October 2, 2012 | Tor | 304 pgs
Source: Provided by publisher
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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.
I am Jane, and you would be frightened to look upon me.
Brilliant! Ironskin was an impressive debut with a captivating, page-turning mystery. I couldn't get enough of Jane Eliot, her struggles with her curse, or the curious young girl with her forbidden fey magic.
The story begins with Jane responding to an ad for a governess needed to care for a child with “difficulties”. She is seeking new employment after being dismissed from her teaching position, a result of the iron mask that partially covers her face and brands her as one of the fey-cursed.
She’s what is known as an ironskin, those deformed fighting during the Great War. She was struck by a fey bomb carrying a rage curse. The rage has since been a permanent part of her and she wears an iron mask to prevent the curse from leaking out and affecting others.
Jane suspects that the child she will become governess for has a similar condition because of the descriptions of a “delicate situation” and the child being born during the Great War. She isn’t prepared for what she finds. The child herself carries fey magic.
Despite initially being frightened by what she discovers, Jane quickly becomes determined to help the young girl, Dorie, and refuses to give up on her as others have done in the past.
The child is stubborn, but Jane herself is strong-willed and their equal determination created many interesting interactions. You never knew what Dorie would do next or how Jane would finally stop her from using the forbidden fey magic, helping her to become a ‘normal’ child.
In addition to Jane’s frustrations with Dorie, she tries to unravel the mystery that is Dorie’s father, Mr. Rochart. He’s elusive, reveals very little about himself, and is rarely around when Dorie needs him. He’s also an artist and has a collection of odd, grotesque looking masks. The walls are lined with the appearance of their glossy, sagging skin. But despite Mr. Rochart’s peculiar ways, Jane finds herself intrigued by him.
I am sorry. I am beast; I roar.
One of the largest appeals of this novel, aside from Jane herself, is the slow-building mysteries. Aside from the questions surrounding Dorie and her fey magic, there are strange occurrences regarding Mr. Rochart’s clients, his disappearances, and the strange lights coming from the surrounding forest.
Overall, I found Ironskin to be a fascinating debut that is well-written with an exceptional protagonist and a unique twist on the fey. I’m very much looking forward to Ironskin’s sequel which will feature Jane’s sister, Helen.