Books Retelling Reviews Young Adult

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave Review

Looking for a female-focused reimagining of the untold story of the brides of Dracula? Hargrave’s The Deathless Girls is utterly atmospheric and intoxicating and has got you covered!

The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Lil and twin sister Kizzy are Travelers whose seventeenth birthday (and thus their diving day) is just around the corner. The diving day is the most significant event in the life of a Traveler as it is the day on which a person’s fate is told. But the day before their futures are to be revealed, terror and tragedy strike in the form of the Boyar’s men who ransack Lil’s camp, enslaving the under seventeens and slaying the rest.

The Deathless Girls is an easy one to get into, with the threat of danger (the Dragon, or Dracula) looming from page one. Dracula is a well-established figure, and so we know how the story of his brides will eventually end. It doesn’t take long for tragedy to strike, and main character Lil loses the freedom of life amid nature (which is vividly described) and her family of Travelers. She and twin sister Kizzy are captured by Settlers (those who live in villages as opposed to Travelers who move around) and sold to Boyars Valcar’s castle. Boyar Valcar is just one of many monsters this story has to offer. And he’s fully human, as many of the story’s monsters are. From the soldiers who hunt (the historically much persecuted) Travelers, viciously killing and capturing those they see as (lesser and) cursed for their darker skin, and the Boyars (Lords) who thrive while the people of their lands live in near starvation. Though the story has its share of supernatural monsters too, in the form of the strigoi (the undead). And though Dracula remains physically absent for most of the story, he is undoubtedly the scariest monster hiding between the lines of every page.

The girls’ sisterhood is what propels the action in The Deathless Girls. Because despite their differences in both gifting and appearance (enigmatic Kizzy with her curves and fiery emotions; slight-in-frame Lil who is gifted with a beautiful voice but keeps to the background), there is no obstacle either sister would not overcome to save the other. And that is the core, the heart of this story, their unflinching sibling devotion. Though don’t think you won’t get a bit of romance too. It’s there, though more of an echo and strictly secondary. Lil’s budding romance with a fellow slave girl in the castle flows effortlessly into the plot without ever feeling forced or detracting attention from the central theme of fate vs. free will as the sisters ceaselessly attempt to escape the inevitability of their destinies.

Trigger warnings here for animal cruelty. And the intensity of the content overall puts The Deathless Girls at the more mature end of the young-adult spectrum.

If you enjoy retellings and dark fantasy reads like The Cruel Prince, The Hazel Wood, and Heartless, you might totally love The Deathless Girls.

Book: The Deathless Girls
Published: Orion Children’s Books
Pages: 304
Publication Date: September 19th, 2019
Age Range: 15+
Stars: 4/5


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