Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Ironskin by Tina Connolly

 Oh man! I have so many THOUGHTS about this book and thank god I didn't have to go through it alone. My friend, Regina Sage, read it with me and I'm glad she did because she warned me about some pretty major triggers that happened towards the end (TW for body horror, including people getting their faces ripped off). I was not expecting a fantasy romance with a prom dress cover to be so DARK.

First of all, I don't think the 3.33 average rating is deserved. But before ACOTAR, I am not really sure people knew what to do with fae romances. Elizabeth May posted about how her Falconer series kind of flopped, because it came out before fae was popular and now it's experiencing a resurgence because people can't get enough faerie smut. I feel like this book falls into the same boat. A romance retelling of Jane Eyre involving the fae, with curses, masks, Tam Lin vibes, and a war of humans versus fae? Sounds very ACOTAR-ish. Except this came out all the way back in 2012.

That said, I can kind of see why people weren't sure what to make of it. It's a very slow burn story. It's one of those stories that's more vibes than it is plot. Jane comes to be a governess to a single dad who has a child who might be part fae. Jane has been cursed by the fae and has to wear an iron mask, because her curse is one of anger, and the mask keeps the magic from lashing out. This experience with fae magic puts her in a unique position to tutor Dorie, but it might also put her in danger. Because as she explores Edward Rochart's castle, she encounters many sinister mysteries that suggest that the castle, and Edward himself, might not be all that they seem.

Until maybe about 60% in, I was all set to give this five stars. I felt like the end petered out a little bit and relied on too much violence to get to the conclusion. How many times does a face have to get ripped off in this book? Because I swear it was at least five. That's like at least four times too many. At least, it was for me. And possibly for the other people who picked this up thinking it was going to be a fun and frothy fantasy romance and instead encountered some Tanith Lee levels of horror.

Actually, I would highly recommend this book to fans of Tanith Lee, because I feel like she also traversed the boundary of whimsical and horrific in her works, too. Like, this isn't dark enough to be outright horror or grimdark but it has many of those elements, just as how even though it's incredibly angsty and has some romantic scenes, it's a little too dark and light on relationship development to be a true fantasy romance. I would argue that the ending is an HFN at best and the story probably could have benefited from a conclusion because after all the horror, it feels way too abrupt.

But I did like this book. I would read more from this author in a heartbeat. It was interesting and unique. I just could have done with like 80% less face-ripping.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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