October 2012 by Tor Books
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.
A steampunk fey reimagining of Jane Eyre, Ironskin worked so well until it didn't.
The first two thirds of the book were great. It was an adaptation like Cinder, where the base story was important to the plot without being a crutch; Connolly had her own story to tell. She fundamentally changed Jane by giving her a loving childhood, but it worked for the story, especially with her rage curse. Helen was too greedy* to deserve her name, but I could cope with it. I liked how Adelle/Dorie's story was progressing as she developed her fey powers. Grace Poole got a new and interesting back story. The only thing that really needed improvement was the development of the Jane/Rochart romance.
Then everything fell apart. As we approached the climax, Jane and the other characters started doing things that didn't make any sense, didn't develop the plot, didn't heighten the suspense, and that were included only because Connolly was crutching on the original plot. Why did Jane suddenly go back to the city during the siege? Nothing was accomplished that couldn't have been done back at the estate. The only way it made a particle of sense was to see it as a shoddy adaptation of Jane's post failed-wedding flight. And things just got worse with the faces and the fey queen and demonic possession.
After a strong start, Ironskin was a disappointment. I'll just go watch this episode of The Autobiography of Jane Eyre instead.
*In an earlier draft I accidentally typed "Helen was too groovy." Now I need a disco adaptation of Jane Eyre.