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A Skinful of Shadows Paperback – June 11, 2019
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"A delicious combination of historical adventure, coming-of-age tale, and supernatural intrigue."
"Hardinge's plot is both unpredictable and rock-solid, her settings full of smells, her imagery vivid . . . Deliberate, impeccable, and extraordinary."
"A Skinful of Shadows is outlandishly creative and thoroughly blood-chilling. Her storytelling is visceral and unfurls at an exciting pace, making this novel a wonderful, weird and terrifying addition to her body of work."
"Hardinge’s writing is stunning, and readers will be taken hostage by its intensity, fascinating developments, and the fierce, compassionate girl leading the charge."
"Makepeace is a resourceful, brave, and intelligent protagonist, and readers will root for her and James’s triumph over the Fellmotte ghosts. The visceral immediacy of Hardinge’s prose . . . can sometimes be unsettling, but the prose itself is always original and invigorating."
About the Author
- Grade Level : 8 and up
- Item Weight : 15.2 ounces
- Paperback : 448 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1419733761
- ISBN-13 : 978-1419733765
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 1.4 x 8.25 inches
- Publisher : Harry N. Abrams; Reprint Edition (June 11, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Reading level : 13 and up
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,336,289 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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I’m not one for ghost tales in general, but this plot for this one tethered me.
A necromancy of a sort is practiced by a high holding family steeped with legacy and secrets. A young bastard girl is sucked into this family drama after losing her mother and sent to them, her fatherhood’s family.
A bubbling war bursts upon the country and matches the battles that have been simmering within the confines of the family’s estate. The girl has been kept more like a prisoner and house servant than any sort of family member. The war provides an opportunity to escape and along the way she learns some terrible family secrets that ignite the will to endure and rise above the curse of her family.
This author creates a new way to look at ghosts and spirits and the vessels that can store them. I would love to keep reading about the characters- even if some of the Puritan names drive me a little crazy.
The ending had all the feels and propped me up for more!
She definitely didn’t disappoint.
Hardinge knows how to tell a frickin story.
Just read it. I promise you won’t regret it.
The concept is fascinating: a young girl discovers she can sense spirits, which is terrifying in and of itself. However, it turns out she can also house those spirits within herself, and the spirits know it. Desperate to “relocate” and hang onto human life a little longer, they pester her and torment her, forcing her to learn how to fend them off. In fact, her mother forces her into a graveyard regularly to practice, despite how much she hates doing so, and though she resents her mother for putting her through this, it eventually makes her strong enough to fend for herself against much older and stronger specters, the likes of which she never imagined.
So much prospect in this story, but ultimately it fell a bit flat for me. Makepeace is an interesting character, and I admire her moxie. She is served up a rather difficult existence from the get, but she never gives into despair, always strategizing for the long-term goal. However, the other characters were rather despicable, even those who we are to believe are redeemed. I suspect that I was supposed to come back around and forgive a certain character (trying to avoid spoilers here), but the truth is, I never liked him to begin with, and the close relationship Makepeace was supposed to share with him was never fleshed out enough to feel like anything.
It was weird, and I generally like weird. But I think I expected spooky or creepy, and it certainly wasn’t that. Since The Lie Tree was slow to boil, I anticipated the same with this book, but at some point, I started to wonder if the burner was even on. It just never got beyond lukewarm for me.
In a word: meh.
Note: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley. I pride myself on writing fair and honest reviews.
I think the reason I love her novels is the same reason I love Hayao Miyazaki's films. There's a bit of fantasy, a bit of fairy tale, and a whole lot of mind-blowing originality and imagination. And really interesting female main characters. I loved Mosca in Fly by Night, and I loved Makepeace here. I was completely swept away on her journey as she discovered her strange skill, and the plans her elders had to use it for their own gain. And, of course, the writing is amazing. I'd give it 10 stars, if I could.
Top reviews from other countries
A tale of ghosts and the beginning of the English Civil War, at the story's heart is Makepeace, a girl (spoiler alert for those who haven't read the dust-jacket) cursed or perhaps blessed with the ability to see ghosts and to let them dwell within her. Like many of Hardinge's heroines, Makepeace is clever, brave, insightful and almost no-one recognises her worth. Luckily she is joined by an unexpected ally who becomes a protector and, more than that, allows Makepeace to unleash her own fierceness as she battles against oppression, a truly horrible fate and the arrogant assumptions of an ancient noble family.
As with Terry Pratchett, behind Frances Hardinge's well-chosen words and compelling plots lurks a properly righteous anger at injustice and oppression and an urge to stand up for the weak against the strong. She also knows that the occasional joke in no way lessens the seriousness of a piece of art.
TL; DR? - It's a great book, you should read it.
The ancient ghosts that haunt the aristocratic Felmottes and their centuries of ancestors, lingering on through the stuffy traditions of Royalist ardour, convey Hardinge's acute sense of social breakdown at the heart of the English Civil War. Fantasy sniffs out the real friction of class inequality in moving and subtle ways and, just because you might think that Lady April (any relation to Mrs May?), with her age-old wisdom, should know better than to walk towards a lighted fuse wire moving rapidly towards large kegs of dynamite, the language will hit you with an even bigger bang: 'The embroidered silver cross spilt over the edge of the altar like the cleft in a tongue'. The suggestion of demonic intent lurking behind an inverted religious icon is truly creepy. There is much to keep the reader hooked here, not least in the deep understanding Hardinge has of the power of the peacemaker in Makepeace. Biffo the bear gives some pretty big biffs to ward off the foul Felmotte freaks, but beyond the strength Bear wields is the greater power of the girl, who understands that if communities cannot live side by side, then you need to carry one inside you and, after all the bickering and hissy fits are done, something like peace and reconciliation in our time, as well as hers, might not just be a dream.
No matter how dark things get—and believe it, this story gets very dark and very creepy indeed—within the dark there is light, there is love and there is an underlying moral compass (and if ‘moral compass’ sounds pious, it’s not—here it’s a lively, intelligent, very practical thing). She explores the political machinations of the time and the ordinary people caught in the squeeze. The human relationships are complex, rife with tension and, as such, believable. She creates profound connections to the natural world without sentimentality. Makepeace’s poignant alliance with Bear, a case in point; as is the mouse in the graveyard. This book, like her others, stirs the emotions and challenges you to think. All these elements are seamlessly weaved into a great, exciting adventure—there’s no dearth of action. Makepeace is a scrappy, resilient heroine who has the wit to see what needs to be done and the gumption to do it, even when it terrifies her. You’re rooting for her all the way.
This is beautifully written, classic fiction. Not just for YA, but for those of us who have left our YA years far behind.
In Skinful, Hardinge employs the effusive style of language her fans known and love. It is full of rich descriptions and original, inventive metaphor. It’s clear its author is someone who loves words.
Unlike her previous work, Hardinge only develops one fantastical element. Without giving away too much of the plot, it has a heroine whose family has a unique relationship with the dead. Rather than her usual style of developing many such elements, Skinful simply follows this one down all of the paths it can lead.
But that doesn’t make Skinful one-dimensional. As well as the fantasy element it explores its real life historical setting – the early part of the English Civil War. Hardinge is known for her exploration of political issues through her fantasy settings. In an echo of our times, Civil War England is a place of extreme polarisation. Royalists and Parliamentarians are each convinced of their righteousness and the others corruption. Hardinge’s heroine has to pass through each world and ultimately rejects both.
It is a great read for any YA (or adult!) reader.