Monday, 26 August 2019

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Review: The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Published: 7th March 2019 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Books | Cover Designer: Sonia Chaghatzbanian | Cover Illustrator: | Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Peternelle van Arsdale's Website

One girl must uncover secrets of the past to save her friend from a terrible curse in this dark and mesmerizing story of love, revenge, and redemption inspired by the myth of Medusa.

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla's whole world is her family's farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she's forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

The Cold Is in Her Bones is a novel about the dark, reverberating power of pain, the yearning to be seen and understood, and the fragile optimism of love.
From Goodreads.

Book Depository | Wordery | Goodreads

I received this eProof for free from Simon & Schuster Children's Books via NetGalley for the purposes of providing an honest review.

Trigger/Content Warnings: This book features abuse and neglect of children, possession, an exocism of a sort, and torture.

Hearing that The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale was a retelling of Medusa had me sold, and while I discovered that's not completely an accurate description before reading, I was intrigued by this dark and atmospheric story. While it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Milla lives on a farm with her parents and her brother Niklas. Other than her neighbours Trude and Stig, she's never met anyone else. She's kept home, not allowed into the village with her father like her brother is, and nothing she does is ever right. Her mother is always on her back about being good, being better. But things change when Trude and Stig's granddaughter, Iris, moves in with them. Suddenly she has a friend, who tells her stories and all about the village. But she soon discovers the demons she has been scattering salt to ward against are real, and that one is after Iris. Milla will do anything to try and save her friend, even leaving the only home she knows and her family behind. But the world beyond the farm isn't the wonderful place Milla expected it to be, and it might not just be Iris the demon is after.

The Cold is in Her Bones had me from the get go. The story is more inspired by the Greek myth of Medusa than a retelling of it, so it's not exactly what I originally expected, but I knew that going in. I was completely enthralled by the tale van Arsdale weaves. The prologue sets it up with a very fairy tale feel that I was immediately captivated by. It felt magical and atmospheric, and at times really dark and creepy. I was so engrossed in Milla's story.

The Cold is in Her Bones is also a very feminist book. While there is a demon, it's almost second to how the girls and young women are treated. The curse started because a girl didn't behave the way society - particularly her parents, sister, and sister's betrothed - thought she should. She was strange and wild. She wasn't pretty and ladylike and nice. Now the curse is in place, people are fearful for - but more importantly, of - girls and young women aged between 12 and 18. Because they targets for the demon, and once possessed, they become wild and unruly, and say nasty things, and their behaviour progresses as the possession goes on. But if a girl is to speak out of turn, or says anything that isn't nice, or allows herself to get angry and speak or act on it, she is believed to be possessed - whether she actually is or not. Yes, there is a demon, yes, there is a curse, but there was always distrust and dislike of girls who weren't nice and pretty and quiet and subdued. Girls must be good. Girls must behave in a very specific way. Girls have their place, and they should stay in it. Girls are silenced. It just sounds very familiar to stories of heard of women who were diagnosed with hysteria for not acting the way they should and put in asylums, and these girls who are possessed by a demon, not acting the way they should, and locked in "The Place".

But this treatment of and expectation of girls and women is also seen before Milla knows anything about the curse. Her father practically ignores her - she is to be seen and not heard, and nor should she ask too many questions. So as not to draw her father's attention, Milla's mother is always on her case to do better, be better, look better, because her father only notices her when she's not good enough. She can't be too strange, she can't be herself. She can only be a quiet, docile, little mouse. And whether she realises it or not, she is patronised by her "lovely" brother all the time. He's meant to be this really lovely boy, like the ideal, and is adored by their mother, but he constantly calls her "Silly Milla," for not being normal, for wondering why things are the way they are. And while Milla finds things out and gives in to her anger, she starts not thinking so warmly towards him... but she keeps backtracking. I wish his behaviour was challenged in some way, but I suppose it's kind of true to the world she lives in that she would think he's pretty great, especially when compared to her father.

While I was completely absorbed in the story, and didn't feel like it was slow as I read it, looking back, not a huge amount happens. The major events are towards the end, and there are smaller events that keep you reading, but nothing too earth-shaking. It feels very much like a quest story, of Milla setting out to save her friend, but there's not much to the quest, not much of a plan, and to be honest, I do think some aspects of the story were dealt with too easily. They could have been bigger and harder to accomplish. It's quite a quiet book, really, overall, which I wasn't expecting, given the premise and a lot of the darkness in the story. While I enjoyed it while I was reading it, I wasn't wowed. I really enjoyed it, but I didn't love it.

Saying that, van Arsdale's writing style is sublime. It's so gorgeous and charming, that I can almost forgive the quietness. Would I read it again? Probably not. But would I read other books by van Arsdale? Absolutely. In fact, I've already bought her debut, The Beast is an Animal, which I'm really looking forward to reading it, and I wouldn't hesitate to pick up anything else she wrote. The Cold is in Her Bones was a little on the quiet side for me, but it was really enjoyable otherwise. Other readers have loved it, so do read some other reviews before deciding whether it's for you or not.

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Children's Books via NetGalley for the eProof.

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The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand he Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

Over to you graphic
Have you read any retellings of Medusa? Do you enjoy when fantasy weaves in real world sexism? Will you be picking up The Cold is in her Bones? Or if you've read it already, what did you think? Let me know in the comments!

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1 comment:

  1. It really does sound like an intriguing premise!

    Lotte | www.lottelauv.blogspot.co.uk

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