According to the cover blurb, Ironskin is an inverted/reversed Beauty and the Beast tale. It also has echoes of Jane Eyre, though it is actually more Jane Eyre than Beauty and the Beast. Our heroine is a young woman named Jane who had been disfigured during a “Great War” fought against the fae. In order to keep others from being affected by the curse that comes with her disfigurement, she wears an iron mask.
After being fired from several positions due to her disfigurement, she accepts a position as a governess for a child born during the war. The reason why she chooses this position is because she suspects from the advertisement that the child was also cursed. What she finds is that the child actually possesses a number of extremely disturbing fey gifts, gifts that our heroine may not be equipped to handle.
Ironskin is one of those books where I am not sure if I like it or not, even though I thought the book was worth reading. The worldbuilding was interesting, and there are some attempts at humor, mostly echoing the Jane Eyre set up of the novel, but I found it very hard to be sympathetic toward any of the characters. The plot had some effective twists and turns, but I really couldn’t get into the book, for a variety of reasons.
I think part of the reason I disliked the book was because of the interactions between Jane and her charge. I am extremely fond of close student mentor relationships, I really enjoy “miracle worker” story lines–but this situation is a complete reversal of that kind of relationship. Jane isn’t there to help a child learn to help herself, she’s there to make the child act “normal” and stop using abilities which are normal and natural to the child. I am possibly being a little harsh about this, since Jane eventually has a change of heart, but I still found it extremely jarring.
While I didn’t like the book, anyone who is fond of pastiches of classic novels might find this book interesting and even enjoyable to read.