The Cold is in Her Bones will be available for purchase on January 22, 2019.
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.
Plot: 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.
Something slithery this way comes.
Gather ‘round my cunning Slytherins!
I’ve got a retelling of our dear mummy dearest:
If Milla knows anything, it is that she must be a good girl. She must do her chores efficiently, must always stay clean and tidy, mustn’t ask questions that do not deserve answers, and must always pray to keep the demons away. But Milla’s’ life is one of loneliness and solitude. She does not have the luxury of traveling to the nearby village or making friends, and her mother shows her much less attention and affection in comparison to her brother. Though the arrival of a young girl named Iris gives Milla someone to finally talk to and befriend, Milla finally learns of the reasoning behind her forced solitude. These is a curse on the girls in the village, one that makes each of them go insane, and Iris is showing signs of possession. Milla races to help her new friend, but soon finds that she might be changing as well.
Without a doubt, this is my first official positive WTF read of 2019.
The Cold is in Her Bones is supposed to be a retelling of dear mother Medusa, but it’s a loose retelling. The tale goes as such: A young girl named Hulda lived with her mother and father, and her dearly beloved Sister. As young children the sisters were inseparable, sleeping so entwined with one another that they would wake with their hair knotted together. But as they grew older, the sisters drifted apart. Hulda was not given the same adoration and attention as The Sister, and grew lonely and isolated. To fulfill her loneliness Hulda spent her time in the woods, making friends with the snakes, learning their names and letting them burrow in her hair. But when one of the snakes was seen in her hair, it was ripped out and thrown into the fire by The Sister’s betrothed. For the anguish and grief that Hulda felt for her snake, the others saw her as being possessed. Her family took her into the woods, buried her in the snow, and left her there in the hopes that the demon would leave her body. When Hulda woke with vengeance in her heart, and a body consisting of snakes, she cursed the village and all the inhabitants so they may never again feel peace or content.
You know those horror movies set in the 1800’s where there is a family, with their farm, and they churn butter and chop wood? Where an older sibling will tell the younger children folk-tales about witches and curses, so as to scare them into being good? This is EXACTLY like that…
…except much more sad, and way less gruesome.
This feels like a Tim Burton film waiting patiently to be made, or at least one of similar taste. It has the oddities and dark tones that every great children’s horror has, but it is also loaded with all the necessary lessons and positive morals that one is told as a child. Or should have been told. It centers on themes of family values, being kind to others, having compassion for differences, and the cruel nature of vengeance. There are many small tales within this tale that is told to the reader, and each one enhances the grittiness and somber themes that envelope this story.
Once the reader is told the tale of Hulda, the story then switches off to Milla. It explains her home life and the struggles she endures to constantly be good and to please her parents. Milla lives in the shadow of her kind and seemingly-perfect brother, and she feels like she is a disappoint and burden to her family. She is unable to travel to the village and is kept under tight lock and key, with unknown reasons as to why. The story begins to unfold when Milla meets Iris, a girl that will eventually be married to her brother. The girls become very quick friends and create a fierce bond, but it all changes when Iris becomes possessed. Iris is taken somewhere called “The Place” where she will be held with other girls who have become possessed. Milla learns that it all stems from a curse that was placed on the village. A curse that was placed by her aunt, Hulda.
The writing in this book is AMAZING. The author did a fantastic job of making the story feel like a folktale in how the characters spoke to one another, how the setting is given to the reader, and even during Milla and Hulda’s inner dialogues. But where the author REALLY shines in The Cold is in Her Bones is when she describes very beautifully heartbreaking moments where Milla feels like an outcast.
“’Pretty is as pretty does,’ Gitta had always said to Milla. But Milla knew that couldn’t be right. Milla had never done anything but behave, and still she wasn’t pretty the way her mother was. If she were, she’d know it. She’d see proof of her prettiness in her mother’s eyes, or her father’s. Instead what she saw there was disappointment. Perhaps it wasn’t true that pretty is as pretty does…”
Though I can confidently say that I enjoyed this read, it DID take me a week to read it. Usually I can fly through a book in about two days, but this one was really taking me awhile to get through. The story moved a little slow for me, and at times I was feeling a little bored and irritated that I wasn’t moving on to what happened quicker. BUT, once I was finished, I realized how much I didn’t care at all about the pacing or how long it took me to get through it. I LOVE a creative and unique story, and that is EXACTLY what this is.
I recommend this to anyone who is looking for something different to read, who doesn’t get weirded out too easily, and who doesn’t have an affliction to snakes. Don’t go into this expecting an only slightly twisted retelling of Medusa, because this is completely different! The story has given me the inspiration to go on to read Peternelle van Arsdale’s other horror story, The Beast is an Animal, which is apparently in development to becoming a movie. Excitement!
If you want a little magic, to hear some folktales, dive into a curse, and even meet a witch (fangirling) then you MUST give The Cold is in Her Bones a try!
It’s so creative that it makes me wish I had snakes growing out of my own head.