Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Cold Is in Her Bones - Peternelle van Arsdale

Title: The Cold Is in Her Bones
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2019 (Simon & Schuster) (Hardcover)
Length: 278 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Fantasy
Started: April 19, 2019
Finished: April 20, 2019

From the inside cover:

To Protect Your Home From Demons:
1. If you see a snake, kill it. Then burn it.
2. Pour salt where air comes in - sills, thresholds, hearths.
3. Stay inside after dark. Lock tight doors and windows.
4. Pray.

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 lives n 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.

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

After reading the author's first book, The Beast Is an Animal, a few years ago, I knew I'd read anything this author wrote. Thankfully her second book is just as satisfying as the first. Inspired by the Medusa myth, The Cold Is in Her Bones is a strange tale like the author's first, but well worth the read.

Milla lives on a remote farm in a medieval European-type setting and the only people she has ever known are her parents Jakob and Gitta, older brother Niklas, and the elderly next-door neighbours Stig and Trude. Compared to her adored brother Niklas, Milla is a disappointment to her parents, forever chastising her to obedient or else she will succumb to the demons. While Niklas is allowed to accompany their father to the village, Milla is forbidden to leave the farm. When Stig and Trude's granddaughter Iris comes to stay with the intention of marrying Niklas, Milla has finally found a companion. But when Iris starts hearing a voice inside her head and screams at her grandparents, Stig and Jakob take Iris to The Place, where all girls possessed by the demon are taken. When snakes begin growing in Milla's wild hair, she leaves to try and save Iris. Little does she know about the power of the curse that the demon has laid on the town, and what it will take to lift it.

Like the author's first book, this story is laid out very simply, yet infused with magical realism. As Milla learns about the history of the demon and her family's connection to it, the allegory of the story becomes more and more apparent. Like the author's first book, we have a pre-modern setting that is very puritanical in practice, which feeds into the theme of judgement and othering, which in turn leads to the idea that love and understanding is needed in order to dispel vengeance and hate. It's a simple lesson that's crafted quite beautifully here.

Go read both books this author has written, you won't be disappointed.

Thoughts on the cover:
Simply gorgeous. I love how Milla is off to the side with Sverd and Selv wrapped around her arms. Plus we get to see a character with wild, curly hair, which isn't something we get too often.