THE DEATHLESS GIRLS - by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

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Published: October 2019 - Orion Children's Books. 
Genres: Young adult / retelling / paranormal / Gothic horror.
Pages: 304.
Triggers/Content Advisory: Strong violence / gory descriptions / scene of attempted rape / strong sexual innuendos. 
Format: Paperback ARC. 
Source: Thank you so much to Pan Macmillan SA for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review. I voluntarily read & reviewed this copy. All thoughts are my own.

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...

This book took me by surprise and in the best way possible. It's also the perfect Halloween read, so clearly I read it at the right time!

The writing style grew on me. Initially, I thought it was too garish, but ultimately I think it suits the story and setting. Some descriptions are excessively lavish, but then again you'll find the occasional sentence that knocks you in the heart with its beauty and profundity. Those sentences make everything else worth it.
In addition, the prose isn't contemporary. The author's definitely making an effort to mimic the ancient language and style of the era, and often those lavish descriptions and colourful prose is what's required. It works.

The story is slow, but it's never boring. There's an intensity and a weight to every scene and that's what captivated me. It utterly gripped me and kept me reading. It's so visceral, so impassioned, and from the very first chapter I felt entrapped in the characters' pain. I was transported into their world. There might not be a lot of action, but the narrative seizes you with its depth and tragedy.

  "I used to think to make people feel afraid was a curse, an awful thing... But I'd love for them to fear me. I want them to look at me and weep." 

Lil and Kizzy are extraordinary heroines. I constantly underestimated them, I loved watching them surprise me as they grew, changed, and became unstoppable women, and I couldn't help but be head over heels invested in their lives. They both go through horrific trails, but that trauma shapes them. The ending is so tragic and so perfect because it stems straight from that trauma. What they go through decides their destination. It's heartbreaking, but it's the only way it can end.

The secondary characters leave an impression, too. Even though we don't see a lot of them, the authors hints at their secrets and backstories, and those give them dimension and depth. I especially enjoyed the heroines' scenes with Mira and Cook.

The Deathless Girls is an enthralling, macabre Gothic tale dripping with passion and violence. I was rapt from start to finish. This tragic novel swipes the breath from your lungs and leaves tears in your eyes. 
It's not to be missed. 

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