Ironskin, by Tina Connolly
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.
Just in case it wasn't apparent from the overview, Ironskin is a reworking of Jane Eyre. Modern retellings of such popular classics quite often make me wary (so much so that I sometimes avoid them) but I was determined to read this with an open mind. Jane Eyre, but with a gothic, fairy twist? This definitely has potential.
To begin with, some of the parallels are quite obvious. Aside from the name, Ironskin's protaganist, Jane, shares numerous qualities with Jane Eyre, the main outstanding factor being her flawed appearance due to the fey curse she has been touched by, which requires her to wear an iron mask, not so much to hide her deformity, but to keep the curse at bay.
Jane, once appointed as new governess at Silver Birch, finds herself to have something in common with her charge, Dorie, who has also been cursed by the fey. Dorie is struggling to come to terms with the powers given to her by the curse and after a few false starts, it's pleasing to see the relationship between Jane and Dorie flourish in a manner reminiscent of many governess / child stories before.
Although the beginning of the book is fairly slow, I found the descriptions of Silver Birch good and likened some of the tale's undertones to that of Beauty and the Beast. My only criticism would be that the romance between Jane and Edward didn't seem to be quite as deep as I'd have expected or hoped; things between them seem quite staid and a little hard to believe.
The ending of the book sees a crescendo of excitement with the advance of the mythical and magical fey creatures. I don't want to spoil the end, so I can't say a lot more, but things certainly picked up towards the end and I do think the base storyline lends itself well to this steampunk twist and I like the tension which is built up in advance of the second book of the series being released next year.
If you would like the chance to win a copy of Ironskin as an e-book, please leave a comment on this post and make sure to include your email address. The giveaway is open to followers of this blog, only.
For an extra entry, please tweet the following: "I've just entered @dinoprincesschr giveaway for an Ironskin e-book, c/o @constablebooks - what's stopping you?"
The giveaway will run for one week, and I will contact the winner by email on 12 November. Good luck!