Frances Hardinge
A Skinful of Shadows

Macmillan Children’s Books (12+)

978-1-5098-3754-0 (hardback)

It is the reign of Charles I and a time of intrigue and plotting, when the nation’s great families are divided between King and Parliament, when rumours of witchcraft abound, and disease carries off wealthy and poor with equal disregard. It is Makepeace Lightfoot’s England. When Makepeace’s mother is killed during a mob demonstration, Makepeace is sent to her father’s family home. Grizehayes hold one terrible secret from which Makepeace’s mother tried to protect her. She gradually comes to understand her own gift – the ability to receive and host spirits. It is a gift shared by members of her father’s family and their way of ensuring the family legacy. Learning to control it is Makepeace’s only way of saving herself.

This atmospheric historical novel is steeped in meticulous 17th century detail and has at its heart a resourceful, compassionate central character. Makepeace is aptly named as she must mediate between her own skinful of shadows, the spirits she carries with her, and the real world.

Each ghost is given a vivid voice; their winnowing in and out of their human hosts is done convincingly and the relationship between Makepeace and Bear, her first ghost, is both moving and entirely believable. Flawless prose, seamless plotting, superbly nuanced characterisation and a humane, hopeful resolution.


Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge old house that inspired her to write strange stories from an early age. She read English at Oxford University, then got a job at a software company. However, by this time a persistent friend had finally managed to bully Frances into sending a few chapters of Fly By Night, her first children's novel, to a publisher. Macmillan made her an immediate offer. The book went on to publish to huge critical acclaim and win the Branford Boase First Novel Award. Known for her beautiful use of language, she has since written many critically acclaimed novels, including Verdigris Deep, Cuckoo Song, and the Costa Award-winning The Lie Tree.

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