Review

Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

25868918.jpg

5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books: after reading it first at school aged 16, I then re-read in 2014. This time round, without the need to analyse every little detail, I absolutely fell in love with it. Ever since then, I’ve been looking out for any Jane Eyre inspired books or retellings, which is why I was so eager to accept a copy of Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.

Jane Steele is not strictly a retelling of Jane EyreJane Eyre is in fact one of the favourite books of the protagonist, and she often references it. Her story mirrors that of Jane Eyre’s, with some differences, and there are many small references to parts of the book. However, the main difference between this Jane and the original? Jane Steele is a killer. It might seem like a rather outlandish and ridiculous idea, but actually it works so well. Jane Eyre is already a Gothic novel – the huge house, a mysterious employer, strange noises at night and of course the goings on in the attic… Lyndsey Faye takes all of this and adds even more.

This Jane is not the one we know – she is not meek, but cool and cunning. And despite being a killer, she is a likeable character. The book describes her as a ‘serial killer’, but I wouldn’t go as far as that. She kills when she has to – for self-defence, or to protect others, rather than just picking targets at random. But despite knowing from the very beginning that Jane is a murderer, when the murders happen they are still shocking and brutal. Jane Steele is practically the opposite of Jane Eyre in every way – she is confident, sexual, more experience with life, not to mention has slight murderous tendencies… yet despite this, I could easily tie the events of this book back to the original.

There are other differences too. Instead of a ward from France, Mr. Thornfield (Rochester) has a ward from India. Mr. Thornfield is also a lot more open and talkative than Mr. Rochester, but still very mysterious. Lyndsey Faye also reverses some events from the book, e.g. Charles Thornfield spooking Jane’s horse as she is riding down the lane, as opposed to the other way round, which was how Jane Eyre met Mr. Rochester for the first time.

Beautifully written, with a tone that truly evokes the original, Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steele is a truly gripping book, perfect for fans of Jane Eyre who are looking for something a little bit different. I’ve read a faerie version of Jane Eyre (Ironskin), but I never expected to come across something like this! It is incredibly clever and still original enough to stand out, whilst still drawing from the major events of Jane Eyre. I liked that Jane Steele referenced Bronte’s work herself, somehow that grounded it even more. And if my review isn’t enough to convince you, know that this also comes highly recommended by the Jane Eyre expert herself, Charlene!

 

Favourite Quote:

[Jane, on meeting Mr. Thornfield for the first time] “If I were to kill this very intriguing man, I wonder how difficult he would make the task?”

This stood out to me so much, because it is definitely not something that would have come out of Jane Eyre’s mouth!

jane eyre gif

Review

Review: Ironskin (Ironskin #1) by Tina Connolly

9860837.jpg

4 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

I recently re-read Jane Eyre for the first time since school, and it was like reading a completely new book. Without the need to analyse every scene, I was completely and utterly wrapped up in this world, following Jane’s story and heartbreak. I couldn’t get enough of it: I read the book in two days, I watched the Mia Wasikowska/Michael Fassbender film adaptation twice in those same two days, and listened to the soundtrack of said film on repeat endlessly. And that was when I remembered: I had this book on my Kindle, a paranormal retelling of Jane Eyre.

So it was with great excitement that I dove into Ironskin, hoping to rediscover some of those feelings and familiar moments. And whilst Ironskin is a retelling, it doesn’t stick quite so closely to original events as you’d think, and Tina Connolly plays really cleverly on Brontë’s work. In Jane Eliot’s world, fairies and other creatures such as dwarves are real – but fairies are most definitely not the cutesy little magical beings we know from fairytales. Five years previously, there was a Great War between the fairies and humans, and many people were killed or injured. Those injured by the fairies become cursed – Jane’s particular curse is rage – and she must wear a mask of iron to keep the rage in.

Whilst Jane is not a penniless orphan, as the original Jane is, she is an outcast in her own way. She is Ironskin, which immediately pushes her to the edge of society. She has a younger sister who is the total opposite – where Jane is plain, quiet, conservative but also strong-willed, Helen is outgoing, fun-loving and very much determined to integrate herself into high society. She is a representation of how important these people perceive appearance to be. There was definitely much more of a focus on Jane’s appearance in this book – in the original Jane Eyre she is occasionally referred to as being rather plain, but Brontë doesn’t dwell on it. However, in this one, Jane becomes a little fixated on her appearance and there were a couple of moments where it felt like she’d moved on from being this sharp, witty and fiercely independent character, to someone more like her sister.

Rochart was a lot less fickle and mysterious than Mr. Rochester. It was obvious that he had feelings for Jane, he wasn’t constantly pulling away which I felt left a lot to be desired with the romance. There just wasn’t very much chemistry between the two – why is Jane interested in him? Because he’s the only male she knows? I also didn’t understand how she was so surprised by his ‘big reveal’, when half the book had pretty much given it away. Hint: it’s not a mad wife in the attic. The ending also felt a bit… lacklustre. Although it was a big event with lots of action, there was just something missing.

However, I really did enjoy this book. It may follow the events of Jane Eyre and take plenty of inspiration from it, but it’s also very much its own story. I guess it’s a big task to try and live up to the original book, but Connolly gets close. There were plenty of little references in the story – like the room where Rochart and Jane meet is the ‘red room’, and when Jane has to go away for her sister’s wedding Rochart says he was expecting a ‘madeup story about a dying aunt’. My favourite thing however, was how in the original book, Mr. Rochester is constantly referring to Jane as an imp or a fairy, and when she meets him outside Thornfield he asks if she was ‘waiting for her people’. This took that idea and expanded on it hugely – to great success.

Review

Review: Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen

 

18404312.jpg5 out of 5 stars | Goodreads

I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

Forget what you know about Neverland, and what you know about the story of Peter Pan.

Opening with a scene of carnage, akin to nothing like we know from J.M. Barrie’s tale, Alias Hook takes the traditional story of Peter Pan and turns it on its head. It’s not a retelling as such, but an extension of the original from a different point of view. For starters, it’s set about forty years after Wendy, John and Michael have left Neverland. It’s also told from the point of view of the infamous Captain Hook.

From the very beginning Hook feels like a real person, albeit a rather unfortunate one, whose mistakes have led him to where he is now. He’s nothing like the nasty pirate captain we know, but instead he is resigned to this eternal life that never moves forward. A well-rounded and deep character, we learn more of his history as the book goes on, thanks to chapters set in London, Bristol and Jamaica – these also serve to remind us that perhaps Hook, or James as he should really be known, is not the villain here.

In fact, the most villainous character was Peter himself. Constantly taunting Hook, commanding his boys to kill Hook’s men whilst he himself watches and laughs, killing Hook again and again with glee, Peter is a malicious and spiteful little brat that you feel absolutely no sympathy for. He is a coward (a codfish!), attacking and taunting when and where he knows Hook is weakest. Lisa Jensen has brilliantly reversed the roles, and as a reader you really begin to feel for Hook, whilst hating Peter – who is quite frankly a little bit creepy.

Everything changes in Hook’s life when a grown woman suddenly appears in Neverland. Stella has no idea how she got there, or why she is there, but her very presence changes Hook’s outlook. Their relationship had its odd moments, but there was a scene where they were discussing swearing – ‘God’s wounds’ and the like being very offensive in Hook’s day, Stella explains modern (or rather 1950s) swearing whilst claiming that it’s no longer inventive – that I really enjoyed. I have to say that was one of my favourite scenes, with its contrast between the two time periods, and these two people from such different eras bonding over something like cuss words!

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is definitely an adult retelling – Hook wonders through the forest and finds fairies having orgies, indulging in drugs and generally doing the sort of things you might see in town on a typical Friday night… But this sudden shift of the traditional tale from children to adults allows for so much more; it opens up a chance for a real exploration of the darker elements of Neverland, a land built from the imagination of children, yet very adult in appearance.

Although the story is quite slow-paced, with a lot of reminiscing, and not particularly hugely eventful, it really drew me in with its solid character building and play on a well-loved story. It was a really interesting perspective, filled with all the familiar denizens of Neverland. Unfortunately the conclusion, whilst satisfying, wasn’t quite what I wanted – but not all fairytales have that perfect, happy ending.