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The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

The Deathless Girls

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"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."

The Deathless Girls is the feminist, LGBT+ origin story of the brides of Dracula that I didn't even know I needed.

Hargrave's writing is absolutely stunning - lyrical, enticing and beautiful. It is deliciously Gothic and rich, creating a story that completely entranced me. There are so many gorgeous quotes that I pulled out, and I want to read so much more of her work. The story is dark, but it's more of an atmosphere and overall tone of terror, rather than too many bloody elements.

Lil and Kizzy's relationship provides such a strong exploration of the power of sisterhood, and I loved the elements of their travelling culture. I also loved Lil's romance and how it seemed so natural and beautiful. It was like the sole light in the darkness. The main trio of characters filled the story with so much heart, despite its embrued nature.

This story is ultimately about the strength of women, without falling into the 'strong female character' trope. It is quiet and understated, allowing us to connect with the characters and the lushly described world around them. This was a real underrated gem of a book that I look forward to poring over time and time again.