Book Review: The Lie Tree (Frances Hardinge)

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Release Date: October 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen.

Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

Review:

Frances Hardinge’s writing is just painfully beautiful, and this book is no exception. I love reading her books, but it makes me despair too, as I know I can never have that magical way with words that she has.

Faith has a secret thirst for knowledge that she starts to satisfy when she reads her father’s journals and uncovers his greatest discovery: a tree fed on lies that can tell you truths. But each lie she tells has real life consequences – are the truths revealed worth the price she may have to pay?

I loved the idea of the story and especially loved Faith’s character. She was quiet and plain and smart and brave and everything I want in a heroine. I was fascinated by the lie tree and just wanted to read more about it: Hardinge could publish a history of the plant and I would devour it.

This book also defies the stereotype of boring, passive women in period pieces. Women can be intelligent and strong and even villains (!) no matter what time period you’re in. I loved the realisation Faith had at the end, so much that I’m going to quote it here:

Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.

That to me is the final say on the ‘not like other girls’ trope and it’s perfect.

This edition also has beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. They’re so intricate and detailed it took me twice as long to read this as it should have because I kept staring at the pictures.

This is definitely a modern classic and one that should be taught in schools to show young people the sheer joy of reading beautiful language. I loved it and I hope you will too.

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