Author: Frances Hardinge
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 21/09/17
My rating: ★★★★★
Synopsis from Goodreads:
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.”
I picked this up on a whim just after christmas. Lured in by the stunning cover and green sprayed edges (I’m a sucker for sprayed edges), under the dust jacket is just as beautiful. This is the first book by Frances I’ve read, despite The Lie Tree sitting on my TBR for the last couple of years. I’ll admit, I’ve been reluctant to start them due to the hype surrounding her books. I recently picked it up on the recommendation of Tracey Mathias, I was not disappointed and very quickly got the hype surrounding it.
A Skinful of Shadows is a beautifully dark and weird (I don’t mean this in a bad way) story of Makepeace Lightfoot, set during the English Civil War. Makepeace has got to be one of the most fascinating protagonists I’ve ever met. She was born with the ability to be a host for ghosts, a talent inherited from her father’s side of the family. This is where Bear, a ghost who has taken up residence in Makepeace comes in. She found him while searching for answers and unintentionally let him him in. Makepeace knows nothing about her father apart from the family name until her aunt and uncle send Makepeace to live with the his family (despite her being one of their illegitimate daughters) at Grizehayes after the death of her mother. This is where she meets James, another illegitimate Fellmotte child. It’s not long before Makepeace realises just how far her mother went to hide her from the Fellmottes and their sinister ways.
I can’t get enough of the writing style, I’ve never seen anything quite like it. It took some getting used to, this isn’t a bad thing though. I love finding new ideas and styles within the pages of a book. I’m in awe of how historical fiction, fantasy and the supernatural is seamlessly woven into the story. At times the pacing is slow, though it still demands your attention and has no problem keeping it. Something that’s hard to pull off. One of my favourite things about this book was the strength and resilience Makepeace shows, it’s incredible, no matter how dire her situation becomes she always finds a way to keep going. I adored the relationship between Makepeace and James, the bond they forged while doing their best to get through life with the Fellmotte elders was complex and captivating. But, what I loved more than anything else, was the bond between Makepeace and Bear, I can’t say any more without spoiling it. You’ll see for yourself if you read it.
I thought the ending was a little odd, not in a bad way though. I really liked it and the running theme of everyone deserving a second chance, even when they don’t think they do which is something everyone can relate to on some level. I wish I’d read this sooner, I’ve bumped both The Lie Tree and Fly By Night further up my TBR and will definitely read her other books as soon as possible. I’m also really looking forward to meeting her at YALC in July.