Book Review: Ironskin

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review via NetGalley.

Now, before I get into this review I wanted to mention one quick thing. When I read this book I had no idea it was a retelling of the story Jane Eyre. That little fact wasn’t mentioned in the book description or anywhere else, so I went into the book thinking it was something new. Since I have never read Jane Eyre I have no way of comparing this book to that one. So, because of this I am going to write this review based upon how I felt about the novel as I read it, as a new book that was not a retelling of anything.

The basis of this story I liked. After a long five year war with the Fey things are starting to return to normal. However, for those who have been injured in the war, namely through Fey bombs, life will never be the same. For they are the Ironskin, those who carry a Fey curse and must wear iron over these wounds to keep the curse at bay. The curse works differently for each person, as the type of curse is based upon where the injury is. Jane’s cheek is marks and her curse is rage, where a boy later on in the book must cover his leg in iron to prevent the curse of hunger from seeping to other people. An interesting concept for sure.

Jane gets a job as governess, or nanny if you will, for a child born during the war and thus she believes is Fey cursed. Enter Dory and her strange ways. Now, before we get into Dorie let’s look at Jane’s character for a moment. Jane is cursed with rage, though wearing her iron mask suppresses that curse. She will never live a normal life again, nor will any of the Ironskin, because of this curse. She is a hard character to get into, being a bit detached from things, which I can understand given her circumstances, not everyone likes or trusts the Ironskins. But even as the story progresses I find Jane is just too…flat of a character.

Next up is Edward, Dorie’s father and the one who is trying to hire someone to deal with his apparent “delicate situation. He’s another character I just couldn’t get into. He was so detached from everything, from his house, from his daughter, even his interactions with Jane for a large portion of the book were short and very unemotional. It was obvious he loved his daughter, yet spent nearly no time with her, only showing up now and then only to vanish moments later with no trace.

Finally the third character that felt a little lifeless was Dorie herself. A five year old girl who held strange powers due to the circumstances of her birth during the war. But since she had no scars it was hard for Jane to determine where and with what was she cursed. Now normal five year old’s are a breed all themselves (I should know since I have a five year old son) and they are often energetic, randomly shout things, have relatively short attention spans and hate being told no. Dorie didn’t feel like a five year old to me, granted that was likely related to her curse, but she exhibited almost no signs of typical child behavior. And the fact she still took naps was extremely odd to me.

Along with these three main characters there were plenty of minor characters including the cook, maid and butler of the house. The cook I kind of liked, the maid didn’t get enough time in the story for me to decide whether I liked her or not and the butler, Poule, well I sort of liked her at first but there were also parts that made me dislike her. On top of these there were Jane’s sister, a plethora of ladies coming in and out of the house either to be worked on or to attend parties, and a few people from Jane’s past, namely the man who run the foundry who made the iron coverings for those who were Fey cursed.

Overall the story had it’s appeal, but there were many parts where I was left wondering just what the direction of this scene was and what significance it would have later on. And there were also a lot of loose ends that never got answered, though perhaps there will be reasons behind these in the second novel, for example, the old man that Jane sees leaving the garage after she follows the maid out there. There was no further mention of who that man was or why he had come there. The explanation as to how and why Edward can transform ugly women into those who possess what is referred to as “fey beauty” was interesting, even if that later proved to be a bad thing not only for Jane but everyone who had received this treatment.

I was glad to see the reappearance of the Fey, as the book was lacking the enemy element through a large portion of it. When the war ended the Fey had simply just disappeared, and that’s what prompted everyone to claim victory over them. But the Fey had clearly not been beaten and were simply lying in wait for a new opportunity to reappear among the humans. What happens next will only be revealed with the next book, but there was a good foundation for further plot twists and more involvement of the Fey in the future.

Even though I had a difficult time with the main characters and several portions of the story overall I did enjoy it for what it was. The world building was really good in this book, describing the technology used, most of which was created by the Fey before the war happened, and how everyone had to adjust to losing that technology now that the Fey were no longer around to keep it running. However, now that I know it is a retelling of Jane Eyre I feel as though I should read that book to see just how the two compare.

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4 thoughts on “Book Review: Ironskin

  1. Interesting. You could probably guess that there are no Fey in Jane Eyre, but more significantly, there isn’t a war going on, and there aren’t any children as major characters. Though it was probably 20+ years ago I read it. I don’t envision Jane as a person beset with rage; passion, yes, and desire for a different life than that prescribed for her by her status and her time. Hard for me to see what this book has in common with Jane Eyre, beyond that the main characters’ names are are Jane and Edward. It’s kind of intriguing, though, and almost makes me want to read the book just to explore that.

    • Yes, I kind of guessed which parts were different from Jane Eyre but until I read it I won’t know all the differences for certain.
      Might be interesting for you to read it having previously read Jane Eyre. I wonder how people would compare them based on which book they read first, could prove to be an interesting debate over the two books.

  2. I’ve been itching to read this, but I’m unsure if I will like it (though I can never be certain until I try). Honestly, I haven’t read any reviews on this book aside from yours, and now I’m leaning in favor of reading it. But I had no idea it’s a Jane Eyre re-telling! It’s the perfect excuse to finally read my copy of Charlotte Brontë’s novel.

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