The Deathless Girls – a Halloween Treat!

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 3.76/5

Published September 19th, 2019

Trigger warnings:

  • Threat of sexual assault
  • Animal cruelty and death
  • Slavery and abuse

I was gifted an unproofed copy of The Deathless Girls by Pan Macmillan South Africa for an honest review. This is an unpaid review. I did a buddy read with Tams @bookwolftams.

Ok, first things first, I loved this book and please, please, PLEASE can I have more Kiran Millwood Hargrave to put in my pocket and keep for rainy days.

So when you (see, I said when, not if, because you will want to) pick up this book, you need to put aside the misconception that this is a retelling of Brides of Dracula by Bram Stoker. It is not a retelling; I would classify it as the prequel to Brides of Dracula.

On the eve of their divining day, twin sisters, Lil and Kizzy are enslaved by a cruel lord and brutally taken away from their traveler-family. They are forced to work in a castle, along with Mira, a fellow slave girl. Lil feels drawn to Mira in a way she is not sure she understands. But is Mira, Lil’s happy ever after? Or does fate have something else in mind?

In this book, sacrifices are made, journeys are traveled, and loyalties are tested between sisters, friends, and alliances to understand how the Brides of Dracula became the “weird sisters”. It’s dark, gothic and twisty.

As an only child, I do not have first-hand experience with the bond that exists between sisters, but this book is so beautifully written, I had no problem relating to the unconditional love and the fierce protective instincts sisters have for each other.

The thought-provoking and dark feminist theme is captivating, I could have easily finished it one sitting. Tams and I did a buddy-read and to give ourselves time to read other books and of course; “adult”, we read it over a period of 7 days. At no point, was there any frustration or any “what just happened?”, “what is going on?”, “when does the story start?”. No, both Tams and I just agreed right from the first chapter: “Oh my gosh, I love this book so much!”.

A clear message throughout the book that resonated with me is that home is not a place, but that home is where your person or your people are. Home is wherever you choose it to be and you can change your fate and you are in control of your future.

How far would you go to be free again?

Small Spaces

Small Spaces (Small Spaces #1) by Katherine Arden

My Rating: ####/5

GoodReads Rating: 4.03/5

Published September 25th 2018

“After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.” – GoodReads

Small Spaces is just such a fun read – perfect for October.  This is Arden’s debut middle grade novel and it is insanely creepy and scary.  Seriously, it’s a children’s book that I couldn’t read at night but could not wait to get back into the following morning. 

Characters:

The characters are diverse in age, gender and ethnicity which makes it a modern and relatable read for younger readers.  Olivia (Ollie) has a strong, well-rounded personality, but is struggling to move on after her tragic loss.

World-building:

The subtle fantasy and parallel worlds are sewn together in a sensible and logic manner and makes the story flow smoothly and is easy to follow.  The setting is perfectly normal during the day, and downright terrifying at night.

Themes:

Themes for younger readers in Small Spaces include:

  • Literary works such as Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • Bravery
  • Teamwork
  • Grief and overcoming loss
  • Anxiety

Plot:

Small Spaces is told from Ollie’s point of view.  Ollie is trying to come to terms with her grief and is thrown into a mysterious world of creepy scarecrows, the smiling man and a very peculiar farm with two unlikely friends when she discovers a weird looking book.  The dialogue is fast-paced and jam-packed with quippy remarks and recognizable “tween-chatter”.  The mystery of the smiling man is unpredictable and is complimented with several supporting characters and plot twists.

In my completely biased opinion, Katherine Arden can write a paragraph as follow: “blah blah blah, write, write, write, nonsense, a bunch of squiggles and some punctuation, blah blah blah” and I would call it a literary masterpiece!

My favorite quotes from Small Spaces (contains spoilers):

“Even bad things can lead to good. Maybe in sad times, it helps to think of that.”

“Alice in Wonderland,” said Brian. “Remember? ‘How do you know I’m mad?’ asked Alice.” “‘You must be,’” Ollie said, finishing the quotation slowly, “‘or you wouldn’t have come here.’” Brian buried his face in his hands.

Coco didn’t cry because she was weak. Coco cried because she felt things. Ollie never cried because she didn’t feel things. Not anymore. Not really. She tried not to feel things.