A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Rating: 4/5 stars

A Skinful of ShadowsBlurb:

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.

Review:

‘She felt the queasy tickle of their nearness, like spider-feet against her mind.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mostly due to the beautiful writing style, but partly because I love ghost stories. This ghost story felt fresh and original with the family history and Makepeace’s possession by Bear. I loved the relationship between Makepeace and Bear and how they had a lot in common despite being different species; both being lost and used by the people around them. Makepeace herself was a likeable character, strong and resilient. However, I think my favourite character was Mother, her cold-heartedness and the mystery surrounding Makepeace’s beginnings make her interesting. The opening conversation between the two is striking;

‘Conversations became riddles with traps in them, and your answers had consequences.’

It is quite a long book but this gives us plenty of time to get to know the characters. Although, I did feel like more time could have been spent getting to know James, as Makepeace’s motivation is to save him but their relationship seemed to be lacking something and I wasn’t rooting for him the way I perhaps should have been.

The story is told against the backdrop of a civil war which Makepeace finds herself involved in but doesn’t really care about it, she cares about the safety of all ordinary people, but it does serve to move the plot forward and gives us some great action.

I would give the story 3 stars but the beautiful prose bumps it up to 4.

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell

Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

The Silent Companions

Newly married, newly widowed Elsie is sent to see out her pregnancy at her late husband’s crumbling country estate, The Bridge.

With her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie only has her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. For inside her new home lies a locked room, and beyond that door lies a two-hundred-year-old diary and a deeply unsettling painted wooden figure – a Silent Companion – that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself…

 

Review:

Laura Purcell weaves a web of intrigue in this novel. Yes, it spooked me to high heaven but there is a deeper story here, presented through Elsie Bainbridge. Hints throughout the novel suggest that Elsie has had a difficult past and this calls into question her reliability as the story teller. It is expertly done.

Elsie is not your typical lady, having been brought up in and running a match factory and you can’t help but notice the arrogance of her new position:

Of all people, Elsie found the servants the most judgemental.

She is also not overly kind to or fond of her new family member, Sarah, who is nothing but helpful and polite. But as with any good story, Elsie learns a few things about herself and those around her.

The three time zones in the novel keep you on the edge and you desperately want to know what happens next in each setting. The language is beautiful, with a sinister tone throughout. Dark imagery sets every scene:

Her past laid out, exposed, like a body on the slab at a mortuary.

When she awoke, the room was as black as weeping veil.

The text is littered with these gems.

But above all, this is a ghost story, and what a ghost story! I was afraid to read at night alone. The companions become more sinister with each chapter leading to shocking consequences. The characters are driven mad with fear and so they would be!

A well-deserved five stars!

Buy a copy of The Silent Companions here.

Find out more about Laura Purcell here.

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