Warning: May Contain Spoilers!
Ironskin follows the tale of twenty-one year old Jane Elliot, a survivor of the Great War with the Fey (magical, fairy-like creatures). She was scarred by a fey bomb that left traces of their magic upon her. Those maimed as such are cursed, making themselves and others around them feel a particular, intense emotion or sensation. Jane’s happens to be rage. To counteract the curse, those who are scared wear iron, for the Fey are repelled by it. Jane’s scar is on her face, thus she wears a mask. To say that Jane considers herself hideous to look at and suffers from self esteem issues is putting it lightly.
The story opens with Jane taking a governess position at an estate called Silver Birch. The estate is home for a mysterious man (Edward Rochart) and his even more mysterious daughter (Dorie) who, despite not being scared, possesses Fey talents.
I think that the story in Ironskin is told very well from a writing standpoint. The prose is very tight and conveys character and their emotions very well. Jane as the point of view character is able to portray the world around her well.
However, while the story is well told, the story itself does suffer at times. It is a very slow developing tale, which is mostly about Jane and her relationship with Dorie and how the two struggle against one another until the end. Jane’s romantic interest in Edward seems shallow, only stemming from the fact that he touched her and that she was starved for someone to make even the most innocuous of contact with her. Since she is fey-cursed, apparently not many people do that. That’s the way I felt anyway.
I’ve seen this book billed as steampunkish in nature, but there really isn’t much of that element to the story. In fact, the steampunk elements were so far and few between, and so glossed over, that they seemed only put in place to make the claim that it could fit into that genre. The aspects of Fey technology was much more predominant.
Towards the end is where those who enjoy a little action with their story will be most satisfied. Without saying too much, I’ll just say that the Fey actually start making an appearance (after a very long wait) and there are a couple good action scenes with Jane battling the Fey Queen.
The story does fall off a cliff at the very end. But, with a 2013 sequel (surprise, surprise) that seems to be the norm for stories these days in an attempt to draw people into the next bit of the story. I would have preferred to have had a little more resolution at the end of Ironskin however.
So, considering all this, I would give Tina Connolly’s debut novel a respectably above average rating of 3.5 out of five stars. The story is good, but not great. It is a good, light read at just 304 pages. Most readers of fantasy should gain some enjoyment from it as long as you go in understanding that the book is not some non-stop action adventure.