25 January 2019

Review: The Cold Is In Her Bones

The Cold Is in Her Bones
by Peternelle van Arsdale

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: January 22, 2019

Her whole life, Milla has lived in constant fear of demons who are very much real. Confined to her family’s farm and only ever seeing her parents and brother, Milla is surprised when a girl named Iris arrives on her doorstep. At first, Milla believes that this is her chance to live a new life. But when Iris shares the secret that the village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and that the demon has now come for Iris, her chances are ripped away. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla must rescue her and break the curse forever. But Milla now has a secret of her own: she is changing, and may soon become a demon too.

Uniquely written and bursting with beautiful prose, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES is unlike most young adult books that I have read. Right from the beginning of the book, the author’s unique writing style is apparent. This is seen most clearly in the atmosphere that van Arsdale has established throughout the book. Dark and brooding, it astonishes me that an author could write in a way that so obviously carries a book’s mood. In most young adult books, a dark atmosphere can only be seen at pivotal moments. But in THE COLD IS IN HER BONES, van Arsdale tries her best to keep it constant, making sure that her tone isn’t annoying or overdone, but careful and well thought out.

One of the things that contributed the most to this is the mythology behind the story. Quickly established within the first sixteen pages, it begins with the tale of a plucky girl who doesn’t seem to live by anyone’s rules but her own. But as things go when demons are involved, her world is shattered in a way that ruins her, establishing the Medusa retelling that the author continues with throughout the book. Readers will find this little prologue to be the perfect foreshadowing as it establishes the ways of the village people and their values right off the bat without seeming forced. But what it also does is introduce the book’s sense of evil while giving another side to it. From one perspective, the demons are evil, and from another they are wondrous. This is a theme that van Arsdale continues with throughout Milla’s story, something which I enjoyed because most books are written in black and white while this one is written in a multitude of colors.

Another thing that I enjoyed about this book were the characters. Unlike the characters that YA fantasy books typically feature, the characters in THE COLD IS IN HER BONES seem very realistic both in their behavior and characteristics. The clearest example of this are the knots that both Milla and the girl in the prologue have in their hair. Most female characters don’t have knots in their hair and if they do it isn’t as big of a deal as it is in THE COLD IS IN HER BONES. And though this might just seem like a simple quirk that the author wanted to include, readers will come to realize the symbolism behind the knots, and the value the community places in smooth hair. And yet Milla doesn’t mind them. Continuously throughout the book we get to explore more of the tomboyish Milla and her unique ways. What is so special about this is that van Arsdale utilizes parts of her characters that might have been forgotten or ignored in another book, and packs them with hidden symbolism and meaning. I thought that this made her book that much more distinct from other YA.

But van Arsdale doesn’t only limit her abilities to the main character. Side characters are one-of-a-kind like this too. One example is Milla’s brother Niklas. Both caring and devious at the same time, Niklas perfectly captures what it means to be a brother. The author was able to communicate all the true and utterly accurate mannerisms of a brother. From changing from teasing to supportive in a matter of minutes to being a friend unlike any other, I was taken aback by how the author wrote his character. I also thought it was interesting how the author captured what it means to be a sister through Milla’s character. In her family she is both loved and held at second rank to her brother. She both loves him and hates him. In many YA books this isn’t the case, as characters usually make up their mind about someone and stick with their original judgment throughout the book. But it is clear that van Arsdale didn’t want THE COLD IS IN HER BONES to be just another YA book.

If you’re looking to read a fresh take on a classic myth while desiring to discover a new side of YA, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES is the book for you. Filled with lush storytelling, nuanced characters and deep meaning, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES is a book that demands to be read.

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