Published by Amulet Books on October 17th 2017
Genres: young adult, fantasy
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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."
There’s just something about Francis Hardinge. I’ve never read a book by her I haven’t liked. I’ve read four, and even the one I DNFed (Fly By Night) I didn’t necessarily dislike. My favorite is still A Face Like Glass, but I’ve enjoyed them all immensely.
A Skinful of Shadows was a little bit darker than the other books of Hardinge’s that I have read. It’s dreary, gothic, and creepily unsettling. Our heroine, Makepeace, can take spirits into her being and allow them to live within her. Her mother tries to teach her to fight them off, but that obviously fails miserably when she takes an abused bear cub spirit into her body. The bear and Makepeace learn to get along, but when Makepeace ends up at the estate her mother fled from, things take a horrible turn. Makepeace’s ancestors have brought her there for a specific reason, and if Makepeace doesn’t do something to stop them, her life may end up being much shorter than she had planned.
Makepeace is plucky, and A Skinful of Shadows is one of many great novels with a feminist theme I have read this year. Women are spies, make decisions, run the kitchens and households, and of course there is the protagonist, who becomes more powerful with every spirit that inhabits her body.
The only thing that kept this from being a GREAT book was the predictable, unsurprising ending. It was wrapped up neatly, and there were no surprising twists. Sometimes I’m fine with this, but after all the build-up and fantastic tension, I just expected a bit more.
I highly recommend this book as an introduction to Hardinge’s work, but you should also read The Lie Tree, or A Face Like Glass. They are ALL great and all would have made me want to read more of her work.