Summary (From Goodreads.com)
Helen Huntingdon is beautiful—so beautiful she has to wear an iron mask. Six months ago her sister Jane uncovered a fey plot to take over the city. Too late for Helen, who opted for fey beauty in her face—and now has to cover her face with iron so she won’t be taken over, her personality erased by the bodiless fey.
Not that Helen would mind that some days. Stuck in a marriage with the wealthy and controlling Alistair, she lives at the edges of her life, secretly helping Jane remove the dangerous fey beauty from the wealthy society women who paid for it. But when the chancy procedure turns deadly, Jane goes missing—and is implicated in the murder.
Meanwhile, Alistair’s influential clique Copperhead—whose emblem is the poisonous copperhead hydra—is out to restore humans to their “rightful” place, even to the point of destroying the dwarvven who have always been allies.
Helen is determined to find her missing sister, as well as continue the good fight against the fey. But when that pits her against her own husband—and when she meets an enigmatic young revolutionary—she’s pushed to discover how far she’ll bend society’s rules to do what’s right. It may be more than her beauty at stake. It may be her honor…and her heart.
Author: Tina Connolly
Length: 304 pages
Series: Yes – #2 in Ironskin
Source: Review copy from the publisher
As you may remember, I loved Ironskin, and I listed Copperhead as one of the ten books I was dying to read this autumn. Given how impressed I was by Ironskin, Ms Connolly’s fantastic debut, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Copperhead!
In Ironskin we followed the fey-cursed Jane, who I grew to love for her compassion and her stubborn nature. In Copperhead, we follow Jane’s sister Helen, who we’ve so far seen as a spoiled, materialistic socialite. I was anxious about Helen’s character, but I ended up loving her! Determined to prove she has a backbone underneath her glittering dresses, Helen resolves to help Jane in the fight against the fey using the skills she has that Jane doesn’t – charm, persuasion and influence. Helen’s job is to convince The Hundred (including herself), to undo Edward’s surgery, which will free them from danger but also mean losing their fey beauty.
Whilst attempting to reason with women reluctant to return to their normal faces, Helen must also cope with her husband Alistair, who has followed his friends to get embroiled in the Copperhead scheme. The Copperhead clique are an elitist group who would eliminate both fey and dwarvven, and live in a human-only world.
On the surface, Helen comes across as a very shallow individual. She married for money and ended up with a husband who treats her badly. She acknowledges to herself at least that it’s her own fault she ended up with Alistair, and doesn’t pretend her circumstances are anyone else’s fault. Despite her initial impression, she has hidden depths. She grows exponentially throughout the book, slowly learning to stand up for herself and others despite being surrounded by men who are largely of the opinion that women should keep quiet and do as they’re told!
The secondary characters are also excellent, with Eglantine Frye being an obvious favourite! The women that Helen gets involved with run from the meek to the bold, the shy to the determined, the crowd-followers to the trend-setters. The supporting characters in Copperhead ultimately drive Helen’s development further, helping and challenging her throughout the novel.
I didn’t honestly love the romance in Copperhead, which felt a bit rushed and forced to me. I liked both characters individually, and I even felt they had a good strong friendship, but the chemistry felt a bit sparse, like the first interest might be stirring but not much more. It was also great to watch Helen move away from Alistair, learning to be self-sufficient, and it would have been nice to see her keep up her independent streak a little longer, rather than getting involved with another romance.
Jane, Dorie and Edward don’t feature very much in this book. When Jane did feature, her relationship with Edward felt a little bit odd to me, which was never really cleared up. Obviously there wasn’t really much opportunity to explore Edward and Jane’s relationship in a book from Helen’s point of view so I was still left with unanswered questions regarding Edward and Jane which was a little disappointing. We do see more of the backstory behind the fey war, which was a fascinating twist that felt slightly underdeveloped in Ironskin.
Copperhead was absolutely riveting, with a plot that felt more complex and in-depth than Ironskin. Touching on war, racism, fear of the unknown, women’s rights and many many more topics, Copperhead makes you think without coming across as patronising or lecturing. It’s an ambitious plot, but Tina Connolly pulls it off well, and Copperhead certainly didn’t feel like a victim of second book syndrome! As well as fantastic characters and an engrossing plot, Copperhead is beautifully written. It took me a little time to warm up to Helen and get reoriented with the world, but once I did I couldn’t put it down. I can’t wait to get my hands on the third and final book!
Buy it? This is one I’d be happy to buy, not least because of that gorgeous cover!
In a nutshell: A worthy follow up to the gorgeously written debut Ironskin.