Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye #ReadWomenMarch

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March 16, 2016
I have once again been let down by my expectations. When I hear the words “serial killer”, the likes of Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy come to mind. You know, those really terrible people who mindlessly killed for sport and pleasure? Yes! So when someone tells me a book features a lady serial killer, you better believe I will run and jump through hoops set on fire to read that book! (Thanks to Penguin/Putnam I didn’t have to do any of that...)

But reader, this is not that kind of serial killer (and Jennifer Lopez taught me that self-defense is not murder!).

In this retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Jane Steele’s life mirrors that of her favorite heroine. Orphaned at a young age, Jane suffers at the hands of her aunt and cousin and later on, the abuse continues in the form of the schoolmaster at the boarding school she’s sent to. The similarities stop when Jane Steele decides to take justice into her own hands and murders those who have wronged her.

After running away from school and taking refuge in London, Jane discovers that her childhood home has new tenants and they are advertising for a governess. Under this guise, Jane decides to return to ascertain her rightful place as the heir, not anticipating the possibility of falling in love with Mr. Thornfield, the new master of the house, or the mystery and secrets surrounding this new family.

Now Jane will try to solve their mystery, but will she be able to without risking her own dark past coming to light?

OKAY. I’m going to start this review with a disclaimer:

I don’t like watching trailers. The way the footage is put together is done deliberately to fool the moviegoer and they're so misleading that I've stopped watching them. I’d rather go into a movie spoiler-free and get surprised every five seconds. No expectations to be met!

Similarly, I try to learn as little as possible about books before picking them up, that way I’m confused and surprised, and get to discover things along with the main character. Sometimes this works for the best (The Girl with all the Gifts and The Library at Mount Char, anyone?), and sometimes it only ends in disappointment.

Another disclaimer? I have never read Jane Eyre...

My point being this: I didn’t know this was a romance novel. I didn’t read the synopsis on the back of the book (which reads more like a summary, truth be told, but that’s an issue to address another time) and just went by word of mouth, so I had no idea there was even a romance plot in this book. Everyone was saying “lady serial killer!” so loud that it became difficult for me to ignore how much I wanted to read a book about a badass lady killing people for sport.

This is not that book and that’s where my disappoint begins and ends. I was expecting something different, is all, which is why I'm gonna try not to dwell too much on the ways this book didn't work for me because it’s not the author’s fault that I crave psychologically disturbed individuals committing heinous crimes, and this book didn’t deliver.

What Jane Steele did do was present the most beautiful writing style I have encountered since Neil Gaiman. I'm not comparing them because their styles are quite different, but Neil Gaiman could make the most simple cooking recipe sound fascinating and Lyndsay Faye managed to accomplish that, too. Even after realizing that this book wasn’t what I was expecting and finding out that it was as much a romance as it was a mystery (which would have made me drop any book because romance isn’t really my thing), I kept reading because of the writing alone. It is a thing of beauty and totally managed to immerse me into this world, making me feel like I was right there in Victorian London, a witness to Jane’s misdeeds.

The characters in this novel were also fantastic. Jane might not have been the psychopath I was expecting, but she still was the most badass lady, taking matters into her own hands and letting everyone know she wasn’t to be messed with. She was self-sufficient and unapologetic, and yet that didn’t make her cold or aloof, which was such a refreshing take on how independent women are usually portrayed. She still falls in love and it clouds her judgement and makes her lose sleep, but it doesn’t take away from her character, making her, you know, a normal person. It was just delightful to read, even while I rolled my eyes because of course she had to fall in love with that man. Of course.

And yet, despite all of this, the plot didn’t work for me. It started out really good and strong, showcasing Jane’s struggles and the lengths she’d go to protect herself and those she’d grown to care about, and I was hooked up until the point where she decides to work as a governess for Mr. Thornfield and the plot actually kicks off, veering into unexpected territory. It was also then that it became somewhat predictable and I knew what the outcome was gonna be, even if I didn't know the how.

The one thing I truly loved about the story, though, was the mystery surrounding Mr. Thornfield and his family. The execution and resolution of that storyline felt very Sir Arthur Conan Doyle-esque and as a big Sherlock Holmes fan, that made me so excited to keep reading. I don’t know if that was Lyndsay Faye’s intention, but she nailed the excitement of the chase and the big reveal of the villain and I would read a whole book about just that if she wrote one!

Overall, I won’t deny that Jane Steele was a good book. Well-researched, detailed and with a cast of delightful characters. And did I mention the writing is beautiful? Because it is! It just wasn’t for me and I think the way everyone was pitching this story was a little misleading. I’m still glad that I picked it up and read it, though! Because there were moments where I truly couldn’t put the book down and if anything, it made me discover an author I will definitely read more from, especially after finding out she’s a huge Sherlock Holmes fan, too. New favorite author alert!

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye comes out March 22, 2016 from G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

(I’d like to thank Penguin/Putnam for providing me with a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
3 comments on "Book Review: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye #ReadWomenMarch"
  1. Have you read Lyndsay Faye's Sherlock Holmes pastiche, Dust and Shadow?

    1. Not yet! Jane Steele was my first Faye book, but I'm definitely planning to read Dust and Shadow soon!

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