A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

A Skinful of Shadows

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. A...

Title:A Skinful of Shadows
Author:
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Edition Language:English

A Skinful of Shadows Reviews

  • Justine

    Amazing. Incredible. Fabulous.

    A Skinful of Shadows is everything I know Hardinge is capable of. The story is creepy and brilliant, but heartfelt and emotive. I loved the main character, Makepeace, but as is usual for Frances Hardinge, all of her characters are vivid and filled with life. No complaints about the quality of the writing either; it is a joy to read.

    This is a great book for Hardinge fans, but also a wonderful starting place if you haven't read her before. As expected, this one is go

    Amazing. Incredible. Fabulous.

    A Skinful of Shadows is everything I know Hardinge is capable of. The story is creepy and brilliant, but heartfelt and emotive. I loved the main character, Makepeace, but as is usual for Frances Hardinge, all of her characters are vivid and filled with life. No complaints about the quality of the writing either; it is a joy to read.

    This is a great book for Hardinge fans, but also a wonderful starting place if you haven't read her before. As expected, this one is going directly on my favourites 2017 shelf.

  • Lucy Banks

    I read Frances Hardinge's

    a while back and really enjoyed it, so was hoping for something similar in this latest book. I certainly wasn't disappointed!

    The story (so far) follows Makepeace, a strange young girl with the ability to see dead things. Except, these aren't the sort of ghosts you'd want to meet on a dark night - we're tal

    I read Frances Hardinge's

    a while back and really enjoyed it, so was hoping for something similar in this latest book. I certainly wasn't disappointed!

    The story (so far) follows Makepeace, a strange young girl with the ability to see dead things. Except, these aren't the sort of ghosts you'd want to meet on a dark night - we're talking wild, dangerous wisps that try to enter her mind and take over. Her mother tells her to arm herself against these spirits, before dying herself - which leaves Makepeace at the mercy of her father's strange and sinister family...

    There's much about these opening chapters to completely love - not least Hardinge's ability to weave extraordinary ideas into her tales. Words cannot express how much I loved the idea of the ghost bear (without spoiling too much) - such a stunning depiction, and such an unusual angle to come from. I was growing to love Makepeace too - the author seems to have a knack of portraying awkward, yet highly intelligent young girls.

    My appetite was very much whetted by this sampler - more please, and soon!

  • Helen

    Frances Hardinge's latest offering certainly didn't disappoint, in fact, she may just be one of my new favourite authors. Her writing is so original, innovative and

    , I don’t know where she gets all her ideas from but I’m praying she never runs out. This novel blends historical fiction with the supernatural, and the pair get along famously. The central character is Makepeace, a girl who grew up in a Puritan community in the years leading up to the English Civil War in the 1640s. After t

    Frances Hardinge's latest offering certainly didn't disappoint, in fact, she may just be one of my new favourite authors. Her writing is so original, innovative and

    , I don’t know where she gets all her ideas from but I’m praying she never runs out. This novel blends historical fiction with the supernatural, and the pair get along famously. The central character is Makepeace, a girl who grew up in a Puritan community in the years leading up to the English Civil War in the 1640s. After the death of her mother, she is taken in by her formerly estranged father’s family, the Fellmottes. She soon discovers that the members of this ancient, aristocratic family have the ability to capture, and be used as a vessel for, spirits, and that maybe there was more behind her mother’s decision to hide Makepeace from them than she realised. Before she even has a chance to understand her gift, Makepeace is inhabited by the violent spirit of a murdered circus bear, who she henceforth has to share her head-space with, and, although it may sound ridiculous, Hardinge managed to develop their initial animosity toward each other into a genuine, and quite moving, friendship. The Fellmottes are quickly revealed to have sinister plans in store for Makepeace and her abilities, and her bear becomes her faithful guardian and the only one in the world she can trust.

    Makepeace has the trademark of all Hardinge’s heroines; she’s resourceful, curious and recognises her differences as her greatest strengths. The narrative is incredibly absorbing and while the plot is driven by the feud between Makepeace and the Fellmottes over her supernatural abilities, there are still numerous references to the historical context and, more than anything, it is the brutality of the Civil War that really sets the tone of the story. Hardinge ultimately seems to have a rather scathing assessment of both sides in the conflict, with characters like Livewell, the disillusioned Puritan, and Symond, the Royalist who becomes a Parliamentarian simply to be free of his duties as a Fellmotte, illustrating that no side had the monopoly on righteous ideology and each was spouting their own version of ‘fake news’.

    Hardinge creates such a richly enchanting atmosphere and brings the terror of the Fellmottes and the violence of the Civil War to life so vividly that I was barely able to put this book down. A very memorable read.

  • Nina (Every Word A Doorway)

    I've read a chapter sampler of

    , and it was a delight to read. Set in historical England, the sampler was a wonderful introduction to a kind-hearted but fierce main character, an intriguing element of magical realism, and exquisite writing. Though these chapters foreshadowed a dark plot of hardship, struggle, and pain, this story has the potential to be a magnificent epitome to strength in kindess and in friendship. I'm looking forward to the release of the full and final cop

    I've read a chapter sampler of

    , and it was a delight to read. Set in historical England, the sampler was a wonderful introduction to a kind-hearted but fierce main character, an intriguing element of magical realism, and exquisite writing. Though these chapters foreshadowed a dark plot of hardship, struggle, and pain, this story has the potential to be a magnificent epitome to strength in kindess and in friendship. I'm looking forward to the release of the full and final copy.

  • Mogsy (MMOGC)

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Frances Hardinge’s A Face like Glass, and afterward I just knew I had to read more of her work. Because of this, I picked up the audiobook of A Skinful of Shadows, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. The book turned out to be one of the most wonderfully magical and imaginative Young Adult novels I’ve ever read—in other words, everything I expected from the author.

    Se

    4.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum

    Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Frances Hardinge’s A Face like Glass, and afterward I just knew I had to read more of her work. Because of this, I picked up the audiobook of A Skinful of Shadows, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. The book turned out to be one of the most wonderfully magical and imaginative Young Adult novels I’ve ever read—in other words, everything I expected from the author.

    Set in the mid-17th century in the time of the English Civil War, the story stars our protagonist Makepeace who lives with her mother Margaret in the very Puritan town of Poplar. For as long as she can remember, terrible ghostly figures and other tortured spirits have haunted Makepeace’s dreams, but Margaret has remained stubbornly tightlipped about the topic, even when it is clear she knows why the dead are interested in her daughter. Instead, Margaret forces Makepeace to spend one night every few months locked up by herself in the darkness of the town’s cemetery crypt, telling the girl she must confront her fears in order to build stronger defenses against the ghosts. “One day you will thank me,” Margaret tells her daughter, but as the years pass, Makepeace grows more resentful of the cruel treatment, and the relationship with her mother was never the same again.

    Then one day, during a particularly bitter argument, Margaret accidentally lets slip an important piece of information about Makepeace’s father, a subject rarely spoken of in their household. This precipitates a chain of tragic events that leads Makepeace to the discovery of where she came from, as well as the origin behind her nightmares. Never did she imagine that the truth would be so terrible though, as she suddenly realizes the forces of evil her mother had been trying to protect her from. Understanding much too late, Makepeace lets her guard down in a moment of weakness, unwittingly allowing a ghost to invade her mind—except this ghost is different from the ones she has encountered before, being the spirit of a frightened, angry bear.

    One thing I’ve learned from reading Hardinge is that you can never predict how her stories will play out. When I first read an early synopsis for this book which describes Makepeace and the ghosts in her head—which includes a motley crew of outcasts, misfits, criminals and one dead bear—I had no idea what I was going to be in for. I certainly did not expect the plot to be so darkly twisted and yet so whimsically magical at the same time. The ideas in A Skinful of Shadows are astonishing in their originality and complexity, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read a YA novel that isn’t clogged t0 the gills with rehashed tropes and paint-by-number characters.

    On that note, I also loved the protagonist Makepeace, who exhibits uncommon bravery in the face of the unknown. All her life, she has been surrounded by lies, even from her own mother, who was admittedly just trying to protect her. Still, by withholding the truth, Margaret has only managed to make her daughter more defiant, and like most confused adolescents, Makepeace occasionally lets her temper get the better of her. Still, instead of turning me off, the protagonist’s little acts of defiance only endeared her even more to me, because it made her feel genuine and easily relatable.

    As a coming-of-age tale, this book really shines in showing the emotional impact of living a life caught in the middle. Makepeace has never felt like she belonged in Poplar, and later finds out that her ability to see ghosts and absorb them into herself is the result of her father’s bloodline. And yet, when she finds herself at Grizehayes, the ancestral home of her father’s family, she is quite horrified to discover what exactly her powers can be used for. Worst of all, instead of finding acceptance with others like her, she is threatened and manipulated, and the only person she ends up trusting is a half-brother named James, who shows her kindness.

    And then, of course, there’s the bear. Out of all of Makepeace’s relationships, the one she has with her ghostly beast passenger was by far my favorite—and not just because it’s so strange and wonderful. Having the spirit of a wild animal in your head is as scary as it sounds, but eventually a deep rapport forms between the two of them, with Makepeace trusting the bear’s instincts and “forest wisdom” to guide her. For a companion who isn’t even human, and mainly only communicates with our protagonist through senses and emotions, bear was a surprisingly deep and heartfelt character.

    This is only my second novel by Frances Hardinge, but I already feel confident in saying this is not a fluke. She is one of the most creative storytellers I’ve ever read, with a clear talent for crafting strong and evocative narratives whose depth of emotion will stun you. A Skinful of Shadows has firmly placed her on my must-read authors list, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll write next.

    Audiobook Comments: Absolutely loved the audiobook. The narrator Hallie Ricardo did a great job and she has an amazing range of voices which really brought all the characters to life. Highly recommended.

  • Emma

    November 2017

    I always knew I would be reading this book after being lucky enough to read the sampler from Netgalley back in the summer. And what a wonderful treat of a book this was. Set during the English civil war, at the height of witch hunts, comes the story of a family with a very unusual gift. Makepeace, our main heroine, was an excellent character and her journey to maturity and peace is a difficult one for her but a terribly satisfying one for the reader. And what a wonderful set of comp

    November 2017

    I always knew I would be reading this book after being lucky enough to read the sampler from Netgalley back in the summer. And what a wonderful treat of a book this was. Set during the English civil war, at the height of witch hunts, comes the story of a family with a very unusual gift. Makepeace, our main heroine, was an excellent character and her journey to maturity and peace is a difficult one for her but a terribly satisfying one for the reader. And what a wonderful set of companions to travel with!

    Highly recommended.

    This was a 5 chapter sampler given by Netgalley as an ARC. It was great! This in itself is no surprise if you have read

    by the same author.

    Makepeace our young main character hasn't had a happy life so far, being raised by a loveless mother within a puritanical family. This is set in the past in a time of superstition and ghosts, where things go bump in the night. Her mother seems to be training Makepeace to endure the presence of ghosts but this is cut short by ma' s untimely demise. Makepeace is sent to her relative Obadiah- and there is a strong sense of danger around her. She is exhibiting aggressive behaviour, linked to a recent entanglement with the ghost of a bear and she fears Obadiah could have her persecuted as a witch or sent to Bedlam. Just at the point where it starts to get really interesting, where Makepeace works out what has happened and starts to communicate with the bear, the sampler finished. How frustrating! I can't wait to get stuck in where the sampler left off.

  • Kath (sheturnspages)

    A Skinful of Shadows was, in short, magical and mesmerizing. This was my first Frances Hardinge book and it absolutely will not be my last. I have been completely taken by her imagination and vivid characters. This is the sort of book that is just as beautiful, if not more so, on the inside as the cover (and just LOOK at that cover!).

    We are given an intriguing balancing act of well-researched historical detail s

    A Skinful of Shadows was, in short, magical and mesmerizing. This was my first Frances Hardinge book and it absolutely will not be my last. I have been completely taken by her imagination and vivid characters. This is the sort of book that is just as beautiful, if not more so, on the inside as the cover (and just LOOK at that cover!).

    We are given an intriguing balancing act of well-researched historical detail surrounding the English civil war and a whimsical, sometimes dark, ghost story. It was such an earthy, autumnal read and getting to experience this book while the leaves were falling outside my window was so incredibly cozy and nostalgic.

    The writing is minimalistic enough that it can be easily digested by any level of reader from middle grade and up - and yet it is masterfully crafted and full of beauty that will also appeal to adults who have an appreciation for imaginative stories.

    The story is driven by lively characters who will draw you right in with promises of friendship, precarious loyalty, and plenty of secrets and intrigue. Makepeace (which isn't really her name, though we never get to learn what her true name is) displays a surprising strength and resourcefulness. She may be a small girl with little worldly influence but her wit and patience enable her to accomplish incredible things in an age where girls are considered mostly worthless. The quirky cast of side characters are humorous, not always reliable, and are introduced in such a unique way that I can't say too much about. 


    I'm not going to give too much more away because much of my enjoyment was in discovering it for myself and getting carried away by the whimsical details. If you like ghost stories, plucky female protagonists, and an atmospheric historical setting, pick this book up.

    Like a call to some wild and beautiful adventure, this book spoke to some deep part of me that dreams of experiencing life with limitless freedom and earthly boundaries. I resonated so strongly with Makepeace every step of the way and she won't be a character I quickly forget.

    Thank you to the publisher for providing a review copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  • Sara

    I loved The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, and had high hopes for her next offering. I wasn't disappointed. This was the perfect blend of history, magical realism and dark fantasy.

    Set in the early days of the English Civil War, Makepeace has been raised by her mother to fear and fight off the dead who want to inhabit her body. When events force her to leave her home and live with her powerful father's family, Makepeace must confront the shadows that lurk in the dark and learn more about her 'inh

    I loved The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge, and had high hopes for her next offering. I wasn't disappointed. This was the perfect blend of history, magical realism and dark fantasy.

    Set in the early days of the English Civil War, Makepeace has been raised by her mother to fear and fight off the dead who want to inhabit her body. When events force her to leave her home and live with her powerful father's family, Makepeace must confront the shadows that lurk in the dark and learn more about her 'inheritance' in order to retain her freedom.

    I loved the background of Puritan England. Frances Hardinge paints a vivid picture of this time period, and I really felt part of the story. I never felt at a disadvantage for knowing little about this historical period because everything is explained so well - although I'm sure I would have gained even more from the text if I knew more about King Charles I. There also wasn't extensive details about various battles or sieges aside from what is integral to the plot itself - which allowed me to really just enjoy the story, and stopped it from getting bogged down in facts.

    The plot itself starts out a little slow. I wasn't fond of Makepeace's mother, and I found the possessions in the early sections confusing. With no backstory yet developed for Makepeace's family, her mother comes across as extremely strict and almost zealous in her religious fervour without really having a reason behind it. Thankfully, these chapters are swift to get through, and the rest of the story is well paced and carries a good 'adventure' feel to it. The magical realism aspect is well explained, with a good level of mysticism and air of dark fantasy. The Fellmottes are great villains, and the opportunity to have a family completely devoted to living forever through their absolute belief in what they call 'The Inheritance' is wonderful. It's such a unique concept, and I loved it.

    Makepeace is great. She's almost a shadow herself in the beginning, an almost parallel to the ghosts who wish to inhabit her. Yet we see as she sets out to save her companions, and with each subsequent possession, how much she grows as a character, and develops an aspect of each character she possesses. She's deeply kind, loyal and at heart a just individual. Unlike James, she doesn't try to better herself in front of her Elders, nor is she swayed by the enticement of power. She's also practical. Whereas James has numerous ideas to escape the ancestral home on discovering her families secrets, she's the voice of reason.

    I didn't really warm to James. Aside from when we first meet him, and he rescues Makepeace he comes across as a 'jack the lad'. Easily swayed and taken in, he also readily drops Makepace when a better offer comes along - leaving her behind to face the music.

    The story itself is well developed, and well concluded. I felt Makepeace really comes full circle, and I was left feeling satisfied and yearning for more.. Hardinge really is shining at the moment. I don't know anyone who quite blends fantasy and history together quite like she does.

  • Lindsay

    If authors have golden periods during their careers than surely Frances Hardinge is in one now.

    and

    were both brilliant dark fantasy stories with younger protagonists and this continues in that vein.

    Makepeace and her mother live in a puritan village in England just prior to the English Civil War. From a young age Makepeace is trained to protect herself in a very strange way: her mother has her sleep in the village graveyard overnight to force her to learn to defend herse

    If authors have golden periods during their careers than surely Frances Hardinge is in one now.

    and

    were both brilliant dark fantasy stories with younger protagonists and this continues in that vein.

    Makepeace and her mother live in a puritan village in England just prior to the English Civil War. From a young age Makepeace is trained to protect herself in a very strange way: her mother has her sleep in the village graveyard overnight to force her to learn to defend herself against the ghosts that she senses there. The ability that makes her able to see ghosts also makes her the perfect target for possession by them, something that she finds out all about when a traumatic event leaves her possessed by the spirit of a beast. But the beast may be all that can save her when she encounters her father's family, many of whom also have the gift.

    Like in the

    Hardinge brings this historical period to intricate life, but not without keeping the story suspenseful as Makepeace's family are revealed in their full horrific detail. Her journey is an interesting one for YA in that the issue is not so much about defining her identity, but the much more basic one of whether she is entitled to an identity separate from that of her family at all.

    One of the things I love about all this author's stories is the way they end, with the protagonists at the beginning of even more adventures, ones which I'd love to read more of. No sequels as yet for any of them, but I can easily imagine where they'd go.

  • Book Riot Community

    Really, I just want to type “OH EM GEE FRANCES HARDINGE IS THE BEST” over and over in this space, but I will also add that this is a wildly imaginative dark historical fantasy set during the English Civil War, about ghosts, inheritance, and a dead bear. Hardinge is the empress of delightfully weird and creepy books.

    Backlist bump: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

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