I read this lovely book as part of my Magical Readathon selection of books, and I’m really glad that I finally took it off my shelf and opened it up. I originally bought it – confession – when it was on offer because the cover was absolutely stunning and I absolutely loved it. Frances Hardinge has written some beautiful books – both in and out – but this one in particular is breathtaking.
“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.”
I’m not always one for ghost stories, but these ghosts are not – all – the type to be scared of. More, to be aware of. And Makepeace knows every day, every night, that they are there. Her mother has done everything she can to help teach her how to keep her barriers up, and her brain strong, but not even Makepeace can guard herself at all times.
Written from the perspective of a growing girl, and then the ghosts that join her mind, we see the world developing and changing to a degree that no one could have predicted. Civil war is coming to England, and to survive she finds herself forced into all sorts of positions; a kitchen girl, a spy, a makeshift doctor. The family she thought she might find acceptance with turn out to be capable of things – and horrors – that she couldn’t even have believed possible. Watching Makepeace grown and develop as a person is one of the beautiful things about this book, her strength and determination coming into their own to give her more strength than she could have believed of herself.
The supernatural part of this book is written to the point it is almost realistic, which I’ve found is my personal taste, both with ghosts and general fantasy (see my review of Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood here). This year so far has been a lot about experimentation with different genres and books, and touching back down with a bit of magic after a break was nice to do.
Makepeace is strong and capable, showing step by step, action by action, how sometimes even the smallest of people can make the biggest of changes in this world. With the company she collects and helps along the way, this touching read is perfect for YA and adult readers alike. Everyone can take something away from this book, and the message it contains.