Friday, October 24, 2014

Book Reivew: Ironskin

I've been a reader of the blog for many years now and I really like a lot of the books that Tor Publishing puts out, it's a consistently good mix of fantasy and sci-fi, so I read a lot of the excerpts and summaries of new books and I also have fairly good luck with winning their ARC contests. I was hooked when I read the excerpt for a book coming out this fall, Silverblind, it's another fantasy story about a young woman naturalist similar to A Natural History of Dragons (which, if I remember correctly, was also a Tor book), and eagerly entered their contest to win an ARC. I did, opened up my package as soon as I got it, and then did a little bit of swearing when the back of the book mentioned it was the third in a series and I had completely missed that on the website. But thankfully my library had, well, this book and hopefully I'll be able to find the next one soon enough, I need to have a word with my other system, maybe my plan of actually reviewing a 2014 book in 2014 won't be in vain after all!

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

Years ago the humans traded with the fey and thrived from their technology but that all ended fewer years ago when the fey and the humans went to war and both sides were torn apart by the results. Jane was injured in this war as a child and now wears an iron mask to keep this curse of rage from hurting those around her. Shunned by most she's taken up a governess job with a family that seems to have been similarly hurt by the war but once she arrives she realizes that they are far more involved with the fey than most people ever were.

The cover and flaps of the book proclaim the story to be both a strange retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" and of Jane Eyre and while neither of those are quite right the JE comparison seems a bit closer, especially with our heroine named Jane. The cover also mentions it to be a steampunk-genre book but again I think that's a bit inaccurate, especially since the setting is rather unique with the idea that magic gave humans technology but with no magic the technology has all regressed back, even though it's been five years since the war with the fey and wars tend to breed innovation in real life. The reason I point this out is because I think trying to quickly describe the book by those phrases is a disservice to it and makes it sound much more boring and overdone than it is, instead we have a setting that's clearly based on Earth but different enough to make a quick comparison difficult (which is good since that means that instead of relying on readers to furnish the details, and focus on the similarities with our world, that the differences are clearly detailed and it shows more thought on the part of the author). I'm also glad to see more historical fiction coming out that's after the Victorian era since it seemed like for a long while people were neglecting the glitz and glamour of that period for the fancy formality of the Victorians. 

It's a little hard to articulate why I liked this book since what stood out most to me were the ideas in it, in fact it seems more like the characters were being moved around by events and ideas instead of instigating them which isn't the best thing but, given how the story played with how young Jane is and yet how experienced she already is in some areas (and inexperienced in others, but how most people are similarly inexperienced when it comes to dealing with the fey) it worked well enough to not bother me while reading it. The story also did a good job at having Jane's personal struggles parallel the struggles caused by outside forces around her but not so obviously that one seemed like a metaphor for the other. As soon as Jane begins to understand her own curse more she begins to understand what the fey did and when she begins to act they do as well, it's much more well-done in the book and I didn't even notice it until I sat down and thought about the book afterwards. I do have some mixed feelings on the resolution to Jane's story at the end however, to give details would be spoilerly but I wasn't sure if I was unhappy at it because I felt like Connolly had taken "the easy way" to give her a happy ending and it felt too neat or because people say that this kind of happier ending is the easy way and it's not my own feelings but what I've been taught to think instead. While it does leave me with conflicted feelings it's not nearly enough to keep me from reading the other books in the series and recommending it to folks who like their supernatural stories with some romance and a bit of a historical setting (said readers would probably also enjoy the aforementioned A Natural History of Dragons and Shades of Milk and Honey, although the first book focuses more on the "supernatural" and the second on the romance).


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