Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink

October 9, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle ZinkTwo and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes ed. by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink Published by Month9Books on October 16, 2012
Genres: Anthology, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 340
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
four-stars
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Note: There are five stories I did not review. Three of them were not in my ARC but will be in the finished copy and two were stories I chose to skip due to personal reasons regarding their authors.

“As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old” by Nina Berry: 2.5/5. Berry had a great idea, but a lack of development and a heroine whose levels of dumb break the scale ruin it. Am I really supposed to go with it when Girl meets Guy, they talk for less than five minutes, and she agrees to go with him somewhere secluded just like that, implying that she’s following him just because he’s really hot? It’s clear she did that just because the story required her to.

“Sing a Song of Six-Pence” by Sarwat Chadda: 4/5. I really liked Chadda’s Billi SanGreal series and the same reasons I liked them are why I liked his short story. It’s well-written, delicious, and isn’t afraid to say that sometimes, there is no winner.

“Clockwork” by Leah Cypress: 4/5. This story, where the mouse climbing up the clock is actually a girl transformed by magic, was full of fun twists. The storyline was great, but it was too simplistic and easily solved even for a short story.

“Blue” by Sayantani DasGupta: 1/5. There simply wasn’t anything to this story that interested me or compelled me to put some thought into it like the others did.

“Pieces of Eight” by Shannon Delaney with Max Scialdone: 2/5. It’s well-paced and actiony as Marnum tries to get to the Dreamland Tree and meanwhile discovers where he came from, but “actiony” is half-compliment, half-complaint. Stuff happened, but there was no development. Marnum was kind of an ass and I didn’t like the writing style.

“Boys and Girls Come Out to Play” by Angie Frazier: 4.5/5. As one sister ventures into the woods to save the other from the witches’ beckoning, I found myself invested in what would happen to them and feel the story was well-thought-out. A small plot hole is all that keeps it from a 5. I admit, this gives me motivation to try and move Frazier’s novel Everlasting up the reading line (even though I don’t exactly have the freedom to pick and choose what I’m reading right now; certain books need to be read ASAP).

“I Come Baring Souls” by Jessie Harrell: 3/5. There’s really not much to say about this story, where three people with the roles of the Egyptian gods Anubis, Bast, and Hathor past judgment on the souls of the dead. I wish there were more to it.

“The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First” by Nancy Holder: 4/5. It’s well-written and interesting, but I felt it was a bit iffy to set a story during a time of witch hunts without giving even a second of thought to innocent people persecuted as witches (and the existence of real, live witches in the story changes nothing). As “Part the First” implies, the anthology splits this into two stories, but my ARC didn’t have the second part in it.

“Life in a Shoe” by Heidi R. Kling: 3/5. Kling’s story has more of a dystopian twist to it, with the old woman and her many children in a shoe being in a small apartment instead, living in a place where women are forced to have children that will one day be raised to fight in the wars. The story suffers from a common flaw in dystopian stories: worldbuilding and plausibility. I cannot see this ever happening and nothing about how things came to be in such a state is not explained.

“Candlelight” by Suzanne Lazear: 2/5. Too anvilicious to be enjoyable. Yes, we know children and teenagers shouldn’t be brats over not being able to go to parties or being grounded because there are always people who have it worse and bad things can happen.

“One for Sorrow” by Karen Mahoney: 1/5. I couldn’t enjoy this for one second. The incredibly immature main character killed it for me.

“Those Who Whisper” by Lisa Mantchev: 5/5 . This author is the main reason I wanted to read this anthology. She’s one of my favorites! With a slight Snow White feel to it in that the main character Sida can talk to animals and a clear, lovely writing style, this is my favorite story of the anthology by far.

“Little Miss Muffet” by Georgia McBride: 3/5. Shape-shifting spiders? …Okay! Would have been a little more highly rated if the main character hadn’t called another girl a tramp.

“Sea of Dew” by C. Lee McKenzie: 3/5. This story of four teenagers adrift in a lifeboat after the ferry they were on capsized is the good kind of bleak, but it didn’t really make me feel anything. What happens to them and how it worsens over time is sad, yet something was lacking.

“Tick Tock” by Gretchen McNeil: 5/5. This story of a babysitter going out to a house on assignment and finding some very creepy children there was fantastic! Creepy and horrifying and just right. Not exactly unique, but I like it anyway.

“The Well” by K.M. Walton: 4/5.  Jack and Jill reimagined in a post-virus world where the siblings hate each other. The nuances of their complicated relationship were very well done and I liked the ending.

“The Wish” by Suzanne Young: 4/5. Insta-love put a damper on a story I would have otherwise liked, one about a girl miserable after a break-up, the death wish she makes on a star, and the new guy she spends her night with. It reminded me a little of the urban legend where a girl ends up dancing with the devil.

“A Ribbon of Blue” by Michelle Zink: 3/5. I admit, I knew what was going to happen to Ruby from the time the fortune-teller told her she’d find light, love, and freedom in a boy with a whistle, a ticket, and a blue ribbon. I felt a little bad for Ruby, but I didn’t feel much else because I lacked emotional investment.

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Easy by Tammara Webber

October 5, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Easy by Tammara WebberEasy by Tammara Webber Published by Self-published on May 25, 2012
Genres: NA Contemporary Romance
Pages: 304
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
three-half-stars
A girl who believes trust can be misplaced, promises are made to be broken, and loyalty is an illusion. A boy who believes truth is relative, lies can mask unbearable pain, and guilt is eternal. Will what they find in each other validate their conclusions, or disprove them all?

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she's single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life.

Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex's frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night--but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound.

When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he's hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

Things I learned from Easy:

Ways in which you should not victimize women include:

  • Sexually assaulting them
  • Saying they were asking for it
  • Ignoring her boundaries and acting like no means yes
  • Saying it’s not a big deal they were raped because they weren’t a virgin in the first place
  • Caring more about the damage it will do to the accused’s reputation than what happened to the victim
  • Trying to convince a victim not to testify because of what it will do to the school’s/fraternity’s reputation
  • Having sex with them when they are drunk (because THAT IS RAPE, PEOPLE)
  • Blaming them for anything sexual abuse or assault they suffer
  • Probably many more things I’m forgetting because my arm started hurting from all my feminist solidarity fist-pumps

Ways in which you should victimize women include:

  • Calling them sluts/whores/skanks/hussies/etc. because she does something you or your friends don’t like.

Wait, what?

Exactly. A novel hyped as the book women need to read okays slut shaming. Let that sink in.

This contradiction held throughout the novel is the biggest problem Easy has. As the lists show, this book carries a lot of heavy feminist themes that make absolutely valid points more people need rammed into their skulls. Most of these messages aren’t terribly anvilicious and that makes it a great way to teach people. Most people will digest a subtle, personal approach more easily than an in-your-face approach. Slut shaming is never okay and is not empowering for women whether they’re doing the name-calling or suffering it.

Other than that gigantic, book-breaking snafu, Easy has a lot going for it. Webber’s writing is powerful and can wrench a wide range of emotions from readers. Smiling because Lucas and Jacqueline are so adorable, choking up because what Jacqueline suffers through after Buck nearly rapes her is so awful, and making my heart pound because the romance is pretty fantastic. Why can’t more books pull such a wide range of emotions from me?

This novel and Jacqueline connected with me in an unexpected number of ways: as a fellow woman, as a college student, as a victim of sexual abuse (though of a different variety than Jacqueline’s), and as someone who suffered with what happened to her for so long before she was finally able to tell someone. If Jacqueline and I weren’t so similar and those parallels made it impossible for me not to see the good in this book, it would be down another half-star. As it is, Jacqueline’s growth from a young woman afraid after her near-rape into a capable young woman who has found what–and who–she wants and no longer lets what happened to her hold her back is beautiful.

The secondary characters can sometimes be weak, but they usually have strong, memorable personalities as well; Erin serves largely in the supportive-roommate role, but she is so enjoyable as a character because she helps Jacqueline so much and delivers some of the best lines of the book. NUTSACK! Quite a few of the necessary lessons in this book are served on a silver platter to Jacqueline by her.

Lucas and Jacqueline’s romance, while incredibly cute, is also somewhat typical in certain respects. I saw their couple dramas with the tutor thing and his mom coming a long ways away because it has been done in so many other novels. Kinda made me roll me eyes. Lucas also has a small creepy moment when he revealed he keeps a drawing of Jacqueline on the wall next to his bed so he can wake up to her every morning. This is only at the beginning of their relationship. Beyond that, he is a fantastic love interest and gets some pretty good character development of his own.

My interest in Webber’s other books is high after this, but if she pulls the same sort of shenanigans with book-breaking contradictions, there will be hell to pay.

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Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi

October 3, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Destroy Me by Tahereh MafiDestroy Me by Tahereh Mafi Published by HarperCollins on October 2, 2012
Genres: YA Dystopian, YA Paranormal
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
three-stars
Perfect for the fans of Shatter Me who are desperately awaiting the release of Unravel Me, this novella-length digital original will bridge the gap between these two novels from the perspective of the villain we all love to hate, Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

Shatter Me. For a reason I can’t remember (Google searches turned up a “major pre-empt” and the movie rights being bought; according to my ARC, it had a $150,000 marketing campaign too), it was one of the most hyped-up novels of 2011 and I gave it three stars, though it has now been downgraded to two in my head. Destroy Me went on my list for one reason only: Warner.

I mean, come on! The guy has absolutely no marbles to speak of and in a book full of bland characters, I liked that. His obsession with Juliette had more to do with why I liked him, though; I find obsession and what it does to people morbidly fascinating. Besides, his character reminds me of one of my own and I want to see how another author did it. And so I dove into Destroy Me.

It’s written in normal prose rather than the over-the-top ultraviolet prose of Shatter Me, and I was excited to be in Warner’s head from the very start. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now that he is head-over-heels obsessed with Juliette. He thinks himself in love like more than a few obsessed people do, but I know better! He’s the kind of guy one would call the police on in real life, but here, it’s good. Knowing the boundary between what’s okay in fiction and in real life is always good.

The problem with this novella is that it is completely unnecessary and doesn’t give me any richer knowledge of the world of Shatter Me. We get a little more insight into Warner’s other obsessions like his need to be clean and some hints at how he grew up, but most of what Destroy Me reveals is stuff I’d already put together. His dad sucking? Check. The poor conditions of the people? Check. If any fan who refused to read this because they hate Warner skipped it, they would miss absolutely nothing. The Reestablishment is still a typical dystopian society with little to no plausibility and it is therefore too easy to put together what their world is like.

I’ll be reading on to Unravel Me, which looks like it will be just as purple prose-filled as Shatter Me if the excerpt is anything to go by, for the same reason I kept with this novella: Warner.

He better not find his marbles and/or become a serious love interest. I mean it. If he does, he’ll get boring and then I’ll be done with this series.

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The Torn Wing by Kiki Hamilton

October 1, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

The Torn Wing by Kiki HamiltonThe Torn Ring by Kiki Hamilton Published by Self-published on August 9, 2012
Genres: YA Historical, YA Paranormal
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
two-stars
London 1872 -

A bloody escape, a deadly threat, a shocking revelation...

As an orphan who stole the Queen's ring - only to find the ring was a reservoir that held a truce between the world of Faerie and the British Court - Tiki’s greatest fear suddenly becomes all too real: the fey have returned to London seeking revenge. As war escalates in the Otherworld, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold, is attacked. In order to protect her family and those she loves, Tiki needs to know the meaning of an fáinne sí, the birthmark that winds around her wrist. But will she be brave enough to face the truth?

The Faerie Ring didn’t impress me much when I read it in February 2012, but I wanted to read on for two main reasons: I felt like Hamilton had the ability to improve upon her story and I wanted to see where it would go. Nowhere much, I can say now that I’ve finished the novel. The Torn Wing feels more like set-up than the previous book ever did and it covers very little new ground that is of interest to me.

Admittedly, the only thing that still attracts me to this series is the writing. I love how easily Hamilton’s prose flows, but the decline in quality between the traditionally-published first book and the small-press-published/self-published (my research has not brought me to a conclusion on that one) second book is clear, though most of the flubs are in grammar. Dropped punctuation (more than a few quotation marks are missing), wrongly used punctuation (like using the possessive form of something when it wasn’t needed), formatting errors,… I almost wanted to take a red pen to it, but consider I plan to pass this on to someone, marking it up is a no-no.

One of my complaints about The Faerie Ring was its lack of depth and genuine feeling, and this issue also pervades The Torn Wing. Tiki isn’t very introspective and I suppose that’s part of her character, but when Larkin tells Tiki she might be the rightful ruler of the faeries and Tiki never stops to think about what it might cost her if it were true, that becomes a problem. If I were told I might be a faerie queen, I’d sure be thinking about what taking up the throne would cost me! People are selfish like that, and I’d think Tiki would be too as an orphan who had to fend for herself on the streets for a good while. Her maddening way of forgiving people didn’t help much.

The story also gets a little more indulgent in cliches than it was in the first book. I’m glad it didn’t go the route of a love triangle with Leo, Tiki, and Rieker like I fear (though Leo does still like her), it seems like there’s set up for another love triangle with a new character named Dain. It gets more cliche than that, but revealing that would be a spoiler and I don’t feel like revealing it.

I like how the Ripper murders and the royal hemophilia were tied in with the story, but I have a big problem with the latter. See, Prince Leopold gets attacked by a faerie and the wound won’t stop bleeding because it’s a faerie wound. It is covered up by calling it hemophilia, and the problem here is that royal hemophilia is an established issue that goes beyond Leo. Princesses Alice and Beatrice were confirmed carriers of royal hemophilia and there are well-documented cases of their descendants carrying on/suffering from that gene. Like Alexei Romanov? He had it. His grandmother was Princess Alice. The implication of Leo’s well-established hemophilia being only a cover-up and hemophilia not actually being in the family contradicts solid historical fact and it bugs me.

Yeah, I’m taking issue with how a historical fantasy contradicts historical fact. When the novel is trying to present itself as if it actually happened within our timeline but was kept secret from everyone else, I can do that.I might read The Seven Year King, the third book of this series, but right now, I’m not sure what I’d be reading on for. I gave The Torn Wing a shot because I hoped for improvement and there was absolutely none. It was nothing but set-up. I can be a bit of a sucker sometimes for books, but I’ve got my limits.

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The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

September 28, 2012 Reviews 0 ★½

The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura RoeckerThe Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 1, 2011
Genres: Mystery, YA Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
one-half-stars
 

Since when do the dead send emails?

Kate Lowry's best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate's more than a little confused.

To: KateLowry@pemberlybrown.edu
From: GraceLee@pemberlybrown.edu
Subject: (no subject)
Kate,
I'm here... sort of.
Find Cameron. He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder...

Oh, book. I wanted to love you, but by the time you started calling Bethany Beefany because she’s built like a linebacker, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to.

I was right.

To give The Liar Society its due praise, the storyline of the warring secret societies within Kate’s school and the role they might have played in Grace’s death is vividly drawn and well-paced. My worries about Nice Guy Syndrome creeping into this book were deftly put to rest. Readers always know Seth has feelings for Kate, but she is never under any pressure to return his feelings because he’s a “nice guy” and he’s entitled to her returning them or any of that bull.

All the feminism points the book earned through the avoidance of Nice Guy Syndrome were taken away–and then some–but Kate’s inability not to be an asshat to other people.

P. 106: “A handful of girls trailed after [Porter] who either suffered from First Year-itis or were raging gold-diggers who loved the sound of their last names hyphenated with “Reynolds.””

Readers are supposed to root for Kate, but that becomes a challenge with quotes like the one above. She seems thoroughly dedicated to being a terrible person. We are also supposed to believe that she cares about Seth as a friend, but she only ever uses him like a tool and looks down on him/his interests. As previously mentioned, she makes fun of Bethany’s linebacker-esque body type by calling her Beefany. Her body type isn’t something she can control and it’s not funny. At all. Kate is just being awful.

And then she started throwing around “slut.”

P. 298 (while talking about a dress that barely covers her butt because she has outgrown it): “The slutty look worked well for Hollywood starlets and girls hanging out on street corners, but I decided it might be best to attempt a slightly more subtle fashion statement for my first Homecoming dance.”

P. 300: “When you mix a Mardi-Gras-themed dance with teenage hormones, the result is a combination of girls who look largely like underage prostitutes and oversexed boys who dangle copious amounts of beads in hopes of finding a girl drunk enough (or slutty enough) to flash them.”

I don’t stand for validated, unchallenged slut-shaming. I consider these instances validated because Kate is never, ever called out on any of her behavior. Is she supposed to be funny? She’s not.

In short, REVEALING CLOTHES DO NOT EQUAL SLUTTY, M’KAY?

The mystery that drives the novel is easy to solve if one is an attentive reader, but Kate is not so good at connecting the dots or making logical conclusions. (On the subject of logic, this book has little; one of the gems is that riding a bike makes you uncool or a geek. I don’t know either.) As the clues build up, the mystery is practically solved, but Kate is only halfway there.

Characterization is serviceable enough, but development and the strength of the relationships between characters is subpar. Trying to characterize Kate as unpopular fails when three popular boys, the bad boy, and the friend all flirt with or have feelings for her. I’m surprisingly untroubled by so many guys being into her, seeing as most of my manuscripts have two or three people who are anywhere from flirting with to obsessed with the main character. It’s how it contradicts her characterization that bothers me.

The ending of the novel is rather frustrating because we all want to see things put to rights, but considering the themes of justice and how the secret societies within Pemberly Brown are tied up in it, it is also appropriate. A more positive ending would have been unrealistic.

The sequel The Lies That Bind comes out November 1, 2012 and I do not think I will be reading it.

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The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

September 27, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose ClarkeThe Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke Published by Strange Chemistry on October 2, 2012
Genres: YA Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
two-stars
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

And the hype catches me yet again, making me the mouse to its dangerous, cheese-holding mousetrap. With the promise of pirates, assassins, and magic, it lured me in and made me think it was going to be good. Instead, I barely enjoyed reading The Assassin’s Curse.

Though Ananna’s voice sounded younger than her seventeen years and some of the deliberate errors that give her voice a distinctive quality bug me at times, I like the writing style. It has its snafus every now and then (how does one smile with the skin around their eyes?), but I generally had fun when I concentrated only on the writing. When I paid attention to the subject matter, I enjoyed the novel far less.

There’s a fine line between a rebellious character and a bratty character, and Ananna crossed that line soundly. She fusses about everything both worth fussing about and everything not worth fussing about. It gets grating after a while, you know? Naji isn’t much better, what with how he never tells Ananna anything. Yet by the end of the novel, Ananna is somehow in love with Naji. How? She details why it seems strange for her to love him by listing his flaws, but she doesn’t say a word about his redeeming qualities or does anything to make the reader think she knows him deeply. It’s not insta-love, but it sure is baseless love.

One thing that really got my goat was the presentation and characterization of Leila, a river witch and implied former lover of Naji’s. Like the rest of the cast, she is two-dimensional, but she is especially bad. She drapes herself all over Naji and plays with him while barely tolerating Ananna and putting her down. She leads them on for a week and makes them think she might be able to cure them, but nope! No cure! They spend a week there just because she decided to lead them on.

Seriously? Give me better female characterization than that.

Really, this novel isn’t too exciting. They spend most of it traveling and having the occasional encounter that may or may not actually be exciting. I enjoyed everything to begin with, but once Ananna saved Naji’s life and the curse that makes him have to protect her took effect, it all started going downhill.

The Pirate’s Wish, the second book of this duology, comes out next year. I don’t know if there’s enough I liked in this novel for me to read on.

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Ironskin by Tina Connolly

September 26, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

Ironskin by Tina ConnollyIronskin by Tina Connolly Published by Tor on October 2, 2012
Genres: Adult Paranormal, Retelling, Steampunk
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
two-stars
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

Retellings can be tricky to pull off. In my experience, they work best when they capture the original’s magic by relying on its plot and characters in certain places and diverging from the original in others in order to give it the feel that it’s a book of its own, not a complete repeat of the original. It can be a difficult balance to create and unfortunately, I don’t think Ironskin manages it, as a retelling of Jane Eyre with steampunk influences and fairies.

One of the high points of Ironskin was the development of the relationship between Jane and her charge Dorie, who can do strange things like move objects without touching them and yet is not fey. Strange children are among my favorite sorts of characters and Dorie fits the bill perfectly! The beginning of the novel was the best kind of grabbing and I loved how Connolly developed her ideas throughout the novel. It appears there will be a sequel and I might be interested in reading it to see where it will take readers next.

While there are things I genuinely like, the novel became a slog for me to read after the 25% mark (roughly 70 pages). There are long stretches in the beginning where little to nothing happens and neither the plot nor the characters drive the story. What Mr. Rochart is doing with the women isn’t given any attention until well over halfway through the novel and within the last 100 pages, the book veers off unexpectedly into territory most often traveled by run-of-the-mill urban fantasy novels.

Most of all, Ironskin fails to capture the magic of Jane Eyre, transfer any of the source material’s strengths to itself, or create a resemblance between the characters of one and the other. Jane and Mr. Rochart’s romance lacks the compelling element of Jane and Mr. Rochester’s (and I say that as someone who didn’t care for Mr. Rochester). The two novels focus on entirely different themes and events and in the end, they’re only loosely related to one another. Ironskin would have been better off to drop all the elements it has as a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic and simply be an original novel. No retellings or anything.

Readers coming to this book because it’s a Jane Eyre retelling with steampunk and fairies may find themselves unsatisfied with the novel, but anyone who wants it because it sounds like a great idea regardless of its status as a retelling (or better yet, are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre) may enjoy it more than I did.

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