Genre: Fantasy Age Range: YA Star Rating: 4 stars Series: standalone CW: Attempted rape
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…
Blurb taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.
THE DEATHLESS GIRLS is Kiran Millwood Hargrave’s YA debut, another example that she can write across age ranges and genres with constant flair and skill. This is a feminist re-imagining of Dracula, focusing on “the brides of Dracula”. It’s a bit like their origin story – how did two twin sisters become vampyre?
The heart of the story is the twins’ love for each other. As they face strigoi, enslavement, and vampyre, it’s done largely together – which is why they succeed. I loved how the romantic love of this book is such a minor part, particularly given the final chapter, that bridges the hundreds of years from the end of the book to the references to them in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Being a book inspired by Dracula myths, it has a very dark, gothic tone to it. The cover is a perfect representation of the book’s mood – one of the best covers to represent the contents that I’ve seen for a while. From hallucinogenic mushrooms to snake wine, there is a dark tone overall, but with an emphasis on the natural world given the girls’ Traveller background. The strigoi and the casteles of the Boyars are antethesis to this, an easy contrast and shorthand for their wrong. The arrival into the Dragon’s land is really gruesome – taken directly from the actions of Vlad the Impaler.
Lil, the more timid twin, is the book’s sole narrator. Her sister (the ever-defiant Kizzy) often demands to know why Lil takes their enslavement so passively, but it allows Lil the chance to observe and get to know others. The contrast between the two girls also allows the book to explore different types of strength – not just the pugnacious, fighting strength that so often characterises fantasy. Kizzy is also unabashed in her desire to have power of her own – the power of fear – after years of being hated and trodden on.
I think Kiran MH was talking on social media recently about working on a new YA, and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!
Read my reviews of other books by Kiran Millwood Hargrave:
With Tom de Freston: