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The Cold Is in Her Bones

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One girl must uncover secrets of the past to save her friend from a terrible curse in this dark and mesmerizing story of love, revenge, and redemption inspired by the myth of Medusa.

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.

The Cold Is in Her Bones is a novel about the dark, reverberating power of pain, the yearning to be seen and understood, and the fragile optimism of love.

288 pages, Hardcover

First published January 22, 2019

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About the author

Peternelle van Arsdale

5 books352 followers
Peternelle van Arsdale is a young adult novelist, essayist, and short story writer. Her first novel, THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL, is being developed for a feature film by Amazon Studios, produced by Ridley Scott’s Scott Free and directed by Bert & Bertie. Her second novel, THE COLD IS IN HER BONES has been described as a "dark, magic-infused story lit by bravery and hope." (Booklist) She lives in Brooklyn, where she is at work on her third novel. Visit her at http://peternellevanarsdale.com.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 529 reviews
Profile Image for Billie.
930 reviews79 followers
June 14, 2018
I have started this multiple times and deleted every one. I don't know how to talk about this book in a way which will convey how beautiful and haunting and meaningful it is.

This is a fairy tale, yes, but it is more than that. It is the story of a girl who is not beautiful nor plucky; a girl who is not always good or kind or obedient, though she is very good at pretending to be all of those things; this is not the story of a girl who finds her prince (or kind woodsman or farm boy) and lives Happily Ever After. This is the story of a girl who chafes against the constraints that have been put on her life and who breaks free of them, not to save her True Love, but to rescue her brother and the sister of her heart. This is a fairy tale about all those girls who are not especially brave or talented or beautiful or anything more, really, than girls who want more than the role that has been assigned to them. It's for the girls who know that you can't be kept safe, that the bad things are going to find you no matter how well you think you hide and that it's better to go out and face them on your terms. This is a fairy tale where Happily Ever After is more properly Contentedly Ever After and where True Love is the love of self and family and it is more than enough.

And that tells you f*ck all about the plot or the characters or the lovely prose or the chilling, melancholy atmosphere, but those are just the clothes that dress the heart of the story—a story about a girl who could be any girl, a girl who is full of anger and hurt and also love, who sets out to save those she loves because even though others may be more suited to doing so, she's the only one who will.

And, gods, I'm still not saying a tenth of what I want. Just read it. It's lovely and dark and will speak to any girl who ever felt she wasn't enough in some way (every girl, in other words).
Profile Image for h o l l i s .
2,476 reviews1,893 followers
December 20, 2018
This is going to be short because I just don't want to waste any more time on this experience. I did sorta like the opening chapter/first part of THE COLD IS IN HER BONES. I was intrigued as to where and how this Medusa retelling was going to go. But everything after it was a total snooze-fest of weird without answers or direction. As of 60%, however, things just got.. messy and weird and batshit no.

Would not recommend.

** I received an ARC from NetGalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review. **
Profile Image for Carrie.
3,230 reviews1,563 followers
January 22, 2019
The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale is a young adult fantasy novel that is inspired by the myth of Medusa. One young girl needs to find the strength to break a curse upon her family and friends before the curse takes her too.

Young Milla has never known anyone other than her immediate family and sometimes that isolation of their remote farm can become overwhelmingly lonely. When Milla’s parents agree to let another older couple stay and help them run the farm Milla never expected to have their granddaughter join them too but when Iris arrived Milla found the friend that she always wanted.

With Iris becoming Milla’s friend and a possible match for Milla’s brother to marry one day things seem to be looking up for Milla and a little less lonely. However, the day comes when Iris begins to show signs of the curse that has haunted the village’s young girls all the way out on their farm. When Iris is carted off to a place for the cursed Milla vows to do whatever she can to help her friend.

When thinking of Medusa things like chilling and creepy come to mind and The Cold Is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale really seemed to capture that eerie feel rather well. This one was a bit of a slow burn read but while it took a bit to return to the darkness that the prologue had given a glimpse into it really had me curious enough that I wanted to continue to get to know the characters and the story. If demons, witches, curses and vengeance sound good then you may want to give this one a try.

I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

For more reviews please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/
Profile Image for Erin.
3,094 reviews484 followers
January 28, 2019
3.5 stars
Thanks to Netgalley for granting my wish and sending me an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review

Who can resist a tale that is inspired by the Medusa myth? I certainly couldn't and was from the very first page lost in this dark mesmerizing tale. The Cold is in Her Bones is all about the bonds between siblings, friendship, young women finding themselves, and vengenance too. I feel that this is a novel that will appeal to both YA and adult audiences, even if snakes aren't your thing. I felt the atmosphere of the novel very similar to the hysteria that surrounded the Salem Witch trials in the 17th century. The way in which all girl children were looked at as being suscepetible to the demons or the darkness and were often ignored by their society. Peternelle van Arsdale captured me with her haunting imagery and I most certainly am placing her on my "must- watch" list.
Profile Image for JenacideByBibliophile.
209 reviews131 followers
January 19, 2019
Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher, Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, via NetGalley for an honest review.


Something slithery this way comes.


Gather ‘round my cunning Slytherins!

I’ve got a retelling of our dear mummy dearest:


If Milla knows anything, it is that she must be a good girl. She must do her chores efficiently, must always stay clean and tidy, mustn’t ask questions that do not deserve answers, and must always pray to keep the demons away. But Milla’s’ life is one of loneliness and solitude. She does not have the luxury of traveling to the nearby village or making friends, and her mother shows her much less attention and affection in comparison to her brother. Though the arrival of a young girl named Iris gives Milla someone to finally talk to and befriend, Milla finally learns of the reasoning behind her forced solitude. These is a curse on the girls in the village, one that makes each of them go insane, and Iris is showing signs of possession. Milla races to help her new friend, but soon finds that she might be changing as well.

Without a doubt, this is my first official positive WTF read of 2019.


The Cold is in Her Bones is supposed to be a retelling of dear mother Medusa, but it’s a loose retelling. The tale goes as such: A young girl named Hulda lived with her mother and father, and her dearly beloved Sister. As young children the sisters were inseparable, sleeping so entwined with one another that they would wake with their hair knotted together. But as they grew older, the sisters drifted apart. Hulda was not given the same adoration and attention as The Sister, and grew lonely and isolated. To fulfill her loneliness Hulda spent her time in the woods, making friends with the snakes, learning their names and letting them burrow in her hair. But when one of the snakes was seen in her hair, it was ripped out and thrown into the fire by The Sisters betrothed. For the anguish and grief that Hulda felt for her snake, the others saw her as being possessed. Her family took her into the woods, buried her in the snow, and left her there in the hopes that the demon would leave her body. When Hulda woke with vengeance in her heart, and a body consisting of snakes, she cursed the village and all the inhabitants so they may never again feel peace or content.

You know those horror movies set in the 1800’s where there is a family, with their farm, and they churn butter and chop wood? Where an older sibling will tell the younger children folk-tales about witches and curses, so as to scare them into being good? This is EXACTLY like that…


…except much more sad, and way less gruesome.

This feels like a Tim Burton film waiting patiently to be made, or at least one of similar taste. It has the oddities and dark tones that every great children’s horror has, but it is also loaded with all the necessary lessons and positive morals that one is told as a child. Or should have been told. It centers on themes of family values, being kind to others, having compassion for differences, and the cruel nature of vengeance. There are many small tales within this tale that is told to the reader, and each one enhances the grittiness and somber themes that envelope this story.

Once the reader is told the tale of Hulda, the story then switches off to Milla. It explains her home life and the struggles she endures to constantly be good and to please her parents. Milla lives in the shadow of her kind and seemingly-perfect brother, and she feels like she is a disappoint and burden to her family. She is unable to travel to the village and is kept under tight lock and key, with unknown reasons as to why. The story begins to unfold when Milla meets Iris, a girl that will eventually be married to her brother. The girls become very quick friends and create a fierce bond, but it all changes when Iris becomes possessed. Iris is taken somewhere called “The Place” where she will be held with other girls who have become possessed. Milla learns that it all stems from a curse that was placed on the village. A curse that was placed by her aunt, Hulda.


The writing in this book is AMAZING. The author did a fantastic job of making the story feel like a folktale in how the characters spoke to one another, how the setting is given to the reader, and even during Milla and Hulda’s inner dialogues. But where the author REALLY shines in The Cold is in Her Bones is when she describes very beautifully heartbreaking moments where Milla feels like an outcast.

“’Pretty is as pretty does,’ Gitta had always said to Milla. But Milla knew that couldn’t be right. Milla had never done anything but behave, and still she wasn’t pretty the way her mother was. If she were, she’d know it. She’d see proof of her prettiness in her mother’s eyes, or her father’s. Instead what she saw there was disappointment. Perhaps it wasn’t true that pretty is as pretty does…”

Though I can confidently say that I enjoyed this read, it DID take me a week to read it. Usually I can fly through a book in about two days, but this one was really taking me awhile to get through. The story moved a little slow for me, and at times I was feeling a little bored and irritated that I wasn’t moving on to what happened quicker. BUT, once I was finished, I realized how much I didn’t care at all about the pacing or how long it took me to get through it. I LOVE a creative and unique story, and that is EXACTLY what this is.

I recommend this to anyone who is looking for something different to read, who doesn’t get weirded out too easily, and who doesn’t have an affliction to snakes. Don’t go into this expecting an only slightly twisted retelling of Medusa, because this is completely different! The story has given me the inspiration to go on to read Peternelle van Arsdale’s other horror story, The Beast is an Animal, which is apparently in development to becoming a movie. Excitement!

If you want a little magic, to hear some folktales, dive into a curse, and even meet a witch (fangirling) then you MUST give The Cold is in Her Bones a try!

It’s so creative that it makes me wish I had snakes growing out of my own head.
Profile Image for Rosamund Hodge.
Author 28 books4,775 followers
February 7, 2019
I am normally a very, very hard sell on stories with the premise "girl is raised in an oppressively sexist, vaguely Christian-coded society." But this one captured me from the start, first with elegant prose and then with its note-perfect depiction of Milla, an extremely isolated girl who grows up never allowed to leave her farm, unloved by her mother and father, loving her brother Niklas but not being loved quite as much in return—and whose life is transformed when Niklas's future wife Iris comes to stay with them and befriends her. I don't think I've ever seen a more heartfelt depiction of what it's like to be lonely and then find your first friend. Add to this a creepy, claustrophobic sense of dread as the threat of demons draws ever closer, and a twisty story of curses and vengeance, and you have a book that was basically MADE FOR ME.

(NB this book is borderline horror and features some icky bug stuff. So warning if you're sensitive to that.)
Profile Image for - The Polybrary -.
329 reviews185 followers
April 22, 2019
~*Check out all my reviews over on The Bent Bookworm!*~
Girls who run from what frightens them don’t get what they want.

The Cold is in Her Bones is a loose retelling of Medusa’s story. I was expecting a lot more Greek influence, to be honest, so I was a little disappointed. It feels much more like a fairy tale of the British/German type, and the setting is very obviously inspired by that era, not ancient Greece. Maybe it was just me! Oh, and I was expecting snakes of the creepy variety. Um, there’s ONE. Well, one at a time. And they’re CUTE, not creepy.

A specific place or time is never given, so it feels sort of like a historical and sort of like a fantasy world. The writing itself is intriguing, though it seems a little jerky at times. In the beginning we start off with one character, and then we never see her again until much, MUCH later. So that was a bit odd.

Overall, this is a story of a girl, Milla, growing into herself and not only accepting herself, but seizing her personhood with both hands and lighting up her world. She refuses to be a “good girl” – though not at first. At first she, like many of us, is sad that she cannot be the daughter her parents want and tries very hard to please them. I absolutely loved how she eventually realized her own power and potential and threw off all the societal expectations.

I really wasn’t sure what to make of the old woman, or Milla’s brother, or even what I was supposed to think of Milla’s parents! It was just all very…well, “floaty.” I felt very much like I was drifting along trying to puzzle the pieces together. I felt really sorry for Iris and, much like Milla, only wanted to help her.

I would read something by this author again. I just think this story needed a little more direction and polish. The writing was good and the tone was great. Just…needed a little more.

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Profile Image for TL .
1,878 reviews53 followers
March 16, 2019
Writing: 3.5 stars
Story/characters: 3 stars

Overall rating: 3.25 stars I guess?

Similarity to Medusa: might be just me but I didn't see much in common with the original but, it may be just me.

Not a totally absorbing tale for me but it was good enough to keep my interest and to see what happens next. It also helped me to relax and de-stress from work and being sick yet again (mother nature, make up your mind!) so it gets points for that as well.

The pace is steady for most of the tale so keep that in mind when going in. It does pick up a ways from the end (forget what page number) and one part did have me tearing up.

The ending wrapped things up nice and neat but still felt unfinished to me. Would have liked a handful more pages *shrugs*

All in all, not the best but not the worst read.
Profile Image for Tracy (Cornerfolds).
569 reviews197 followers
March 23, 2019
Read more of my reviews at Cornerfolds.com!

Last year I read The Beast is an Animal and found it to be an incredibly unique and refreshing take on YA fantasy retellings. It was a little bit weird and pretty dark and definitely should NOT be on a "romantic Beauty and the Beast retellings" display, although I saw it on far too many. When I saw that this author was writing a new book I knew that I had to get it!

This time around the story retold is Medusa, although I'll admit I didn't realize that until way too late in the book. Although there were snakes in Milla's hair in the book and on the cover, it never occurred to me that this was a retelling - it's just that unique. Milla is a girl who doesn't fit into the life laid out for her. Her family sees her as rebellious and odd and beg her to just fit into the mold to save herself from the curse that has plagued the nearby village, a curse that takes daughters and possesses them.

Milla is such a wonderful character! Although she did try very hard to stay within the boundaries set for her, she just couldn't be kept there and I loved her strength and resilience. Things are pushed over the edge when Iris comes to stay with Milla's neighbors and ends up being taken by the demon. Milla goes after her and the journey and revelations are dark and creepy and amazing.

The relationships in The Cold is in Her Bones were really well written, mostly friendships between girls and girls looking up to girls and girls saving girls! There aren't nearly enough really great female friendships in YA literature, at least not in fantasy, so I really appreciated this aspect. I also really loved the moral of the story! Again, not something super common (or at least not super blatant) in YA fantasy, but I enjoyed the way it was written. The Medusa character, Hulda, was fascinating and complex. Even the characters I hated were wonderful. I loved everything!

It's really hard for me to review this book because a lot of what makes it so great is the atmosphere created by Peternelle van Arsdale. She has a style of writing that makes you feel as if you've been placed right in the middle of a dangerous, dark folktale. I loved the feeling of this book and was eager to jump back into it every night that I was reading it. The story grabbed me from the very first line of the prologue and when it was over I didn't want to leave. I will admit that there were times when things just meandered along, but I felt that it added to the atmosphere so I didn't mind it.

The Cold is in Her Bones is a book for people who don't mind stories that are a little weird and dark (and especially for people who love them). Again, this author has given us a very unique and atmospheric retelling of a classic that I absolutely devoured. She has most definitely found her way onto my favorites shelf!
Profile Image for ♠ TABI⁷ ♠.
Author 15 books488 followers
October 19, 2019
'There was once a girl who loved to lie in the grass and let it tickle her skin. She liked the feel of dirt under her fingers. She didn't like aprons or making dinner or washing dishes. She didn't like being told to behave.'


According to this book if you:

- have hair that isn't sleek blonde
- get enraged against misogyny
- think snakes are cute
- have one rebellious thought

then you just might be possessed by a demon so good luck to you!!


I was super excited by the fact that this claims to be a Medusa retelling but the truth is that this is only barely influenced by the Medusa myth so that was a quick disappointment. And everything else after was even more disappointments stacking up one after the other. It's hard for me to describe my exact thoughts on the book because I ended up just super speed-reading to see if it got marginally better, but nope.

Also, there was such a missed opportunity for a strong f/f relationship. And while this book steered totally clear of romance (which was nice) it was almost as if because there wasn't a good man to fall in love with therefore love wasn't available at all?? Sure, there are some sisterly relationships in here (which isn't something I'm against nor did I dislike) but overall it just felt really bland on all levels.


Profile Image for Melissa.
593 reviews818 followers
February 1, 2019
This Medusa-inspired tale is captivating! I felt for Milla, feeling all alone and kept apart from everyone... But when the story unfolds, we understand why and oh the fantasy of it!

I received an e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Mogsy.
2,071 reviews2,633 followers
January 13, 2019
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2019/01/12/...

You’d think the snakes on the cover would have clued me in, but the truth is, I didn’t find out that The Cold is in Her Bones was supposed to be inspired by the myth of Medusa until the day I started it. And in some ways, I wish I had remained blissfully unaware. For you see, knowing leads to expectations—expectations that weren’t quite met. It wasn’t the story or the characters that put me off, exactly; it was the fact that this book was trying to be more than it was.

Our protagonist is Milla, who has spent her entire life on her family’s farm, never once setting foot off the property. Her whole world consists of only the five people she has ever known: her mother Gitta, her father Jakob, her older brother Niklas, and an elderly couple her parents had hired to help on the farm, Stig and Trude. To say she was an overprotected and sheltered child is an understatement, but there is a reason why Milla has been forbidden to ever travel to the village or come in contact with other people—especially with other young women. It is a dark secret her parents have kept from her since the day she was born, though Milla has always suspected something was amiss by the disappointed looks Jakob gives her, or the fear in Gitta’s eyes whenever they settle upon her only daughter.

Then one day, everything changes when it is announced that the farm will be getting a new visitor. Niklas will soon come of marrying age, and it is everyone’s hope that he and Stig and Trude’s granddaughter will hit it off. And so arrives Iris, a beautiful and vivacious girl from the village. But instead of feeling resentful towards the newcomer—who is sophisticated and worldly—our protagonist finds herself completely awed by Iris, happy that she finally has a friend.

But then Iris begins to change. She confesses something that Milla has long feared to be the case: that their village is cursed, and that the demons her parents have always warned her about are real. And now, whatever that has been possessing the village’s young women at random has gotten its hooks in Iris too. Devastated as she is, however, Milla becomes too distracted to confront an even greater and more alarming problem—that she herself is beginning to change. First, there came the voices, and then, the tiny emerald-green snake that had mysteriously sprouted from her head…

If you think this synopsis sounds awesome, that’s because it is. But man, the execution was kind of a mess. For one thing, it is hard not to feel like I’ve been oversold a bill of goods, because aside from the allusions cast by the snakes in Milla’s hair, there really isn’t much else to do with Medusa, which was disappointing considering how the story of Perseus slaying the Gorgon is one of my favorite tales from classical Greek mythology. In truth, there really isn’t much to set this novel apart from a host of other YA fiction claiming to be about female friendships and selling a message of young women standing up against society’s expectations. While it’s great that we have stories like this, I can’t pretend this one is in any way a standout among a sea of similarly themed books.

One reason for this is Milla, who, as a protagonist, was kind of bland. It’s also one thing to have a completely naïve main character (because given Milla’s upbringing in this case, the characterization fits), but simply quite another to portray her as being so stupid as to ignore all evidence in front of her that taking certain actions would be a bad idea. As a reader, few things are more frustrating than watching a character run headlong into a disaster of her own making, not to mention how Milla appeared to lack conviction in anything, constantly doubting herself and changing her opinions on a dime.

It also didn’t help that I found the writing to be overly simplistic, a style which sometimes works well for fairy tale retellings but doesn’t always lend itself to in-depth character development or world-building. All the relationships depicted were flat, from Milla’s supposed close bond with her brother to the much-vaunted friendship between her and Iris, which really didn’t feel all that special, no matter how many times the writing tried awkwardly to shove it in my face. Perhaps if the book had been longer, these relationships could have been better explored, but I just didn’t feel there was enough time for the author to accomplish everything she wanted.

So all in all, I thought this was okay—nothing to write home about, but certainly enjoyable enough and satisfying in that it provided a decent few hours of entertainment. I might even have appreciated it more had my expectations for the book not been so high right before I started, so provided that you approach this with a realistic mindset, this could turn out to be a good read.
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
602 reviews812 followers
May 11, 2020
This was so amazing and lush, I’m absolutely astounded! I know I liked van Arsdale’s more lush, literary writing style from reading her debut, The Beast Is An Animal, but The Cold Is In Her Bones had a much more interesting and meaningful storyline to me, and now I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next book from van Arsdale!

Not only is this book lush and gorgeous with its sort of village feel (think The Beloved Wild by Melissa Ostrom), but the snakes and the imagery is lush without being overwhelming or purple-prose-like.

The atmosphere was just really well-developed–not necessarily through the words that are used, but the way they’re being used. The cadence of van Arsdale’s sentences. The way this story almost pulsates with its hidden secrets, and I love the way it lulls you into somehow reading more pages than you intended to read for more time than you thought you’d be reading.

This story just sucks you in–both with the lush writing, but also with the plot and mystery. I absolutely adored the mystery in this novel and I found it to be really interesting how you sort of uncover the secrets to the curse. It’s not a mystery in a traditional sense, but there’s a mysterious element and there’s a lot to discover, which I had enjoyed reading this and what Milla learns as she goes on her journey to save her friend.

And the plot is so interesting–both in its premise and its Medusa-inspired story, but also in the way it sort of dissects the society it is taking place in and critiques our own world along with it.

Which brings me to my very favorite part of this novel: the deep and meaningful subtext.

I know subtext is really a hit-or-miss with me (sometimes I just…do not get it) but this one really resonated with me, and although I haven’t had enough time to digest all the meaning of the story, I find it incredible.

Like, I’m not even halfway done thinking about this novel yet the commentary about society and the way it creates monsters is really interesting. The faults of society made this monster that manifested in a physical way through the growth of snakes and exhibition of demon-like traits within Milla and the other girls, and this book is taking over my thoughts.

Plus, it holds one of the most memorable prologues ever and I think van Arsdale did a wonderful job with that element! It really set up the story well and wasn’t like, randomly placed and confusing with no relevance to the actual story.

I did take off the half star because I do think that the beginning dragged a little bit without actually giving as much development to Milla and Iris’ friendship as I wanted? But that is a bit off a small thing to quibble over, but I think I was still missing a tiny tiny bit of that click with the story.

Overall, I had a really enjoyable time reading and definitely recommend you pick this up if you’re looking for something a little more subtle, a little more soft, and yet carrying the same amount of weight. Great for fans of books like The Light Between Worlds and The Price Guide to the Occult!

I’ll be looking forward to what van Arsdale writes next.
Profile Image for Laurie.
Author 19 books3,472 followers
January 27, 2019
I just finished this stunningly brilliant book. Bravo to author van Arsdale for this feminist fantasy/horror tale that's loosely based on the story of medusa (and let me just say that the two snakes growing from Milla's head, Sverd & Selv, are some of the best & best-named fantasy characters since Calcifer). This is a boldly subversive, complex, psychologically labyrinthine tale that I'll be thinking about for a long time to come. This author is an auto-buy for me ever since I read her incredible debut THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL (these titles! and the COVERS!). My highest recommendation. #TeamSverdAndSelv
P.S. To all the authors reading this - this book is a master class in how to create & sustain eerie microtension. Do not miss it.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
970 reviews849 followers
June 14, 2019

The concept of demon possessions/Medusa-inspired mythology was really cool, but I did not mesh well with its execution, and the writing style was too removed. It is also EXTREMELY slow so I felt the grating lack of connection acutely.

I also struggled with the portrayal of women—I can tell that the author is making a point with the narrative of female oppression and forced ignorance, but I just don’t enjoy those stories and don’t want to read it.
Profile Image for Lindsay (pawsomereads).
780 reviews420 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
January 6, 2021
DNF @ 100 pages. I haven’t been able to connect with the story or characters. I’m finding it to be really slow and boring still at this point over a third of the way through the book and I’m not liking the writing style.
Profile Image for Sheila G.
506 reviews96 followers
January 23, 2019
See this full review on my blog along with others at: foalsfictionandfiligree.com

I received a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much! All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.


WARNING: If you don’t like snakes...then you may not like this book very much, because there are a lot of them!

Content Warning: Curses, Death, Emotional Abuse
And this anger became bitterness, and this bitterness turned her into a monster. And the monster that she became wanted to hurt everyone that had hurt her. So she did. She punished everyone until there was no one left to punish. No one at all.

Yet another hauntingly beautiful tale by Peternelle van Arsdale. I believe this author has captured my attention wholly when it comes to writing style and character building (and setting and plot and...you get the picture). There are elements in both of her novels, The Beast is an Animal and The Cold is in Her Bones that are so unlike anything I’ve ever read. There is an otherworldliness accompanied with twisted reality which makes these tales familiar, yet very, very foreign.


The Cold is in Her Bones is a loose Medusa retelling. While yes, I see the correlations, I also see a lot of differences between this tale and the mythological one. That doesn’t really matter to me, as I read this book as its own story. I’d say that if you are looking for a hardcore, follows-along-the-same-tale type of retelling of Medusa mythology, I don’t feel like this quite fits that bill. I wouldn’t write it off just for that reason, though! This story is stunning, and mixes the twisted, beautiful, mysterious, and whimsical.

A brief, yet, very effective Prologue gives a look into the story of Hulda, introducing the lifestyles of the characters, setting, and snakes. It then shifts to Milla’s perspective for the rest of the story. The plot itself isn’t overdone, which is another element of this author’s writing that I admire. Not everything is fully explained, and it allows room for the reader to imagine. I feel that if more was explained, then it would take away from the message this story is conveying.

Very strong themes based on feelings resonate throughout the plot. Themes such as anger, forgiveness, vengeance, and regret. Milla dances with most, if not all touched upon. The Cold Is In Her Skin speaks loudly about how if anger is left unchecked it turns into vengeance.The metaphorical is taken literally and feelings materialize. Another theme that stands out is facing your demons.
...I made messes for you, and you can’t wish your messes away. I’m here, Mamma. A big mess. And I’m taking you to your other big mess. And you will apologize, and you will make this right.

The only thing I wished that had more explanation was the ending. I felt it ended rather abruptly, and could have been fleshed out further. Otherwise, I loved everything else about this story.

Vulgarity: None.
Sexual Content: None.
Violence: Some. Certain scenes are more eerie than anything.

My Rating: ★★★★1/2

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Profile Image for Jay G.
1,281 reviews460 followers
January 20, 2019
Want to see more bookish things from me? Check out my Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfer...

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review*

Milla has always been told to be obedient to keep the demons at bay. Once a girl steps out of line, the demon Hulda will possess them and take over their minds. Milla lives in solitude on her family farm with her mother, father and brother, Niklas. She is not allowed to go to the village where the curse runs rampant. When a village girl named Iris moves to live with her grandparents, Milla finally has a friend but she quickly realizes that the demon is closer than she once thought.

This is supposed to be a retelling of Medusa, but it must be very loosely based off of this story. I felt that the story progressed very slowly and not much of a plot occurred. At times I was bored and became disinterested in the story. I didn't much care for what happened to Milla and her family or the girls who became possessed. I did like the theme of the female friendships and how loyal Milla was to Iris.

Overall just an average read for me.
Profile Image for Melanie  Brinkman.
619 reviews77 followers
April 25, 2020
Demons and snakes aren't the only monsters that's slither over her bones.

Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real and fear will keep her safe.

The family farm is Milla's whole world. She's never been allowed to venture to the village with her perfect brother, Niklas. When a girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes she's finally found a friend. But through Iris, she finds out the reason behind her isolation. A demon possesses girls at random and the townspeople live in fear of the curse.

Now Iris is showing signs of possession. Milla must help her, but as she leaves home to do so, she realizes that change may have found her too.

A story of voices, terrified, demanding, dismissed, and finally heard. A tale of siblings and those who become closer than blood.

Trigger warnings for sexism, animal violence, and child (verbal and emotional) abuse.

Unappreciated, lonely Milla did her best to be a good girl, to do as she's told, and knew no matter what she did that it would never be enough. But as life changed around and within her, the young girl recoiled at being dismissed. Indecisive as she was, an intuitive and cunning nature coursed through her as she met with fiends and humans who appeared equally evil. I am in awe of this hero who kept a level head no matter how scared she got.

From a girl set apart from her family and vilified for it, from parents who protect their daughter at the cost of emotionally breaking her, from a brother who just doesn't see, to a captivating girl who nudges the long oppressed voice within her, to snakes who were much closer than you'd think, to other ominous beings, Milla felt the pressure of so many spirits looking for and forcing their way in. Every one of the supporting cast was so distant yet drawn together by a wash of emotion. I was begging to know more about them as a they left my head spinning. I particularly liked how family and fierce friendship wrapped around and parted from each other, calling to question the strength of bonds of blood and beyond.

Starting off with a horrifying, fairytale esque prologue, we quickly switched to the chilling of Milla. A cold fear you can't shake coils around the characters and your heart in this loosely Medusa inspired tale. Peternelle van Arsdale's gorgeously woven words pull you in close and let the atmospheric, almost secretive story flow before your eyes. A story of family, pain, curses, vengence, and the safety/dangers not using your voice, The Cold in Her Bones impressively remained rooted in fantasy while speaking volumes about reality.

Increasingly dark tinged by hope, this begs the questions: Just how responsible are we for demons? How many demons are disguised as humans?

Don't leave your bones cold by neglecting this book.
Profile Image for Justine.
1,155 reviews311 followers
June 3, 2019
I liked this one a lot. It was simple and straightforward, but really quite satisfying.

I was reminded of a couple of other books I enjoyed about girls and curses and family relationships, Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton and Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust. The Cold is in Her Bones is not the same, exactly, but shares a similar feel and explores characters in the same way. All three books really look at who a person is and how they are shaped by their close relationships, particularly mothers and daughters, siblings, and friends as close as family. I like the way they all deal with the tangled complexity of these close relationships, simple on the surface, yet boundlessly complicated.

Best not to go into this book expecting some kind of retelling. I'm not sure where some of the other reviewers got that idea, unless it was a publisher angle that I didn't come across based on the fact that there are snakes involved. Appreciate it instead for what it actually is: a simply told yet engaging story about fear and hurt strong enough to fuel a curse, and the relationships strong enough to create and possibly break it.
Profile Image for Meisha (ALittleReader).
225 reviews56 followers
February 11, 2020
Man, not a great start to my reading year. 😞 I think I may have over hyped this book for myself? I don’t really know... I loved the idea of the plot but the execution really didn’t work for me. I was really bored through the whole thing and found myself tuning out rather than listening to the book. I was honestly eager just to finish the book so I could move on to a better book. (Hopefully) I don’t think I would have finished it if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook... I really really wanted to like this book! I’m so bummed and disappointed! ☹️
Profile Image for OutlawPoet.
1,298 reviews69 followers
March 4, 2019
Though not a perfect book for me, this dark fable was strangely compelling.

Much of what happens in the book is bizarre - it also touches a bit on feminism and how women have been and continue to be discounted in this world.

Overall, I liked it, but it's a slow and methodical storytelling that may lose a few readers before they reach the point where they get trapped in the dark story.

Honestly, still thinking on this one, but would read the author again.
Profile Image for Amanda (MetalPhantasmReads).
473 reviews30 followers
January 17, 2019
Man this book surprised me! This tale, inspired by the myth of Medusa, has themes of feeling different, female suppression, friendship, loneliness and child neglect/abandonment and family issues. Milla was a great character that I think many people could relate to her in one way or another. The creepy element of the demon possessing girls is a great parallel for girls feeling misunderstood and out of place for feeling different. The pacing was perfect, creating a subtle yet persistent building of creepiness and dread. This might not be for everyone as far as the magical elements of the story, but I loved how original this was compared to what's being published right now. The themes of a mother and daughter relationship was really emotional for me and the ending has such a great message of facing your mistakes. If you need something different, please pick this up when it comes out. Review is now up on the blog!
Profile Image for The Nerd Daily.
720 reviews345 followers
August 10, 2019
Originally published on The Nerd Daily | Review by Nathalie DeFelice

It’s not often that Medusa lore comes up in fiction, much less YA. Often, she’s the villain. A misunderstood and evil woman whose only desire is the demise of others. The Cold Is In Her Bones explores the myth of Medusa in such a methodical and cunning way, a stunning characterisation of a creature that is often vilified while also exploring the bonds of siblings. It’s such a riveting read, and will give the readers chills as they go through the story.

Milla has been raised knowing that demons are real, and that her fear is what keeps her safe. Raised on a farm away from the village she longs to go to, her only real friend is her brother Niklas. When he returns from a visit to the village with a young woman named Iris, Milla is ecstatic. Her lonely days might finally come to an end. However, Iris comes bearing a secret. The village is cursed by a demon that possesses young women at random, and no one knows who it will come for next. When it seems that Iris has become the next victim of the curse, Milla is determined to free her and break the curse that plagues the village. Except Milla is experiencing changes of her own…changes that might be changing her into a demon as well.

The wretchedness of this story is what makes it so stunning and beautiful. I found myself turning page after page searching for answers, all the while sensing a foreboding tension slithering its way off of the page. The story simmers with this quiet anger at first, turning into a roiling rage of emotions. Milla was a formidable character to watch. Her wilful determination and wildness really created a raw and believable character.

The relationships between her and Niklas and Iris were explored in a creative way. I loved seeing the strength of loyalty versus betrayal between siblings and friends. Since she struggles with obedience and conformity, her interactions with her parents are strained…if not outright hostile. Though this was highlighted throughout the story, it was the actions that result from this that interested me most.

I also loved the fierce nature that Iris has in the story. It’s captivating, and at times a stark contrast to Milla. She spins tales within the story that are so satisfyingly sinister, reminiscent of a proper Grimms tale. I would love to see a book of tales that Iris tells. Themes of love, friendship, vengeance, and forgiveness can be felt throughout the story, as well as a theme of empowerment. Empowerment against conformity and against oppression. I loved seeing Milla struggle with fighting against the darkness welling within her or embracing it.

Milla’s journey to rescue Iris and the possessed girls of the village is very interesting because she’s also going through changes (both physical and mental), that affect her decision-making. She also carries an anger that often fuels her decisions, often with unpredictable consequences.

Peternelle’s descriptions and imagery is vivid, at times a little harrowingly so. However, it’s this vividness that keeps the magic of this story to life, and memorable, even after you’re turned the last page. The pacing was good, although the wildness in parts definitely warranted me to take my time and savour the words. There were a couple of moments where you feel as lost as Milla is, and I enjoyed that. Moreover, the myth of Medusa is interwoven wonderfully throughout the story, itself being another great tension maker.

There wasn’t much that I didn’t like about the story. The prologue was promising, and teasing the reader toward the horribly fascinating adventure to come. I wished there had been a little more depth to Milla’s parents, as I feel that I only got to see a couple of aspects of them, nothing to make me feel attached to them as characters as I felt with Milla, Iris, and Niklas. The ending was satisfying, although it did feel a little rushed at the end. I would have loved to savour it a little more.

I would rate this story a 9/10. It’s such a refreshing read, especially if you’re looking for something without romance. My favourite character was Milla, through I really loved Iris too. The darkness in this story treads a fine line, and I love the emphasis on what happens when it goes too far in one direction. This is a perfect winter read to have with a nice mug of hot chocolate and to share with a friend. The Cold is in Her Bones will definitely give you some things to think about.
Profile Image for Dawne.
Author 2 books6 followers
January 6, 2019

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley, Peternelle van Arsdale and Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review.


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 comes 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.

“Be my friend.”

I actually really enjoyed this book. It kept me captivated from start to finish.
It was full of twists and turns, Magic, mystery and tons of plot twists!
I absolutely loved it!

“She wasn’t really the girl sitting in the chair by the window, the green snake coiled in her hair. Her body was there. But the other part of her, the better part, was gone.”

Hulda was locked away and didn’t get to go outside where she felt the most free. People had dubbed her a monster and even her parents and sister agreed.

“But then the cold reached her bones. The cold was in her bones. And that was when she allowed herself one last cry for help.”

A way to get the demons out is to freeze them out.

“To protect you home from demons:
1. If you see a snake, kill it. Then burn it.
2. Pour salt where the air come in- sills, thresholds, hearths.
3. Stay inside after dark. Lock tight doors and windows.
4. Pray.
Lord protect us from the demons.
Lord protect us from the demons.
Lord protect us from the demons.

“If you were born a girl, you were fair game.”

All girls from age 9 to 18 are in danger of being possessed and taken by the demon. Once the symptoms start... there is no stopping what’s to come. The girls are already lost.

“She blinked at him. Once. Twice. I see you. See me.”

5/5 Stars.

Release date: January 22, 2019.
Profile Image for Summer.
367 reviews14 followers
March 18, 2019
This was a wonderful Medusa-inspired story! The prologue was a straight-up fairytale, and most of the rest of the story was very fairytale-like. Friendship and forgiveness lay at the heart of this book, and those are my favorite themes to read. Don't let the cold of vengeance make a home in your bones!
Profile Image for Sam.
504 reviews87 followers
January 30, 2020
Reading this felt like reading a fairytale.

This was enchanting, unique. A solid feminist fantasy about girls and snakes and demons. About mothers and daughters. About sisters. About purpose and love.

Definitely check this one out!

Profile Image for Mila.
771 reviews65 followers
October 6, 2018
The digital arc of this book was kindly provided by the publisher via Edelweiss+ website in exchange for an honest review.

I honestly wanted to love this story. It's a retelling of Medusa and it's all about female friendship, I was sure to love it! But, unfortunately, the actual book turned out to be kind of a mess. I appreciated the overall message that girls are, by definition of our societies' standards, never enough. That no matter what you do or say or even think, someone out there can and will express their opinion on what you're doing wrong. It can be your family, your partner, friends, complete strangers, anyone and anywhere. It is a reality in a lot of countries and it sucks. And while it took a different form in this fantasy novel, it was still quite clear where the message was rooted.

So, I obviously loved that aspect of the story. What I didn't enjoy were the plot and the characters, both of which were so confusing. Milla changed her opinion on her friend, Iris, her brother and the whole demon curse a hundred times or something like that. It was very frustrating to read a book where nothing was clear until the last few chapters. Milla spent more than half the book trying to find who is "the bad guy" and who was the actual originator of the curse and it was just tiring. She could not make up her mind for a second and made so many confusing decisions so, in the end, I couldn't make myself care for her that much as well. Every other character was also just fine, Iris being the most interesting one, but there wasn't enough time spent with her to really flesh out her character.

Basically, I liked the book in theory, I was mostly frustrated or bored while reading it in practice.
Profile Image for Rachel.
943 reviews302 followers
February 6, 2019
I’m torn between 2.5 and 3 stars. I liked the writing which made the book a fast read but I did feel a certain disconnect from the characters. Part 4 is when it really found its stride and I began to care about Milla, Iris and her family and their dynamic with one another.
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