Monday, April 4, 2016

*SPOILER* Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

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.

Rating: 5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was a great book to get me out of my reading slump. I feel like I've had a run of bad books lately, or at least books that didn't quite suite me. The Lie Tree changed that.


The characters were a hodgepodge of good people, wicked people, and a few that were both.

 I find myself quite liking Faith, though some of her mannerisms are a bit irritating. I believe it's just a product of her time and of the situation she finds herself in. As a young lady in the late 1800's, she has to be a certain way. Unlike most heroines I read about in similar circumstances, who tend to openly rebel right out of the gate, Faith is more what I imagine would be realistic. She has these passions that she is constantly being told are wrong (being intelligent, interested in science, etc.), but instead of openly pursuing them, she keeps them as closely guarded a secret as she can. Try as she might to be "proper" and do away with these fanciful notions before becoming an adult, they are still there and I think you can tell that, even though she's acting as society would wish her to, she doesn't really believe the things she's told to be.

The secondary characters are gold. Although they may only be mentioned in passing, they've got their own life. The servants at the Sunderly family's new household are the 19th century equivalent of snarky. They don't suffer fools, which is what they view their new mistress as. As the story progresses, they each have a part to play. Jeanne (the house maid) was never a nice person, but she served a purpose and played that part well.

Mrs. Vellet (the housekeeper) was a bit odd because for a time you couldn't tell where she sat with the family. I still have some questions about her and Miss Hunter (the postmistress). They both had a mysterious presence in the story that wasn't stated, but implied and if what I think about this implication is true, then I have a new respect for both of them, regardless of some of the unkind things one or the other of them might have done in the course of the story.


This book was very good about keeping things close to the chest regarding the main mystery of the story (the murder of Faith's father) and the mystery of the Lie Tree itself, plus a few minor incidents that crop up. The misdirection regarding the criminals was successful, as I never thought about these people doing what they ended up doing.

One of the main criminals, Agatha, was such an odd creature because despite what she'd done, she was sympathetic not only from the reader's point of view, but from the very person she'd wronged the most, Faith. She was a woman who was brilliant and wanted so much to be a respected naturalist, but realized that it wasn't going to be possible in the time and place she lived in. She was intelligent enough to come up with an alternative that would've satisfied her, but her execution of it (murder, theft, etc.) was her downfall. Because of her obsession with having the Lie Tree and thus getting rich (since she couldn't be famous), she ended up contracting malaria, became an alcoholic, and committed suicide.

Throughout her interactions with the tree and with the people involved with it directly or indirectly, Faith became a much stronger person by the end. She not only became braver and bolder, but she realized truths about herself and about her own moral compass. The tree, whether it was actually magical or not, was more of a burden than it was a blessing.


This was a fantastic story that needs to be read by more people. It's a young adult story without the burden of a romance that seems out of place or a main character that is stupid beyond words. It's a mystery that has a satisfying answer. It makes you think about some moral issues, such as whether a lie can ever be told for a good reason. Read about Faith and her journey toward her own resolution to see what you think in the end.

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