I’ve written about a lot of retellings this year, including Snow White, Persuasion, The Secret Garden, Rebecca, Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre, and now, with Tina Connolly’s Ironskin, Jane Eyre again. Despite sharing a source of inspiration and the same general story arc, Ironskin doesn’t remotely resemble A Breath of Eyre or Dark Companion.
Read Bookshelves of Doom on Adrienne Stoltz & Ron Bass's 'Lucid.'
The most immediately obvious differences lay in the worlds in which the books are set: A Breath of Eyre and Dark Companion are both set in our world, in our own time, while Ironskin takes place in a steampunk-ish Victorian era England that is rebuilding after a devastating war with the Fey. Different worlds make for different heroines, so while the protagonists in the other two books are somewhat predictable Everygirl types, Ironskin’s Jane Eliot was wounded—and badly scarred—in the war, and wears an iron mask that both hides her face from view and protects people from the fey-curse that she bears. She’s fierce, determined, and angry—the curse is a rage-curse, after all—and while she doubts that she’ll ever truly have a place in the world, she longs for one desperately.
Beyond the details on the surface, it diverges from the others even further: while those two titles have their merits—both provide really cool takes on Jane Eyre itself—Ironskin is a stronger book across the board. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?
The idea at the heart of this book is fabulous: A girl is catapulted into the book itself, giving her deeper insight into the characters and ultimately changing her opinion of them. In theory, it provides a really thought-provoking take on Bertha Rochester; in execution, however, the majority of the book reads like a tepid retread of Bronte’s not-at-all-tepid classic. Sadly, this does not make for very much fun at all. Conversely, Ironskin has the same structure and character archetypes as Jane Eyre—a bright, strong-willed girl gets a position as a governess and falls in love with her older, Dark Secret-having employer—so it feels comfortably familiar. But it is so different in terms of setting and conflict that it never stops being exciting and surprising, and it never allows the reader to become complacent.
This one, meanwhile, reads more like Twilight.* The dialogue is often clunky; the heroine constantly does things that contradict her supposedly savvy street-smarts; and the over-the-top Gothic trappings, while entertaining, are ultimately explained away in a seriously disappointing manner. It does provide food for thought about classism and privilege, as well as a great take on Mr. Rochester—Jane is stuck in a love triangle** with brothers Lucian and Jacob, and taken together, they showcase the two extremely divergent halves of his character. However, it was such a frustrating reading experience that I threw the book at the wall in a fit of pique. Repeatedly. Comparatively, the dialogue in Ironskin is strong, the characters act in ways consistent to their personalities, and unlike Dark Companion’s Jane Williams, Jane Eliot is very much a heroine worthy of her predecessor.
I’m protective of My Jane, and picky about those who would follow in her footsteps, but I enjoyed Ironskin unreservedly. I’m looking forward to hearing what others think!
**I told you it was like Twilight.
Let's be honest. If she isn't writing Bookshelves of Doom or doing her librarian thing, Leila Roy is most likely being tragically unproductive due to the shiny lure of Pinterest.