BOOK REVIEW: The Deathless Girls by Kiran M Hargrave

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…

Publisher: Orion Childrens Books
Pages: 400

I was totally swayed by the cover of this one as it is stunning, the whole book in fact is beautifully done with ornate end pages and intricate design under the dust jacket. I had no idea that it was YA fiction which is probably a good thing as it may have put me off buying it. However, I am so glad that I did as it is such a good book. 
Lil and her twin Kizzy are travellers and are captured the night before their divining day on their seventeenth birthday. They lose their mother and their home and are enslaved by Boyar Vulcar, a cruel and cold man who they have heard many tales of. At first they are put to work in the castle kitchens but then they are promoted to serving girls in the castle’s great hall. An important guest arrives and he is to choose girls as gifts for the Dragon, a notorious and terrifying figure. Kizzy and Lil come to his notice and the sisters are once again taken on a journey that neither wanted to a fate more dreadful than they could ever have imagined.
The Deathless Girls is rich in detail and imagery, I could easily imagine the beautiful forests that Hargrave writes about and also the terrifying castle that the Dragon inhabits. I would say that this book would suit readers from about 14 upwards, there are some quite adult themes and also rather graphic descriptions of dead bodies etc. It is easy to see why this book is appealing to adult readers as although the characters are very young, the subjects dealt with in the story are complex and interesting enough for older readers to enjoy too. 
I liked Lil and Kizzy as characters and their close bond as sisters drives events throughout the story. Their fates are inextricably linked, they are very different people in many ways but their link as sisters is what decides their future. I felt that we got to know Lil more and I enjoyed the relationship that Hargrave showed between her and Mira, another slave girl. It was interesting to see Lil’s initial confusion at her feelings for Mira and then the way in which their relationship develops into something really beautiful amidst so much terror. 
I love books about vampires and I really enjoyed this aspect of the story but I was almost left wanting more. The end of the book which dealt with the Dragon felt a little rushed compared to the first half and I would have liked more about his character and his interactions with Kizzy. It felt as though we were building and building to this point and then it was slightly glossed over. 
I was impressed with just how much Kiran Hargrave explored within her story and in a very sensitive manner too. It was interesting to see how she presented prejudice towards different groups of people and the ways in which whole groups can be persecuted due to an unfounded perception of them. Kizzy and Lil are taken partly because they are travellers and partly because they are female, they are treated as objects to be bartered with rather than humans. 

I can highly recommend The Deathless Girls, the story of Lil and Kizzy will draw you in and give you plenty to think about by the final page.

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