ARC Review: The Deathless Girls

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THE DEATHLESS GIRLS
KIRAN MILLWOOD HARGRAVE
SERIES: Standalone
GENRES/ SUBJECTS: Historical Fantasy
REPRESENTATION: FF Relationship

September 19th 2019 by Hachette Children’s Group & Orion Children’s Books

★★★★☆

 

GOODREADS

AMAZON

 

The Deathless GirlsGothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness – they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she’ll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn’t understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate…

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

 

The Deathless Girls is a YA retelling, or prequel to, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It centres around the “brides” of Dracula and fleshes them out, giving them a past and characterisation all of their own.

To be perfectly honest, The Deathless Girls wasn’t quite what I was expecting it to be — or at least not the first half of the book. Simply because it features characters that come from Dracula, I was expecting something more gothic and more or Dracula-esque. It does get there, and it definitely has some dark moments, but the larger part of the story isn’t quite the grandiose, gothic type of horror I was expecting. It’s a more realistic, drudgery type of horror as the girls are taken captive and forced to accept what it would be to live a life in slavery. Despite this expectations-issue, I really liked the book.

The Deathless Girls is the first book I’ve read by Kiran Millwood Hargrave and I thought her writing was absolutely beautiful. She manages to create rich, lush feel even when she’s describing quite mundane, depressing situations.

As I said, the vampire aspect of the story isn’t quite as prevalent as I thought it would be, especially not in the beginning. Obviously, once you know that it is inspired by Dracula, the reader is aware very early on what’s going on and what danger the girls are in. But the sisters themselves don’t really understand the full gravity of the situation until quite late on, so there is a kind of tension there as you you see the things that they don’t.

For the large part of the book what’s far more important than vampires, Dracula etc. is the bond between the two sisters. I thought this sibling dynamic felt incredibly realistic.

We’re in the head of Lil, who is very much the slightly-less-attractive, slightly-less-beloved sister of the two. Hargrave really conveys the sense of what it’s like to play second fiddle to a sibling. Lil is absolutely devoted to Kizzy and nearly every chance she takes it on behalf of her sister, but there are still moments where she’s resentful, or where she feels like she can’t quite live up to her sister’s potential.

At the same time, as much as you can tell it Kizzy loves Lil, she can be slightly arrogant, slightly vain and slightly selfish. It’s a great character study, and really seems to achieve what the author set out to do, which was to give the bride characters — that feature so briefly in the original novel — a sense of person and agency.

There’s a sort of dread, a creeping menace, threaded throughout the book because the reader is aware of where the story has to end up. I did think the pacing was a tad off — the ending came together a little abruptly for my personal taste and there were a few things that I thought would happen that didn’t — but The Deathless Girls is beautifully written. It deals very elegantly with the prejudices that would be experienced by the traveller community and by queer women while fleshing out the characters and paying homage to the original text.

 

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