A Skinful of Shadows

A Skinful of Shadows

A Skinful of Shadows
Frances Hardinge

Macmillan

ISBN 9781509837540

The stunning story of a young girl's quest to shape her own destiny from the author of The Lie Tree, winner of the Costa Prize 2015

Librarian's Book choice


Reviews

A Skinful of Shadows5/5

A Skinful of Shadows

Frances Hardinge

Review

In A Skinful of Shadows, Frances Hardinge returns to that blend of historical fiction and fantasy which she does so well - her previous book The Lie Tree won the Costa Award two years ago. This time instead of the Victorian era, Hardinge takes us to seventeenth century Britain and the Civil War. Into this setting she brings Makepeace, a child whose background is a mystery but who seems to have a special talent with the spirits of the dead.... A wealthy, powerful family the Fellmottes want to use those talents to further their own ends, something that would commit Makepeace to a life in the shadows. Can her skills together with the help of a bear, a doctor and an ancient Fellmotte spirit, give Makepeace a chance to save her soul?

Hardinge is so skilful at weaving her characters into their setting and here it is seamless as Makepeace traverses the English countryside, weaving in and out of the Royalist and Parliamentarian lines, meeting families, soldiers and nobility. The details in the clothes worn, the food eaten and the households we are introduced to give an incredible richness to the story.

The extraordinary changes of the time leading up to the collapse of the old order are mirrored through Makepeace's own search for survival and hope. She is an appealing character who grows through her struggles and her attempts to understand and master her ability to 'house' the spirits of the dead. It is also a story of redemption; Makepeace creates chaos, not peace, but she and other characters must find ways to discover peace within themselves.

This is another very special book from Hardinge; its characters, richness of detail and atmosphere will stay with you.

432 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Alison Hall.

Reviewed by: Alison Hall


A Skinful of Shadows5/5

A Skinful of Shadows

Frances Hardinge

Review

I'll lay my stall out here and now, I find Frances Hardinge an excellent writer, her prose is eloquent and descriptive and takes you precisely to that moment, that place. Her tales are woven with gorgeous gothic darkness and her imagination a pure delight - but I do find myself having to work initially to stay with the book while it gets going, while I fully engage, which in a busy world is fraught with temptation (I feel almost blasphemous typing that!). If I didn't have to write a review, would my gaze be drawn elsewhere?

That's an unfair question because yes, yes I would because I know Hardinge to be a skilful weaver of tales and the build-up always worthwhile, for what is a house without foundations? However, A Skinful of Shadows whisked me up from the start. Maybe I was in a different frame of mind, maybe I've matured.

Set around 1642 (*briefly checks history books for a feel of the age) with a Civil War on the horizon and witch hunting a profession, it doesn't bode well for 12 year old Makepeace who is tormented by the whispering, crackling tendrils of spirits who try to possess her in the night. She equips herself well and manages to defend herself until a day when, taken quite by surprise, she unwittingly allows one in. Sent to live with her father's influential and wealthy family, Makepeace comes to understand the seat of their power and their hideous secret and together with her spirit (who is as much a part of her as life itself), must find a way to survive.

Pure Hardinge! Malign characters and Machiavellian scheming rub shoulders with the innocence and earnestness of Makepeace. Quite delightful!(I've put the genre as 'fairytale' but it could just as easily be any number of others!)

432 pages / Ages 11+ / Reviewed by Catherine Purcell, school librarian.

Reviewed by: Catherine Purcell