I recently joined Netgalley and was very fortunate to be offered a sample of the new Frances Hardinge novel, A Skinful of Shadows to review. I got sent six chapters, and let me tell you, that is very unfair. Six chapters was just not enough. It cruelly whetted my appetite and I rushed off to pre-order it from Amazon. I only have to wait until September 21st.
Hardinge hit the big time with her last book, The Lie Tree, which you will find reviewed here in the archives at Making Them Readers. A dark and thrilling blend of historical novel and fantasy fiction, with an excellent heroine and a brilliantly original plot, it deserved all the plaudits heaped upon it.
If this was your first experience of Hardinge’s writing you will be delighted to know that there is a decent back catalogue of her work to go at, and it is all equally good. I first came across her in reading Fly By Night to see if it would make a good addition to the primary school library I was then looking after. It did, and I made sure to hunt down everything she has written since.
A Skinful of Shadows has the same blend of historical fiction and fantasy that featured in The Lie Tree, but is set at an earlier period of English history. Makepeace is a young girl whose mother keeps secrets from her, secrets about their shared past, and secrets about the things Makepeace sees in the small hours of the night. Gradually she begins to educate Makepeace about what haunts her, but before she can share everything, tragedy strikes and Makepeace finds herself thrown back into a past she doesn’t know anything about and at the mercy of strangers who she is sure do not have her best interests at heart. She feels alone and defenceless until she realises that she has inadvertently found an ally in the last place anyone would think to look.
Beautifully written, dark and enthralling, I cannot wait to read the rest when the book finally comes out.