I received a copy of this ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Amulet Books, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!
Expected Publication Date: April 19th, 2016
Every now and then, you come across a novel that just drags you in as soon as you read the synopsis. It may not be something that you would normally try but on that day, something just clicked. That’s how I felt when I came across The Lie Tree by Francis Hardinge on NetGalley. I knew I had to try it.
In this deliciously creepy novel by the author of the critically acclaimed Cuckoo Song, the fruit of a magical tree uncovers dangerous truths
Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy—a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.
In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree only bears fruit when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder—or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.
The plot of this book was insane. It’s a historical novel full of mystery, a touch of fantasy, and super creepy! There were quite a few plot twists that I wasn’t expecting and the mystery of the lie tree itself, was very intriguing. I found myself constantly on edge, never knowing what was going to happen next which is something I really look for. I want to be surprised and tense, and for this book, that was definitely the case. There was a bit of a build-up for the first 100 pages or so, due to all of the world building but after that it really started to get going.
Faith was a really fascinating character. She’s a 14 year old who wants to become a natural scientist, just like her father. However, due to the time period, ladies are meant to be seen but not heard, only useful to run a household and get married. Because of this, Faith plays the meek and invisible daughter when she’s actually very smart, clever, and a bit conniving. I loved how she’s portrayed as a morally ambiguous character, rather than the perfect MC that you normally find. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to get what she wanted. I could not believe how vicious she could be and I absolutely loved it. However, she came across a bit older than just 14 and sometimes I found myself thinking that she was written more as an older character. I could easily see her being around 18 or 19.
The various side characters were all so interesting as well. Myrtle and Paul were my favorites for different reasons. Myrtle was ambitious and vain and such a social climber but I really enjoyed watching her grow a backbone as the book went along. I wasn’t expecting her to go through the development that she did, so I was pleasantly surprised by how she turned out in the end. While Paul, well, he was just interesting. I loved how he and Faith played off of each other. They’re interactions were pretty hilarious to me, though I’m not really sure that was what Hardinge was going for.
Hardinge’s writing was amazing. She did an incredible job building this fantastical island and bringing the eccentric characters to life. I also really enjoyed that while she was writing an entertaining mystery, the true focus of this story was on feminism. Throughout the entire book, Faith is constantly being looked down upon or not taken seriously just because she’s a girl. All of the men continually make comments about how women are not as smart as men, must not have jobs, etc. However, the strong characters are all women. They’re the ones who do all of the real fighting and actually drive the narrative. I loved that Hardinge took the prominent attitude of nineteenth century culture and completely turned it around. This book is first and foremost about female empowerment and that is insanely awesome to me!
I don’t really have any complaints about this book. Though I think it’s being listed as a children’s novel and I find it should be geared towards a more mature audience. It deals with some pretty morbid content, as well as being a bit dark. I also found the MC to be written a bit older than what she’s actually listed as. But other than that, this book was fantastic and gruesome and full of girl power. What more could you ask for?!