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Editor reviews

"Hardinge is an unusual talent who deserves to be read by children and adults alike." ( Guardian)

Summary

Frances Hardinge weaves another darkly extraordinary tale in A Skinful of Shadows, her follow-up to the Costa Award-winning The Lie Tree.

This is the story of a bear-hearted girl....

Sometimes, when a person dies, their spirit goes looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space within them, perfect for hiding.

Twelve-year-old Makepeace has learned to defend herself from the ghosts which try to possess her in the night, desperate for refuge, but one day a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard.

And now there's a spirit inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, and it may be her only defence when she is sent to live with her father's rich and powerful ancestors. There is talk of civil war, and they need people like her to protect their dark and terrible family secret.

But as she plans her escape and heads out into a country torn apart by war, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession - or death.

©2017 Frances Hardinge (P)2017 Macmillan Digital Audio

What listeners say about A Skinful of Shadows

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Imaginative and dark

Thoroughly enjoyed this step back in time with a fantastical twist of darkness. Wonderfully narrated too and had to keep listening into the wee hours.

8 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

So well written and a cracking adventure and story line. Characters in the book to love and fear. If like me you enjoyed Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials, you will probably enjoy this book too as it shares common ground. Narrator is fantastic too

5 people found this helpful

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Loved it!

Really enjoyed this book, so different and enchanting. Felt like I was really invested in the main character right from the start and loved the relationships she developed with the spirits and especially with bear. Would recommend this to anyone (and have been doing so!)

4 people found this helpful

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Gripping, moving, brilliant

Would you consider the audio edition of A Skinful of Shadows to be better than the print version?

I've only listened to it, not read it, but the performance is so good I think it benefits from being read aloud.

What other book might you compare A Skinful of Shadows to, and why?

Certainly to Frances Hardinge's other books, but she seems to be just getting better and better as a writer. There are similarities between her writing and that of Hilary Mantel, as well as perhaps Garth Nix's excellent Sabriel series.

Have you listened to any of Tuppence Middleton’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No I haven't but will look out for her in the future.

4 people found this helpful

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Better Than 'The Lie Tree'?

Having read Hardinge's 'The Lie tree' I was happy to try another read/listen from the same author. I was very pleased and grateful that I did. The protagonist is worthy of maintaining interest throughout and the narrative is equally sustaining. The Narrator suits the novel well and her performance is flawless. Sympathy is regularly drawn and fascination, too, at what the next turn of events will come next. The book had one "Oh no, please not that" episode late-on, but was thankful for it as all it did was to increase and cement my loyalty the main character, Makepeace. This reads well as a grown-ups' novel, so do not be concerned if you see Hardinge as a young adult author. Chapters are well thought out and none are over-long, easily allowing you to 'chunk' your listening. My immediate reaction after completing the novel was, "Which next?" I decided to have gap between 'Skinful' and my next Hardinge, to allow 'Skinful' time to come back at me on reflection. I have quietly started listening to a Rose Tremain. Tempted by 'Skinful'? You will enjoy the journey.

2 people found this helpful

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My favourite ever audiobook

incredible, I'm still reeling from the brilliance of the story line to the beauty of it's delivery. I'm.off to buy the other two books on here right now. thank you Frances & Tuppence.

4 people found this helpful

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Likeable heroine has unpredicatable adventures!

I had just listened to The Lie Tree before listening to this Frances Hardinge book, having thoroughly enjoyed The Lie Tree and, in particular, Emilia Fox's narration. I actually enjoyed the story of this one more, but the narrator had a very different style to Emilia's, which I found quite flat. I think I'm probably being unfair to Tuppence though, because I stopped noticing the difference as I got into the story, and have to say that I was enjoying her reading by the end...

A very imaginative story with a likeable heroine that kept me engaged and entertained. As with The Lie Tree, I think this book would appeal to young readers as much as adults.

2 people found this helpful

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Fantastic combination of history and ghosts

A 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.

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loved it

Brilliant story - really compelling, particularly if you enjoy fantasy and history. It had a great blend of the historical with the otherworldly, somewhat dark and mysterious, spirit element. Great narration and easy to listen to. I finished it in 2 days!

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A truly different ghost story.

I very much enjoyed this book.This tale gives a very different spin on the traditional ghost story. Until now we've only ever thought of ghosts being in our mind well this book will have them in your head. Masterful.