Title: A Skinful of Shadows
Author: Frances Hardinge
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Publish date: September 21, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, paranormal, historical, young adult
My rating: 5/5 stars
Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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.
“Bear, I need your eyes. I need your nose. I need your night-wits and forest-wisdom.”
A Skinful of Shadows was, in short, magical and mesmerizing. This was my first Frances Hardinge book and it absolutely will not be my last. I have been completely taken by her imagination and vivid characters. This is the sort of book that is just as beautiful, if not more so, on the inside as the cover (and just LOOK at that cover!).
We are given an intriguing balancing act of well-researched historical detail surrounding the English civil war and a whimsical, sometimes dark, ghost story. It was such an earthy, autumnal read and getting to experience this book while the leaves were falling outside my window was so incredibly cozy and nostalgic.
The writing is minimalistic enough that it can be easily digested by any level of reader from middle grade and up – and yet it is masterfully crafted and full of beauty that will also appeal to adults who have an appreciation for imaginative stories.
The story is driven by lively characters who will draw you right in with promises of friendship, precarious loyalty, and plenty of secrets and intrigue. Makepeace (which isn’t really her name, though we never get to learn what her true name is) displays a surprising strength and resourcefulness. She may be a small girl with little worldly influence but her wit and patience enable her to accomplish incredible things in an age where girls are considered mostly worthless. The quirky cast of side characters are humorous, not always reliable, and are introduced in such a unique way that I can’t say too much about.
I’m not going to give too much more away because much of my enjoyment was in discovering it for myself and getting carried away by the whimsical details. If you like ghost stories, plucky female protagonists, and an atmospheric historical setting, pick this book up.
Like a call to some wild and beautiful adventure, this book spoke to some deep part of me that dreams of experiencing life with limitless freedom and earthly boundaries. I resonated so strongly with Makepeace every step of the way and she won’t be a character I quickly forget.
Have you had the chance to read any of Frances Hardinge’s books? Let me know in the comments!