Book Review: A Skinful of Shadows

A Skinful of Shadows is tender and bold, perfect for lovers of darkly intricate stories of adventure.

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Here’s the publisher’s summary:

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.

And now there's a ghost inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Frances Hardinge never fails to come up with delightfully creative premises for stories. Each of her books is wonderfully original, and this one is no exception. A Skinful of Shadows follows Hardinge’s tendency to begin with an intriguing concept that seems clear at first, but (no spoilers) is quickly revealed to be something else.

Protagonist Makepeace’s world is full of supernatural and political complications, as well as familial conflict and danger. This world of angry mobs, ghostly possession, and shady palaces is carefully constructed, and Makepeace’s journey to protect and save those closest to her is daringly intricate.

Hardinge isn’t afraid to push at this framework with nuances and twists. Impressively, it’s with each new intricacy that arises that the story shows its strength. The stakes are high, and the story rises to meet them.

I was struck by this book’s ability to take contrasting themes and bring them together. There are many parts of this story I found visceral and frightening, and plenty of tense moments that knotted my stomach. But underlying this story is a bold tenderness.

The relationships between characters are fascinating and reveal their vulnerabilities. In Makepeace’s world, vulnerability is often at odds with safety and is always the key to triumph. Hardinge’s willingness to expose the soft spots in her characters and narratives is an admirable choice from a writing perspective, but also makes for even more gripping conflict in an already-intriguing story.

If this book sounds awesome to you, that’s because it is. It also means that you should check out Frances Hardinge’s other books - she has novels ranging from middle grades to young adult, and all of them are wonderful and compelling. Check out her website:

You can find a list of her books and short stories in “The Library” of her Twisted City website above, and stop by The Story Shop to grab SIGNED COPIES of Frances Hardinge’s books before they’re gone!

Happy reading!

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