Ironskin is a retelling of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. As in the original work, a woman takes a job as a governess to the daughter of a mysterious man who lives in the country. The woman is Jane Eliot and her mysterious employer is Edward Rochart. Connolly changes the story by adding in a supernatural twist: fey, which are basically evil fairies.
The story begins five years after the Great War, that is the war between humans and fey. Humans won, or at least forced the fey to retreat. Jane was injured during the war. Her injury takes the form of a scar on her face and the curse of rage. Fey curses are particularly dangerous because they flow inward and outward. Not only can Jane's rage overwhelm her, it can leak out and make the people around her feel rage as well. There are other injured people like her, each with a different kind of curse. One victim is depressed and makes those around him similarly depressed. Another person has the curse of hunger. No matter how much he eats he feels like he is starving. To prevent their emotions from leaking out and effecting others, Jane and others like her wear iron. Jane's iron mask covers half of her face.
What a strange read this was. I've read Jane Eyre, though not in several years, and knew the basic story. Though Ironskin was clearly inspired by Jane Eyre it doesn't mirror it. I was fine with that and was looking forward to seeing how the addition of the fey mythology might be used. Now that I've finished the book I have mixed feeling about the addition of the mythology. From the beginning we the readers are told that humans and fey lived in an uneasy coexistence for a time, with humans making liberal use of fey technology. Then there was a war and as with any war, some people died, some people survived but bear literal and figurative scars, and others emerged with barely a scratch or a memory of the war. We are told that the fey are dangerous but aren't given much of a reason why until the last third of the book when the fey return.
The problem might have been one of proportion. For the first two-thirds of the book the mythology hardly seemed to matter. Fey were the bogeyman, a scary story that had little impact on present day. Then all of sudden the fey reemerge and become a thing that matters. I wanted to like this more than I did, but frankly I had a hard time staying interested during the first two-thirds of the book. It wasn't until the last 100 pages that things got interesting.
Ironskin is the first in a series, with each book taking on a different classic story. It did seem like the author was laying down groundwork for something bigger. Now that the foundation has been put in place and the fey have reemerged in the world, the next two books in the series might work better. Only time, and reading, will tell.