“The Cold is in Her Bones” by Peternelle van Arsdale

Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK and NetGalley for the Advance Review Copy in exchange for an honest review.

So, I’ve spoken a bit before about my love for all things Classical and I’ve always been fascinated by Medusa. I remember in Primary School we once got to watch Clash of the Titans and I found the Medusa sequence utterly thrilling. Over the years I picked up on the fact that what happened to Medusa was utter bullshit.

Case in point.

When I heard that The Cold is in Her Bones was a feminist retelling of the Medusa myth you can bet your ass I was on it.

The Epilogue starts with Hulda, a young girl doing normal country girl things like lying in the grass, daydreaming…talking to snakes. As you do. The other villagers don’t take kindly to this behaviour, in particular her sister Gitta, and Hulda is unceremoniously packed off to the forest.

From this point on, the story follows Milla, a young girl living a stifling, lonely existence with only her superstitious parents and brother for company. Her parents are cold and harsh and her brother Niklas provides the only source of human warmth in Milla’s life. Things change for Milla when her brother’s intended bride, Iris, comes to live with Milla and her family. Soon after Iris’ arrival strange things start happening and truths that have been hidden from Milla are revealed.

There are some interesting themes explored in this novel. Milla is ‘protected’ and cloistered away by her family due to a nameless threat while her brother is largely free to do as he wishes. Sound familiar ladies? Without trying to spoil anything, there are also parallels to how ‘hysteria’ was dealt with in the past and also similarities to how rebellious women were packed off to asylums or even lobotomised in some cases (e.g. JFK’s sister Rosemary Kennedy). Milla is also gaslighted on more than one occasion by her brother Nicklas which causes her to question her own experiences. So far, so familiar to any women or girls reading this book.

Some parts of this book dragged a bit and the main story itself took a while to really get going. Milla herself is a bit boring and having read a few ‘unusual girl who lives in the forest gets caught up in mysterious happenings’ novels recently, compared to The Winternight Trilogy or Naomi Novik’s Uprooted it felt a bit lacking. I was also left feeling like I would have been more interested reading about Hulda as I found her a much more compelling character.

Overall, this book was enjoyable enough and I admire what it was trying to do. The concept was quite interesting but I felt it was let down a bit by the pacing and the main character’s lack of charisma.

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