence on her character. Edward too, is very similar to the Edward Rochester of the book – his guilt for his past is a block in his admitting his feelings for Jane. Ironskin focusses mainly on the Jane/Edward relationship and hits most of the same emotional beats as the original with the love, betrayal and reunion. I didn’t feel Ironskin came quite up to the emotion of the Jane Eyre ending where Jane is finally reunited with Rochester. The fae side of the story was nicely woven in along with this key relationship.
Beauty as a theme. This is an interesting theme woven throughout the novel. Jane, physically scarred as she is by the Great War, is very sensitive to this, especially as she sees the “pretty ladies” who congregate around Edward. She must decide how best to compete for the love of the man she adores. The whole fey beauty becomes a major plot point.
Supporting characters. Although it focusses on Jane and Edward, I did enjoy the supporting characters in the book, especially Poole (half dwarven!) and Dorie. I liked how Jane’s relationships with them are developed through the book.
The narration. I was drawn to Ironskin as much by the plot as the audio narration sample. When deciding whether to buy the Audible book or the Kindle ebook I often listen to the sample. I loved Rosalyn Landor’s voice and narration in the sample and she did not disappoint in the least. I loved the entire narration. Maybe it’s because I am British (soon to be Canadian!), I generally warm to British narrators more than American ones. Landor narrates this with a wonderfully rich received pronunciation accent and brings a lot of life to the tale.
Check out the sample here.
The pacing. With the focus on Jane’s time at the manor, the story moves along briskly. Like in the original, there are several hints at Rochart’s secret, and this keeps the audience intrigued.
What I didn’t like.
There was little I disliked about Ironskin. There were a few occasions where a more modern turn of phrase was used which I found a little off-putting, but other than that I really enjoyed it. Ironskin is the first in a series of books set in this world. The second, Copperhead, follows Jane’s younger sister, Helen. To be honest, I’ll probably give that a miss as the character of Helen rather irritating in Ironskin and I have no interest in following her story. However, the third book, Silverblind, due out later this year follows a grown up Dorie. Now that I am interested in, and will certainly pick it up in audiobook when it’s available.
I gave Ironskin four and a half stars out of five.