The Lie Tree - Frances Hardinge

Genre: Fantasy/Historical Fiction/YA
Synopsis: 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: I wanted to love this book so much, but I feel like it turned out to be a missed opportunity. I have read two other books by Hardinge - Fly By Night and Cuckoo Song - and The Lie Tree is easily the most disappointing one. I adored Fly By Night for its incredible prose, fantasy setting and themes that adults can appreciate. Cuckoo Song was also beautifully written and full of fantasy - albeit not the kind of fantasy I'm really into, but it was great for what it was. The Lie Tree could have been on par with Fly By Night, had Hardinge chosen a different focus - once the focus finally resolved itself, after a very slow start.

Easily the least magical of the three I've read, The Lie Tree is set on a fabulously gothic Victorian island, on the cusp of scientific breakthroughs and radical changes in social thinking. The main character is a girl cut more from modern cloth than her parents and peers approve of, who is eager to learn everything she can about her famous father's work. His work is incredibly interesting, the Lie Tree itself, the one real source of fantasy in this novel, is fantastic, and could have been used to much greater effect. The role of women, the potential strength and intellect of women, and the changing attitudes of females like Faith are a huge theme in this book, and that is probably the one aspect I would say is very well done. But it is, while an important theme, an ordinary theme, and I hoped from a book about a magical truth-granting tree reminiscent of the tree of knowledge that we might have a greater focus on historical religious leanings versus the revelations of science - a tree that would reveal scientific truths that shatter the foundations of Victorian society while itself being a magical entity of religious lore.

I mean, I loved reading this book. I devoured the thing. And it's quite possible I simply hold Hardinge to a much higher standard than most authors, because this is certainly, by no means, a bad book. I just had such hopes, and very few of them were met.

Rating: 3/5 

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