A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge
|A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: Linda Lawlor|
|Summary: Luscious phrasing, a mind-bogglingly original premise and another of those sturdy young heroines who face all manner of perils with courage, determination and ingenuity – a sure-fire winner of a tale!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 432||Date: September 2017|
|External links: [www.franceshardinge.com Author's website]|
Once again the vivid and decidedly quirky imagination of Frances Hardinge has produced a story which grips the reader while he or she is reading it, and remains in the memory long after the book has been replaced on the shelf. This time the English Civil War is erupting and we meet Makepeace, whose gift (or curse, depending on your perspective) means she has a space inside her where ghosts can hide. Her first guest is a large, angry bear which has spent its unhappy life being seriously ill-treated, and much of her energy in the earlier part of the story is given over to stopping it using her body to rampage around smashing everything and everyone in sight.
Of itself that could provide enough material for a book or two, but the able Ms Hardinge then gives the story a sinister twist as our heroine moves to the ancestral home of her father's family. Those ancient walls conceal a grim and dreadful secret, and Makepeace soon finds that she is faced with a choice between allowing her body to be used at the service of the mystery, or death. It's not by any means an easy choice, and the sheer horror of what is expected of her means the book would probably better suit confident readers at the upper end of the age – or maturity – scale. It gets seriously creepy once or twice, and although there is plenty of humour (one of Makepeace's later inhabitants, an elderly gentleman, finds his situation most disturbing and doesn't hesitate to say so) the premise has all sorts of complex ramifications.
Cracking good stories full of likeable but eccentric characters and memorably bizarre situations aren't enough for this gifted author, however. Her use of language is striking: colourful, poetic, unconventional and flamboyant by turns, it makes you want to rattle through the story once to find out what happens, then go back immediately and read it slowly in order to savour the delicious phrasing. London is described as a smoky mass of menace and promise, whispers lick at your ears, and water gives a sabre-flash of reflected moonlight. Phrases to repeat and ponder.
Ms Hardinge has justifiably been shortlisted for several awards, and if you don't already know her work it's well worth seeking out her other books. Bookbag particularly enjoyed Cuckoo Song, about a girl whose world inexplicably changes after an accident, A Face Like Glass set in a world where babies are born without facial expressions, Fly By Night and its sequel Twilight Robbery which recount the adventures of conman's assistant Mosca and her homicidal pet goose and, of course, the famed The Lie Tree (overall winner of the Costa Book Awards 2015) about a most unusual plant. You see what we mean about a vivid imagination?
You can read more book reviews or buy A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge at Amazon.com.
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