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A Skinful of Shadows

A Skinful of Shadows

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A Skinful of Shadows is yet another beautiful, multi-layered novel by one of the brightest stars in the YA sky. Highly, highly recommended.

Engrossing Non-Scary Books With Ghosts As Main Characters Engrossing Non-Scary Books With Ghosts As Main Characters

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. And Trust was like mould. It accumulated over time in unattended areas. Trusting her was convenient; distrusting her would have been inconvenient and tiresome. Over the years, Makepeace had become encrusted with other people's inattentive trust. This story takes place during the English Civil War (ca. 1640 – 1643) so it takes place roughly 200 years prior to the first novel I read by this author and thus shows quite a different kind of England. The two books are independent of one another. However, they show that the author is good at any historic setting. Battlefields, alleys in Oxford and old manors come to life equally in this tale of ghosts possessing bodies and a little girl losing her way with only an unlikely companion to help her along the way.I think it’s fantastic, just as most of Frances Hardinge’s books are. And yes, as long as she keeps writing, I’ll remain her faithful reader. The magic system in this book was new to me. Makepeace’s rebellion against Fellmote is quite inspiring. She takes some great decision many times but at others her naïve and honest self puts her in dangerous situation. It was a remarkable journey of a girl who wanted to be loved but got herself tangled in the power struggle of Fellmotte family and then later on English civil war. Also, I loved how Makepeace’s transition from a timid girl to a clever girl. I was worried for her survival but the author made her change flawless. It was not sudden but gradual hence so believable.

A Skinful of Shadows Frances Hardinge on the inspiration for A Skinful of Shadows

Here is the story of a girl whose mind can be inhabited by ghosts - a family characteristic of the aristocratic Fellmottes, and one highly prized in both its heirs and bastards (who are not so much expendable as...harvestable). One of the latter, Makepeace grows up unaware of her connection to the family, knowing only that she suffers from nightmares, that she senses bad things in cemeteries, that her mother has secrets. Frances Hardinge is an amazing writer. She is one of my favorites when it comes to word-smithing; never purple, but frequently vivid and full of emotional shading. Unfortunately, she tends to be the fantasy equivalent of Tana French: stories filled with a foreboding atmosphere, enough struggle to make one despair, and characters one would rather avoid.

One of the best books ever written when it comes to non-scary books about ghosts. At least according to me and the legions of fans of Neil Gaiman and his absolute classic The Graveyard Book. This goes deep into the character in other ways too: does she deserve a second chance? She doesn’t know but she knows she wants to live. That principle, the urge to live, shapes other characters’ motivations too and the cost can be high. To some is death. To other, losing something far more precious. The allure of power to those who don’t usually have it is looked at with down-to-earth lenses and over and over, Makepeace decides to trust people and to believe them. On that note, I also loved the protagonist Makepeace, who exhibits uncommon bravery in the face of the unknown. All her life, she has been surrounded by lies, even from her own mother, who was admittedly just trying to protect her. Still, by withholding the truth, Margaret has only managed to make her daughter more defiant, and like most confused adolescents, Makepeace occasionally lets her temper get the better of her. Still, instead of turning me off, the protagonist’s little acts of defiance only endeared her even more to me, because it made her feel genuine and easily relatable.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Her first fantasy novel for children, Fly By Night (2005), set in an alternative 17 th century, won the Branford Boase Award for outstanding debut novel. Its more comical sequel, Twilight Robbery (2011), again with lead characters teenage runaway Mosca Mye and charlatan poet Eponymous Clent, was shortlisted for the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. 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. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it's too late . . .At the 2015 Costa Book of the Year Awards she won the children’s book of the year award as well the overall prize for her novel The Lie Tree. Ingeniously infusing a Victorian era crime murder mystery with fantasy elements, its teenage heroine Faith finds herself also grappling with the Darwinian struggle between science and religion. A Skinful of Shadows was published in 2017. Like in the The Lie Tree Hardinge brings this historical period to intricate life, but not without keeping the story suspenseful as Makepeace's family are revealed in their full horrific detail. Her journey is an interesting one for YA in that the issue is not so much about defining her identity, but the much more basic one of whether she is entitled to an identity separate from that of her family at all. Hardinge does not recycle her settings and ideas. In every book she creates something new, unique and complex, with solid internal rules and consistency, fleshed-out so well that these worlds feel alive and real. She does not fall prey to tropes and always takes her stories somewhere you wouldn’t be able to predict from the get-go. A Skinful of Shadows starts out very solid as we learn about our lead gals odd ghost 'issues'. Her Mother that appears cruel and the Aunt and Uncle who have no interest in her sets our lead gal up as a neglected, alone and forgotten soul. Not unlike some ghost/spirits might be. With time, Hardinge’s books have become darker, more serious and more atmospheric. She takes on societal prejudices, opinion echo chambers, shifting loyalties, and the need for periodic well-aimed subversion. She excels at difficult emotions and situations - betrayal, fear, loss, longing, pain. Even supposedly happy endings are bittersweet ( Everyone but Bear has either betrayed Makepeace or misjudged her, and even her love for her brother James seemed to be really borne out of loneliness) — but that’s what makes them feel real and earned, as opposed to cotton candy-like sweetness some writers choose to please the readers. Me, I’ll take Hardinge’s darker and greyer shades of ambiguity any day.

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