The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. This was his greatest secret, his treasure and his undoing. The Tree of Lies. Now it was hers, and the journey he had never finished stretched out before her.
When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she is determined to untangle the truth from the lies. Searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. A tree that feeds off whispered lies and bears fruit that reveals hidden secrets. The bigger the lie, and the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.
But as Faith’s untruths spread like wildfire across her small island community, she discovers that sometimes a single lie is more potent than any truth.
A beguiling tale of mystery and intrigue from the award-winning author of Fly By Night and Cuckoo Song.
Source: ARC from Macmillan Children’s Books via NetGalley
I am a huge fan of Frances Hardinge’s books. There are few authors out there who can write better fantasy books packed with such incredible, unexpected imagination and vivid atmosphere, whatever age they’re aiming for. This novel is no different, although it takes a little longer for the fantastical elements to kick in than I expected.
Set in the mid-Victorian era, when science was starting to overpower religion for the first time, Faith is a girl born long before her time. She is clever, almost as clever as her father, who has made a name for himself in the Natural Sciences with his incredible fossil discoveries. But trouble is brewing, which is why Faith and her family have suddenly moved from their comfortable home in Kent to the remote island of Vane, where the locals are rude and secretive and mysteries are waiting to happen.
This is a book about gossip and lies, and how both have immense power to ruin and wound. Faith is a quiet girl, but one who listens at doors and pays attention when others have forgotten her. She’s not entirely likeable at times, but I felt for her, the way she’s always overlooked and patronised, constantly left out of big decisions as she hovers in the awkward age between child and adult. And she’s angry, so very, understandably angry at the way things turn out and the lies being spun around her. She wants answers and she wants revenge, especially on the petty gossips who ruined her father’s name. So while I might not always like her or what she does, I felt for her and I understood why she would do such things.
Then there’s the tree. It takes a while for the tree to come into the story, so long in fact that I was starting to think there might not be any magical or uncanny aspect to this story at all. But it’s there, and when it arrives I realised it had been there all along, weaving its dark roots throughout the whole story. It’s clever and creepy and insidious, just like the lies Faith tells, turning this book into a dark mystery with Gothic undertones.
This is not a quick read, nor filled with likeable, friendly characters (although Faith’s little brother Howard is very cute), but it is compelling as it draws you in deeper to Faith’s lies and the mystery she’s desperate to solve. The plot itself builds and builds the pressure and the tension throughout, in the same way that the tree grows and spreads in its secret cave. It’s a twisted tale, but I couldn’t stop reading once I’d begun, and the sheer imagination hooked me in just as deeply as any other Hardinge book that I’ve picked up before. If you like Gothic Victorian fantasies, or love intricate tales packed with original imagination, then you should enjoy this. I certainly did.
The Lie Tree is Out Now!
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