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review 2017-08-02 19:58
Review: "The Lie Tree" by Frances Hardinge
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

   A tree that feeds with lies and a mysterious death, just what a book needs to intrigue me. 'The Lie Tree' has a great plot, but not such a great beginning. What I didn’t enjoy about this book is the fact that the first few chapters are really slow-paced, so I was afraid that it won’t work for me and I will abandon the book, but brace yourself readers, be ready for a slow beginning and don’t give up because it gets interesting and in the second half of it the pace starts to accelerate, the lies and betrayal take root and a lot of plot twists and tense situations grow out of the pages and will be impossible to put the book down.

   What helped me to go through the first chapters was the setting, as a Victorian period lover I was thrilled, especially because Hardinge did a great job creating a perfect atmosphere so everything is so vivid and dark and mysterious. Furthermore, it is indisputable that the author did a great deal of research before writing this beautiful work. We are shown the oddities of the Victorian England, like mourning portraits and ratting pits and the thinking of the Victorian people.

   A great emphasize is put on the female role in the society of that time, the absurd discrimination and expectations. 'The Lie Tree' can be seen as a 'feminist triumph' because we have a strong heroine with big dreams. That’s what I like about Faith, that she is brave and strong, even though she’s only fourteen. She is not a damsel in distress, but manage to overcome hardship and fight the bad guys on her own. She is not perfect and has many flaws, but she dream big and wants to show that she can be sharp and have a clever mind, even though she is a girl in that patriarchal society and that not only men have the psychical traits to become great people.

   As for the rest of the characters…well, I didn’t get attached to them as I did with the characters of other books, I guess this book put the accent on the main character and her struggles, so the focus is mainly on Faith and the others are just there in the background. It would have been better if there were more interactions between the characters.

    Overall, it was an enjoyable read and I will surely read Hardinge’s other books.

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review 2017-01-24 23:47
The Lie Tree
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

I absolutely loved this book. Just sunk into it each winter night with so much happiness.


It's a dreary, creepy, mysterious world, full of old bones and suspicious locals and sea caves and private papers full of secrets.


I loved the intersection of religion and science and the guile of the main character so much. 


Beautiful, beautiful sentences. Gorgeous story.


Look forward to seeing what else this author has made.

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review 2016-11-16 16:57
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

Seriously trippy story about a young Victorian woman, her family going through a grim time, exiled to a gothic island, and how she is good at things, but isn’t permitted to do anything because of sexism, and how she finds ways to circumvent that in order to solve a puzzle when there isn’t anyone else to do it.Got that? Sneaky clever girl saves the day or makes a terrific hash of things, or both.


I love me some Hardinge, and she does a fabulous job of evoking a girl being thwarted for her gender, but this is not a happy book. It's creepy and strange and a bit ominous with a slightly positive spin on the future. But never Happy.


Library copy

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review 2016-10-03 20:31
3/5: The Lie Tree, Francis Hardinge
The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

Fourteen-year-old Faith and her Victorian family are forced to flee mainland England for a quieter island off the coast of France. But scandal has followed them, and when her father is murdered, Faith must break free of her extremely binding social conventions to bring some justice to his memory.

When a book has paragraphs like this one:

"She had tumbled off the safe, hallowed shore of childhood, and now she was in no-man's-water, neither one thing nor another, like a mermaid. Until she dragged herself up on the rock of marriage, she was difficult."

...you know this might be a bumpy ride. Purple prose like that litters the early pages of the book, and it staggers and reels for the first few hundred pages or so, apparently seeking a plot.

I read that paragraph to my wife who said, "If I'd read that, I'd put the book down right there and then."

But I stuck with it because I'm not someone who relishes the thought of a didn't-finish. It did take its time to get moving in a direction - two hundred pages, give or take, and only when Faith's father is murdered.

As usual in young-adult fiction, the adults are useless, and it's entirely up to Faith to sort the murder out. Further constraining her is the setting: The number of things a Victorian girl can't do is quite startling 150 years later. She can't go out alone, or at night, she can't be alone with a man or even a boy her age and be less than ten feet from them. She's encumbered and corseted (literally and figuratively) by the clothes she wears, by the society that regards her as invisible and incapable. She will not be attending school or furthering her education for much longer. Her interest in natural history and science can only be expanded by picking at the crumbs her father drops.

But Faith is like a Judo champion, twisting the forces opposing her so they work in her favour, taking the expectations of the men (and women) around her and slamming them to the ground. There's a nice twist at the reveal of the murderer when Faith realises she's party to that short-sighted sexism as much as anyone.

A word or two about the reveal of the murderer...to me, it seemed very Agatha Christie. Information we couldn't possibly know suddenly turns up three pages before it happens, making it impossible to solve for those playing along at home.

There's a nice sense of place and time throughout, a very solid feel to the island and the physical, emotional, social and intellectual restraints placed on a young woman and widows and families in the 1860s.

Faith is not a particularly nice character, not exactly pleasant to be around. She has only one ally on the island, and she tolerates him only because she needs a male partner. She's bratty and sullen, a typical teenager a hundred years before the word existed.

I'm a long way into this review and I haven't mentioned The Lie Tree. Its origins are left nicely vague, open to a scientific interpretation or a spiritual one. Faith and her father approach it from different ends and almost meet in the middle. An unanswered question is whether the tree grew because of the lies Faith told, or whether it would have done so anyway.

A tree that feeds on lies and gives out a fruit filled with knowledge (although that knowledge is extremely vague and abstract) has obvious Biblical overtones, but there's more to the symbolism to that. The lies that Faith feeds it twist and grow as quickly as the plant does.

I was surprised that Faith didn't see it for the honey trap it was. I imagined she would already be someone accustomed to lies, and would know how they grow and thicken without much effort. And like their modern equivalent, the Meme, they don't need much watering.

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review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-09-24 07:02
Cuckoo, Cuckoo
Cuckoo Song - Frances Hardinge

This book has been on my "To Be Read" shelf pretty much since I first joined BookLikes. When I saw it at Barnes and Noble I was interested in the concept and thought it could be a fun, even spooky read. I think it was even under a shelf marked, "Spooky Reads for Teens" or something like that. It was at the library and I figured why not. 


Cuckoo Song follows Triss after she falls into the Grimmer, which I think is a river. Maybe a creek. In any case, she falls into a body of water (thus why I'm counting this for the fall square) and nothing is the same after that. Her sister hates her, her dolls scream at her, and she's always hungry. Also, leaves appear in her bed in the morning. As she tries to figure out what's happening, she learns that there's an unseen world around her and the forces in this world have it out for her family and she must stop them. 



This book was a strange read for me. I found it compelling and didn't want to stop reading, but I also found it underwhelming. Sort of like when you chug a drink and then are thirsty again almost immediately. It's kind of a cool that it parallel's Triss' inability to feel full, but I doubt that was intentional. It created an unsatisfying story for me and not because the story wasn't good or the writing wasn't well done. Hardinge is a really good writer and the story itself was a fun ride. The characters themselves were also interesting and well rounded.Those of you who like stories with complex female characters will really appreciate the ones in this story, I believe. So there was nothing that sticks out as just WRONG. It just felt hollow, didn't thrill me or anything. 


I think the story's biggest issue is there's just so much detail and events going on and it causes the story to drag. It doesn't feel like it's dragging while you're reading, but when you put the book down you realize you've just read four chapters where nothing really happens. Nothing major anyway. If I were to redo this book, I would have cut down majorly on the first fourth of the book, since it was just repeated events making you go, "What's wrong with Triss?" It really didn't do much and instead was just an elaborate set up for the actual plot. Triss has seven days, according to the weird voice, and most of them are spent not knowing what's going on. That to me feels like a waste of time and just a way to make it so when the action starts, there's a tighter timeline. It feels kind of cheap to me. 


Part of the trouble is I knew about Changelings before I read the book. The title plus the strangeness about Triss immediately alerted me that there was a Changeling in our midst. So much of the story is solely focused on the mystery of what's wrong with Triss, but that wasn't a mystery to me. I knew what was wrong with her. So I was just waiting for them to get on with the greater question of, "Why would someone want to put a Changeling in the Cresent family?" I think if I hadn't of known about the creatures, it would have been more suspenseful for me. Or if had been something different from a Changeling. That would have been cool and less predictable. Oh well. 


When it comes to the technical components of the story, it was constructed very well. Especially the world building. I LOVED the world and mechanics of the Besiders. It was such an interesting concept, the way they and their magic work. I wish we had gotten to them so much sooner and that they had a greater presence in the story. They really were my favorite part. So I have to give credit to Hardinge there. 


Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's an okay story. Nothing particularly special but still a fun read. If you like stories like Neverwhere, I think you'll enjoy this one. 





One last complaint to wrap up this review: There was what felt like a major copout when it came to the conflict resolution: How on earth did the Architect not realize that he was dragging Trista along? All the other Besiders could tell she was one of him. How come he suddenly couldn't? Perhaps I missed something but I was pretty miffed about that. It was so cheap to me and too easy.



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