The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Published on the 19th of November
I received an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley! Receiving a free copy has in no way affected my opinions.
Gothic, intoxicating, feminist, darkly provoking and deeply romantic – this is the breathtakingly imagined untold story of the brides of Dracula, by bestselling author Kiran Millwood Hargrave in her much-anticipated YA debut.
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…
Although The Deathless Girls is a YA fantasy, it doesn’t try to conceal how dark it is. The world is cruel, and especially so for travellers like Lil and Kizzy. Their world is torn apart when their camp is suddenly attacked, most adults are killed, and children are stuck into a cage to be ensalved for Boyar Valcar. The entire story seems to smell of wet grass, smoke and blood.
Lil and Kizzy are powerful characters. They are both passionate but they have their own quirks and ways of coping with stress. Kizzy is hot headed and rushes to danger without much consideration, and Lil is often left as the only person who can save Kizzy from trouble. But throughout the story, the characters grow and they are transformed by all the awful things that they experience.
Although I had the feeling that Lil and Kizzy were interesting characters, I also feel like I don’t know them at all. I felt like The Deathless Girls was just an introduction to a much more fleshed out story. I felt like it was missing a huge chunk from the middle that would bridge together the horrors of the beginning and the epic ending. We don’t get to know the characters properly, and so I couldn’t be very invested in them. They make their decisions and I could never predict what they would do next.
The shortness of the book also has a massive impact on the worldbuilding. The Deathless Girls has hints of magic here and there, something that is important to the main characters’ culture, but nothing is ever explained. I felt like the magic was a bit of a tease – I am lausari and the Iele will lead us – all of this sounds great, but it doesn’t have an impact on me if I don’t know what it means. Also, the lack of worldbuilding meant that I didn’t know what was possible in this fantasy universe. There’s a character called Dragon, but I was left wondering if dragons were something native to this world or not.
Although I felt like the Deathless Girls was missing a substantial portion from the middle, the author does a pretty good job at hiding this problem under her wonderful prose. I really liked how the book was written and it seemed like it had many moments that felt encouraging and powerful. I’m definitely intrigued to try some of the author’s previous books to see if I would like them better.
I have to point out one more thing that made me decide that this was more of a 3-star than a 4-star book: the synopsis is altogether incredibly misleading. I went in expecting to find vampires in the book from early on. I expected them to wreak havoc upon the village and people to run from them in desperation. That’s not how The Deathless Girls goes. If you read it expecting a dark, eerie fantasy that can be finished in one-sitting rather than an action-filled dark vampire novel, you’ll enjoy it much more.
Finally – without any spoilers of course – I have to praise the ending of The Deathless Girls. It was amazing. It was everything I wanted and more. Most YA fantasies that I have read have reasonably safe endings. They have some booms and bangs at 75% but they will get nicely wrapped up by the last 20 pages. However, The Deathless Girls allows the booms and bangs go on until the very end. I was at the edge of my seat until the very final page.
Have you read The Deathless Girls or are you planning to? Do you think the vampire trend is making a comeback?? I have seen more and more new releases about vampires! Can’t say I’m not excited 🤩
Thank you so much for reading!