A Skinful of Shadows

It is the reign of Charles I of England, and Makepeace and her mother, Margaret, live in the Puritan town of Poplar. "Makepeace didn't know what her original name had been"; her name was "a way of 'making peace' with God and the godly folk of Poplar. It was an apology for the hole where Makepeace's father should have been." Husbandless and fatherless, the two are maligned in both the community and the family home. But things get particularly bad for Makepeace when the nightmares begin.

She dreams of wispy, tortured figures invading her brain, ripping her apart. Margaret knows this is a sign--the dead are reaching for her child--and forces Makepeace to spend nights in the cemetery chapel. "The dead are like drowners," Margaret tells the girl. "They are flailing in darkness, trying to grab whatever they can. They may not mean to harm you, but they will, if you let them." Night after night, Makepeace is attacked by the dead until she learns how to build defenses against their invasions.

Eventually, after too many nights of terror, Makepeace lashes out at Margaret, surprising her mother into giving her the name of a place from the past: Grizehayes. Margaret is killed shortly after, and Makepeace seeks out the mysterious Grizehayes, learning too late the horror found in the sprawling manse and why her mother fled in the first place.

As with every Hardinge novel (A Face Like Glass; The Lie Tree), A Skinful of Shadows is outlandishly creative and thoroughly blood-chilling. Her storytelling is visceral and unfurls at an exciting pace, making this novel a wonderful, weird and terrifying addition to her body of work. --Siân Gaetano, children's and YA editor, Shelf Awareness

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