A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge | 1 Minute Reviews

I have been saving Frances Hardinge’s latest work for a couple of months, for a time when I could devote myself to this one book and immerse myself in her writing. While young adult novels as a genre are generally known for their fast pace, I feel Hardinge’s novels are more comparable with the pace of Pullman’s His Dark Materials. They are thoughtful, demanding of your attention, and absolutely wonderful. Hardinge is known for writing haunting young adult novels, often with a fascinating historical setting and many of you will likely have read Hardinge’s previous novel, The Lie Tree, which won the Costa Book award in 2016.

I’m really pleased to say that A Skinful of Shadows is definitely in my top ten books of 2017.


Set during the English Civil War with conflict raging between Royalists and Puritans, the novel follows a courageous young woman named Makepeace, who has spent the nights of her life in graveyards, training to keep out the ghosts under the firm instructions of her mother. Fixed with a fierce determination, her mother instills in Makepeace a need to practice setting her mind. But after the tragic death of her mother at a protest, vulnerable Makepeace finds her mind home to a recently murdered and very frightened Bear.

Without her mother’s fierce protection, Makepeace’s prestigious family the Fellmottes come to take her to the family estate of Grizehayes. As she takes her place in the kitchens and befriends her half brother James, Makepeace learns the family secret that her mother tried to protect her from, the legacy of the Fellmottes. Determined to save themselves from their fates, James and Makepeace plan their escape.

The Fellmottes reminded me quite a lot of the terrifying family in Gilded Cage by Vic James, and I think fans of either book would find a lot to like in the other. The story is rich, powerful, interwoven with the settings of the time as one haunted girl finds herself in the middle of a battlefield for England. A Skinful of Shadows is an spine-chilling tale of one girl and her bear, the underdogs against an all-powerful aristocratic family. I completely fell in love with this wonderful story, and urge everyone to go out and add it to their shelves. You will not be disappointed.

In line with the paperback publication of  A Skinful of Shadows in May next year, Hardinge’s publishers are also reissuing her previous novels in matching covers – yes I did do a big squeal, I love to matchy-matchy.


On the 8th of February, you’ll be able to buy the new editions of Face Like Glass, Gullstruck Island, Twilight Robbert and Fly by Night; Cuckoo Song and The Lie Tree follow on the 22nd March. Sadly, they don’t seem to be re-releasing Verdigris Deep, but hoping that will change! Your shelves are going to look beautiful and filled with spookiness. I’m not going to pick up The Lie Tree as I’ve owned all three editions, including the stunning Chris Riddell illustrated hardback, and I am pretty sure I have another copy lurking around my house somewhere. I’ve been meaning to pick up her previous books this year, and now I have even more of an excuse!

Get it here: Hive (UK) / Book Depository (Int)

What to read next:

Thank you kindly to Pan Mac News for sending this copy out to me.

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