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WesternSFA
Ironskin
by Tina Connolly
TOR; $14.99; 302pp
Release Date: August 13, 2013
I really liked this creepy gothic tale set in England in an alternate 1920s after the Great War. Except the Great War in this book was a battle between human and fey. Very ephemeral, incorporeal, angry fey. You see, the fey in this world thought if they gave humans gadgets and a nonpolluting energy source they would stop befouling the earth. But of course they didn’t. Hence the War. Which humans won. But now their fey-fueled gadgets are fading one by one and things have gone back to a pseudo-Victorian, rather creaky steampunk world.

But trust me; the fey are not done with humanity by any stretch of the imagination. Their all out assault may have earned them defeat, but now their continued attack is more subtle and insidious. Anyone injured in the Great War was poisoned/cursed by fey magic and slowly, very slowly, the maimed humans are changing. Their curses usually manifest themselves strongly as an ugly side of human nature: rage, covetousness, vanity, etc. The only thing that slows the poison from spreading (hence the title of this book) is iron worn over the site of the injury.

In this broken world is Jane, injured by trying to save her brother who wears a half-mask of iron to contain her fey curse which is ungovernable rage.

Jane goes to the estate of Silver Birch to be a governess to a five-year-old girl who was born after her mother was infected by the fey. Dorie does nothing but levitate things. She can barely dress herself or talk.

Her father is a reclusive widower named Edward Rochart. He creates beautiful masks of society women by utilizing a rather arcane form of a Beverly Hills face lift. But his skill has a very dark side to it.

This tale is over laid with the patina of “Jane Eyre” in all its brooding somberness. And “Jane Eyre” was never one of my favorite classics. For Bronte’s lugubrious influence spreads a sort of earnest unrelieved darkness to most of the characters.

But there is drama and a yearning towards love here, as well. Connolly has come up with not only some very clever ideas but layered characters.

The novel has a great finish in a battle with the Fey Queen.

I really did love the whole idea of this tale (which is just the first in a series) and Connolly’s descriptive ability is top notch.

If you like Marie Brennan or Ian McLeod, you’ll quite enjoy this. ~~ Sue Martin

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