by Peternelle van Arsdale
Published on January 22, 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
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I came for the Medusa re-telling and stayed for the serpentining story of female empowerment.
The Cold is In Her Bones is one of those books where I wasn’t quite sure what I read but I liked it anyway. It doesn’t follow the Medusa tale like you would expect, and honestly there are so many differences that I hesitate to call it a re-telling, but some of the themes are there. Young women with opinions, who question the way the world works, are punished. They’re expected to be “good” and follow all the rules or the demon will find them. In this case, the demon materializes and stems from a curse and cry for vengeance from a woman wronged. I’ve always believed that Medusa was wrongfully punished and her tale is much more than the male-centered view it’s often presented as, and this book gave me that.
Milla questions her world. She tries to be what they consider good but it doesn’t stop the demons leaking in. She’s been isolated her entire life and when another girl moves into the closest house, they become quite close. I loved the strong themes of friendship and making decisions that don’t always align with the “correct” way of thinking.
The story progresses and themes of vengeance soon take over because as much as this story is about women finding their voice amidst oppression from the men in their life, it’s also about hate and anger and how holding them close to your heart can lead to the destruction of you and those around you. Wanting vengeance is not the answer and Milla learns that through the actions of the cursed Hulda and her own mother.
While the themes in this book are strong, the characters became names on the page rather than fleshed out beings. The Cold is In Her Bones reads like folklore, as though I could sit around the fire and listen to someone tell the tale of Hulda and Milla, of demon girls and scared villagers, of power and vengeance and forgiveness. It’s atmospheric and flowery and would probably be great on audio. But I can’t say I ever connected to the characters. They were more vessels in which to transfer the lessons. I’m not sure it really made me enjoy the book any more or less, just in a different way.
Because this is a different kind of book.
It’s not an epic action-packed adventure, it’s not a comedy nor is it really a tragedy, it’s a lesson wrapped in beautiful prose. Would I recommend it to every reader? Probably not because I don’t think it’s the type of book for everyone. But if you want a moody, atmospheric, powerful re-imagining of Medusa then I think you’re going to love it. I know I did.