Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows (sampler)

skinful cover

A Skinful of Shadows

Written by Francis Hardinge

416 pages

Published by Macmillian

Age range: YA, 12 +

Summary: (from Goodreads)

Frances Hardinge weaves another darkly extraordinary tale in A Skinful of Shadows, her follow up to the Costa Award-winning novel The Lie Tree

‘Hardinge is an unusual talent who deserves to be read by children and adults alike’

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.

‘Let me tell you a story,’ she began, as she occasionally did when there were serious matters to discuss. ‘ There was a little girl lost in the woods, who was chased by a wolf. She ran and ran until her feet were torn, but she knew that the wolf had her scent and was still coming after her. In the end she had to make a choice. She could keep on running and hiding and running forever, or she could stop and sharpen a stick to defend herself with. What do you think was the right decision, Makepeace?’

Makepeace could tell that this was not just a story, and that the answer mattered a great deal.

I am beyond excited for this book!

Frances Hardinge is one author whose books I will buy on sight, based on the wonderful experience  I have had with previous books of hers.

My personal favourite is Cuckoo Song as, you know, I love fairytales far too much. I also loved The Lie Tree.

When Netgalley offered this extract (the first 64 pages) I jumped at the chance. The story hooked me in straight away and I can’t wait until the book is published next month. I will come back and update this review once I have finished the entire book.

We are introduced to Makepeace, a young girl being raised in a puritan community near London. She has horrible nightmares which make her relatives uneasy, leading to her mother forcing her to face up to and fight the spirits she believes are trying to possess her.

The first five chapters introduced just enough to get me hooked so I was really frustrated when the sampler ended – please hurry up 21st September so I can read the rest!

They understood something together at that moment, Makepeace and Bear. Sometimes you had to be patient through pain, or people gave you more pain. Sometimes you had to weather everything and take your bruises. If you were lucky, and if everyone though you were tamed and trained…there might come a time when you could strike.

What I liked: Makepeace’s character, the ghost of the Bear, the historical details, the set-up for what is sure to be an intriguing mystery.

Even better if: 5 chapters is just enough to cruelly tantalize you with the story – need the rest as soon as possible!

How you could use it in your classroom: Like many other books by Frances Hardinge I am sure this will be widely read and enjoyed by a variety of reader. She often deals with complex issues which could lead to discussion in class.

(Thank you to Netgalley and Macmillan for my review copy)


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