A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Loved it.  History and Ghosts

skinfulA Skinful of Shadows is my second Hardinge book and to date this is an author with a 100% track record because both this and Deeplight were excellent.  Without doubt I will be checking out more backlist books from this author and in fact have a copy of The Lie Tree already lined up.

A Skinful of Shadows is an excellent historical story of ghosts and possession set during the turbulent times of the English Civil War.  We make the acquaintance of Makepeace as she is but a child and learning some hard lessons from her mother which usually consist of enduring a night on her own in the local cemetery.  Makepeace’s mother is not the softest of women but she has her reasons and in spite of the harshness has Makepeace’s best interests at heart.

Makepeace and her mother live a quiet life in a small puritan village, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re in hiding as they keep a low profile and Makepeace knows nothing of her own father or other family members however tension is building, as Makepeace gets older she is less inclined to accept her mother’s lack of answers or punishing nighttime spooky training sessions.  The two argue and tragedy follows.  In fairly quick succession Makepeace finds herself alone, still searching for answers and vulnerable and this is when her troubles really begin.

I won’t say more about the story as part of the joy is discovering this strange tale without prior knowledge.

What really worked well for me in no particular order.

Makepeace is a great, sympathetic and easy to like narrator.  She’s clever and flexible, quick witted and generous, both in terms of the way she treats others but also with the information she shares with the reader.  It’s remarkably easy to get on board with her story and in fact I felt myself anxious to return at every opportunity, desperate in fact to see where Makepeace’s unusual story would take me next. In fact characters are something that Hardinge excels at and there is a superb cast here all replete with their own motivations.  One character in particular steals the show  and I wish I could say more but it would be such a spoiler so my lips are sealed.

The story itself is a wonderful combination of history and fantasy and the speculative elements are included with such a deft and subtle hand that the concept comes across as horribly plausible.  Set in turbulent times when the wrong decision could make or break a family’s reputation scheming runs rife, blackmail is not unheard of and ruthless people will be, well, ruthless.

I love the way Hardinge writes.  She is a wonderful storyteller with a way of spinning words that lure you in in the most deceptively easy way.  Here she manages to create tension at the same time as providing a convincing backdrop and she quite simply made me love the characters and care very much what happened to them.

I have to hand it to this author.  I’ve only read two of her books but they were so completely different that it leaves me thinking that Hardinge’s imagination knows no bounds.  What’s also really impressive is that she has a penchant for standalone novels which is such a breath of fresh air.

I bought an audible copy and highly recommend it – the narration was absolutely wonderful

I can’t wait to pick up my next Hardinge novel and I suggest if you enjoy speculative fiction this is an author you should read.

My rating 5 of 5 stars


27 Responses to “A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge”

  1. passmethatbook

    It’s been so long since I read a Frances Hardinge book that I know I gotta pick one up soon. I’m definitely adding this to my TBR pile-though it might be there already, lol.

  2. Captain's Quarters

    I love this author’s work. I have read four so far and plan to read them all. I am glad to see this one worked so well for ye.
    x The Captain

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh Yes,I would like to catch up with her backlist.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Greg

    Sounds nice. I like the setting as well.

  4. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    I really love her books! Everything she writes is a winner it seems!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Well, I’ve only read two but so far she had 100% track record so I’m very happy.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Tammy

    I’ve got to add her to my list of new authors this year😁

    • @lynnsbooks

      I have to say that I think you would love this one because I know you like historical fiction too.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Louise Reynolds

    At some point I have managed to buy this book on Audible and then forget all about it. I only realised from seeing your review, thinking it sounded wonderful and then going to add it to my good reads tbr only to see I already had it shelved under “owned”. Honestly this is happening more and more lately! Thank you for the review though, it reminded me that I had it and I will have to make time to listen to it soon!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes! This is what happens to me all the time and now I realise I’m missing out on some excellent books. I hope you get chance to listen to this one, the audio is very good
      Lynn 😀

  7. Lexlingua

    5 of 5 — that’s a great rating. Somehow I’ve never read Hardinge before. I do want to start off with her other work Cuckoo Song, which had received such fabulous reviews across the board. Have you tried that? Would love to know your thoughts on it!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I haven’t read Cuckoo song but now you’ve mentioned it I will have to go and take a look. I’m just loving her work so far.
      Lynn 😀

  8. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Very well – you completely sold me on this author and on this book in particular: to say that you have piqued my curiosity would be the understatement of the year, indeed…
    What I like most is your comment about the successful mix of history and fantasy, which to me is always an enticing combination 🙂
    Thanks for sharing!

    • @lynnsbooks

      OMG – I would absolutely love for you to read this book, or Deeplight, I just can’t wait to read your thoughts. I personally think you will love this one.
      Lynn 😀

  9. waytoofantasy

    So glad you loved this one it sounds excellent. I keep meaning to read something by this author and haven’t picked up one of her books yet but I really need to. Thanks for the review, Lynn!

    • @lynnsbooks

      I am loving her books. She’s so unique and just captivating.
      Lynn 😀

  10. jessicabookworm

    Glad you loved another book by this author, Lynn – I really must read something by them, too! 😃

    • @lynnsbooks

      To be honest I think you would love this author. I’ve only read the two and they were both so completely different but so very good. If I had to choose the best place for you to start I would say Skinful of Shadows – but at the same time don’t let that put you off Deeplight which is a great fantasy. Skinful of Shadows is just really good historic fantasy which I think you might lean more towards.
      Lynn 😀

      • jessicabookworm

        Thank you for the rec on this author 🙂

      • @lynnsbooks

        Seriously, I think you would love her. I mean, okay, I’ve only read two, but I definitely thought of you reading A Skinful of Shadows.
        Lynn 😀

  11. bkfrgr

    I’m so glad you enjoyed this. Hardinge is a favourite author for me, and manages to do something different every time. 🥰

    • @lynnsbooks

      Exactly. Well, in fairness, I’ve only read two of her books but they were both completely different in style and they were both excellent. I can’t wait to read more of her backlist.
      Lynn 😀

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