Morning mortals! Frances Hardinge was a new author to me this year (one of a whole host actually! I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Lie Tree earlier in the year, so when I saw A Skinful of Shadows in all of it’s gorgeous hardback glory on sale in Foyles I just couldn’t resist!
This is the story of a bear-hearted girl . . .
Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.
Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.
Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.
And now there’s a spirit inside her.
The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father’s rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.
But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.
Suffice to say, The Lie Tree was not a one off. Hardinge has some of the most engaging and evocative writing I have come across this entire year. She has a way of creating these historical, somewhat gothic scenes will oodles of fantasy thrown in that still somehow feel entirely real. The backdrop of the civil war was perfect for this story and did take me back to my A level history a little (not that you need any kind of British history to get what’s going on).
Makepeace is a wonderfully written character. She could easily have fallen into either the trap of being a clichéd strong female character or she could have been a real Mary Sue. But she’s neither. She has times where she starts to feel like the best parts of both of those stereotypes, never too much of either. I thought her development throughout the story was one of the most powerful (and yet believable) character arcs I have read in any book this year.
This is a story to be told around the campfire, while the night is drawing in. It’s deliciously dark, full of ghosts and fear. But there’s a current of hope running through it all, promising that somehow everything will be alright.
Another great thing? No romance! None whatsoever! It made me beyond ecstatic to have a book where our female heroine had more to worry about than falling in love with the first brooding male she met. Happy sigh.
I’ve read a lot of books with witches or witchiness in them (this isn’t strictly a witch novel but it’s the closest comparison I’m comfortable making) and this is one of the absolute best. It’s the perfect grounding of a real world historical setting with fantastical elements knitted seamlessly into the story.
This book is why I am adding Frances Hardinge to my ‘auto purchase’ authors list. So far both the books I have read have been absolutely wonderful and I can’t wait to read more.
My rating: 5/5 stars
All opinions are my own.
Any idea which Hardinge book I should read next? Let me know in the comments below!