Title: A Skinful of Shadows
Author: Frances Hardinge
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction/Horror/Fantasy
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
Frances Hardinge won my heart last year when I read her US debut, The Lie Tree, and then later on, A Face Like Glass, with the gorgeous prose and twisty, daring plots, as well as well-thought out, exciting worldbuilding. So, when I heard that she had a new book coming out in October 2017, I was so excited that I reserved at my local library immediately. It took a while to get to me, and it sat in my library stack for a while. I had one last renewal on it, so I pushed it to the top of the stack and got started with it as soon as I finished the book I’d been reading. I was immediately captivated by the book; the writing was beautiful, I was immediately intrigued by the time period it was set in, and the fierce, secretly powerful Makepeace, a simple Puritan girl thrown into a dangerous game of political intrigue, war, deadly secrets, and ghosts! I loved every moment of it, and it’s currently my favorite of Hardinge’s work that I’ve read.
Makepeace is a bear-hearted girl whose hardened mother has trained her to fight back against newly dead spirits who long to inhabit the empty spaces in her body. When the worst kind of tragedy strikes and shatters her tiny world, she is captured by her late father’s family, to be used for their own ends. Deep inside the ancient castle of Grizehayes, she finds an older brother, as well as dark, deadly secrets as old as the estate itself. But when her father’s family begins to set cold, dead eyes on her, Makepeace must reach deep inside herself for the strength she never knew she had, and trust even her deadliest enemies…
I really, really enjoyed this book; it was worth waiting for. Rife with political intrigue, lush prose, gorgeous details, and memorable characters, A Skinful of Shadows was quite the genre-bender. It somehow straddled the lines between historical fiction, gothic fiction, horror, and fantasy, and I loved every moment of it. I was drawn into Makepeace’s world at once, captivated by her journey and her character development. She transforms from a frightened, timid little girl who becomes a pawn in multiple political games to a powerful young woman who isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if it means risking her life in the process. She is a character that will live on in my heart forever. The pacing was breakneck and the book grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go. I also really liked the way the book was formatted, divided by the different personas that Makepeace used to get to the bottom of the mystery and save the only living kin that she has. I also loved the ghosts themselves that take up residence in her body; they each had different and lively personalities, and I loved the way that they all united to help Makepeace in her quest for freedom and self-reliance. I also really enjoyed the historical period that the book was set in, one I’ve been fascinated with since I’ve started studying Queen Mary of Scots: The English Civil War. And that ending—I loved the resolution of it all! A Skinful of Shadows is my favorite of Frances Hardinge’s books, and she’s become one of my favorite authors recently. What a dark and achingly lovely tale of horror and war! The bottom line: A beautifully written tale of gothic horror set in one of England’s most tempestuous times in history, I loved A Skinful of Shadows—one of my favorite books by Frances Hardinge! Next on deck: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis!