Saturday 18 November 2017

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge    {Reviewed by STELLA}
A Skinful of Shadows is an immensely compelling novel for children and adults alike. Like Philip PullmanFrances Hardinge creates wonderful characters, intriguing plots, and ideas that will stay with you long after you shut the covers. In 2015, she won Costa Book of Year in 2015 with The Lie Tree, an intriguing tale of truth, science and faith set in the Victorian era on a remote island (his is now available in a deluxe edition with illustrations by Chris Riddell). A Skinful of Shadows is set in England in the 1640s, the Civil War is brewing, Puritans and Catholics are at loggerheads, and so is the King and parliament. In a small village called Popular, Makepeace lives with her mother. Making a piecemeal living from lace-making and odd jobs, they live in a small barren room in the home of her aunt and uncle, barely accepted by them or the village. When her mother dies, Makepeace is sent to the home of the aristocratic Fellmotte family, where she becomes a kitchen skivvy. Makepeace, an illegitimate child, has the Fellmotte gene, one that enables them to possess ghosts. The Fellmottes have dangerous and dark plans for her - ones that will consume her in their obsession to preserve the family line, the Fellmotte power and property. Not everyone is an enemy, though, and she makes plans with her half-brother James to escape Grizehayes. After many failed attempts, the chaos of the Civil War gives them the perfect opportunity to escape. When James lets her down, Makepeace finds herself in an even more precarious situation, but with the help of a bear and her overwhelming desire to survive she begins a journey across England to find a document worth more than gold, a document that will grant her freedom from the Fellmotte family and ensure their fall from grace. Like all good mysteries, there are plenty of turns and forks on the road, and those that help and those that hinder. Yet the more intriguing elements are those that involve the ghosts or the souls that are possess, some of which are malevolent, others helpful. Makepeace is an excellent heroine and her relationship with Bear is endearing. A story about power, possession and purpose, it’s on my list of excellent children’s books of 2017.

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