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.
The trick to enjoying this novel is to completely disregard the publicity that states this is a retelling and go into it with the mindset that though it may have some similarities to the Bronte masterpiece, it is very much its own novel and deals with themes that are not at all similar (somewhat) to the original. I started this book quite a while ago and then, due to lack of interest, closed it and read something else. Google Calendar told me I had better read it soon as its release date is fast coming up and I thought, oh why not, let me try it. So I did and I finished it liking it more than I had thought I would, considering the rather blah beginning. So the following will be something of a review with the inevitable comparison thrown in. For the record, I am a huge Jane Eyre fan and very critical when it comes to retellings (as evidenced by my review of Jane by April Lindner).
Ironskin takes place in an alternate world that is recovering from the aftermath of a war with the Fae. The humans won though it was a pyrrhic victory and the human survivors of this war found a number of themselves suffering from a fey curse. Jane Elliot is one such survivor. She is cursed when she tries to save her brother from the fae and ends up being cursed with rage. The curse emanates from one scarred side of her face and she wears ironskin to hold the curse in. The only similar thing, in my opinion, the novel has to Jane Eyre is the superficial setting – a widower and his daughter wanting a governess – and shades of Jane, both the original and the one in Ironskin. Jane finds herself situated at the manor with instructions to ensure that the fey cursed daughter of a Mr. Rochart remembers how to be human.
The novel gives Dorie a larger part than Jane Eyre gave the child character and I appreciated that. Jane’s struggle to establish some sort of relationship with Dorie also makes for interesting reading as do her relationships with the domestic staff. I liked her relationship with her sister, a new addition, and I also liked the various other characters. The plot diverges from the original story and though there is another woman present, she is markedly different from the crazy wife in the attic…well, she is still crazy but there is no attic present. The pacing is good and the reflective voice of the protagonist is engaging. Rochart is not creepily older than Jane though he acts as if he is (thank you Ms. Connolly) and there is also very little romance present. Actually, let me talk about this for a bit. I found Rochart the least developed of all characters. I couldn’t connect to him because he just not present in the novel – not as much as I would have liked him to be anyway. The romance also, though there is not much of it, is also the weakest portion. There is potential for the chemistry to be developed but it isn’t. But since this is a series, I can hold out hope that Connolly will work on her characterizations (and romance) more. I had no problem with Jane actually and I quite liked her but where Jane Eyre has this internal monologue going on, Jane of Ironskin does not. Not really. But honestly, Bronte was a master at characterization and it seems a tad unfair to compare. We know what Jane Elliot’s primary conflict is and I liked how Connolly expounds on this conflict and makes it into one of the greater themes of the novel – beauty. What beauty is and the sacrifice one must make for it. Can a sacrifice be too much? And how are we prisoners of beauty?
I can’t go into a true discussion of the novel without giving stuff away but I’d love to discuss the greater implications of the masks with anyone who is interested. I ended up liking the book even though I was convinced I wouldn’t. I liked how it took Jane Eyre but instead of being faithful to it, gave the novel its own twist that suited the setting Ironskin occurs in. Also – badass fairies who straddle the line between black and grey. Do I recommend it to you? Yes but it is a conditional recommendation and your enjoyment of this totally depends on how much you want this book to be like Jane Eyre.