September 28th, 2012


Ironskin, by Tina Connolly

Review copy provided by Tor.

I've enjoyed Tina Connolly's short fiction, so I was glad to have the opportunity to read Ironskin. And one of the things I enjoy most about it comes out front and center in the first chapter and stays there: it is a book about the aftermath of the Great War. It's not the same as our Great War, but a lot of the features are quite clearly inspired by it, including the maimed veterans--our heroine's mask and the mask worn by one of the characters in Boardwalk Empire are not at all dissimilar, though the injuries that caused them are very different. (German shrapnel in Boardwalk Empire. A fey curse in Ironskin. See? Different.) This is not the Jazz Age, but it very clearly evokes some of the same things that interest me about the Jazz Age--the drive for the new, the need to press on and forget the horrors of war--with a very different twist on how and why this world is enacting them. I really liked how the worldbuilding went there.

Unfortunately, the plot doesn't stand up to the worldbuilding very well. Everything that happens is telegraphed far in advance, and some characters seem to remain on the sympathetic side Just Because That's Why rather than because their actions bear even a cursory examination. But if you read an excerpt or plot summary (basically: a penniless governess goes to help a mysterious artist with his unruly fey-touched daughter in their country mansion; also there are many dress descriptions) and think that even though you probably know how it goes, you'd like a book that goes like that, and the world is kind of cool, the world is kind of cool.

I have to confess some confusion as to why it got blurbed as steampunk. I guess because steampunk is the (old) new hotness? Seriously, this is a lot more its own thing and a lot less fitting into a steampunk-geared-goggled mold. I hope that the blurb helps broaden the horizons of people who are in "I will only read steampunk yay I like steampunk" mode without putting off anybody who thinks "gahhhh no more steampunk so tired of steampunk." Also where the blurb says that the Beauty and the Beast roles are Blurbs are hard, is the moral of this story. Very very hard, and I should not care to have to write a great many of them myself under pressure. So only listen to them when you feel like it. Yes.