Science fiction and fantasy
by Tina Connolly
At first Jane tries to help Dorie with encouragement, bribes and games, but it's frustrating work and she starts to despair of ever being able to help the child. These struggles are alternately poignant and hilarious. But Dorie is an outside who will become a pariah and perhaps endanger herself unless she can control her fey behaviour.
Jane understands the situation all too well. When she returns to visit her sister Helen in the city she can't fit in with the parties and beautiful people. Helen's friends are whip-tongued, and their catty remarks make them seem vain, trivial and selfish. Jane lacks pride and confidence, so the envy she feels towards these unscarred women is understandable. But would she really want to be other than she is, and at what price? This story is set in a kind of austere post-war world of emerging industrialism that's something akin to the 1930s in terms of advancement, but it put me in mind of the modern beauty and cosmetic surgery industry with all its fakery. I liked Jane because she has realistic struggles with self-confidence and anger, but she's neither wet nor unbelievably furious and kick-ass.
Tina Connolly's dwarves are a little unusual, but her fey are unlike any I've come across before in literature. The dwarves are technologists and they mostly appear on the edge of this story, but the fey are insubstantial creatures of light and emotion, with technologies that no other race can grasp. These fey are ageless and uncompromising. They can be blocked by iron and supernatural rules about inviting them over thresholds and the like, but they're never far away. They're malicious creatures who are attracted to beauty and artistry above all else.
There's an emerging love story between Jane and Mr Rochart, along with some fairly obvious parallels with Jane Eyre. However the way the love story unfolds is intriguing, and the author isn't trying to say the same things as Charlotte Brontë was. I really enjoyed the way she uses some of the traditions about the fey to examine issues about vanity and body consciousness. With Dorie we're presented with a child with special needs whose differences everyone is trying to hide and repress, but who also has talents in spite of her apparent handicap, or even because of it. And as well as being very socially aware, Ironskin is an exciting story that features a wealth of action, romance and high emotion.
30th October 2012
If you like this, try:The Grass King's Concubine by Kari Sperring
A privileged young woman goes searching for the reason her life is charmed, but her curiosity takes her to another world, and mortal danger.
Mine To Spell by Janeal Falor
A young woman living in a repressive society struggles to conceal her forbidden magic. The second novel in the Mine series.
Some Kind Of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce
A young woman returns to her family after a long absence. But can she walk back into her old life after all she has seen?
Review © Ros Jackson