The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge

“The boat moved with a nauseous, relentless rhythm, like someone chewing on a rotten tooth.”

Occasionally a book comes with just so much praise that it can only be a disappointment – right?  And so I started the much-hyped The Lie Tree with a little trepidation.

Faith is in that awkward phase – no longer quite a child, not quite a woman. She also rather awkwardly has a brain, not something that’s looked kindly upon in the times that she lives in, and far more of a taste for adventure (i.e. any) than her class breeding allows for. She’s caught between a mother who seems self-centred in the extreme, and a father who’s cool and distant – and apparently in some kind of trouble, as we start the book with the whole family being moved away from society to escape some unnamed disgrace.

But since “All knowledge – any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen”, it’s not too long before she figures out what’s going on, and that at the root of it all is a tree. A fantastical, impossible tree, which shuns daylight and feeds on lies whispered to it. Feed the tree, and the fruit it bears will show you a truth – the bigger the lie, the bigger the revelation. How far would you go to uncover the ultimate truth?

I’m not going to suggest that this book is perfect, by any means, but boy does it give it a good go at getting there! If anything let it down just a little, it was perhaps that the overall story couldn’t quite live up to my expectations – not from others raving about the book, but from the amazing tension and darkness and mystery that builds up over the course of the telling.

It’s a deliciously dark book, full of the frustration of being a young girl/woman in a century that is more constricting than the corsets Faith is ‘training’ to wear. The way that she’s dismissed as less – well, everything – than her young brother left me wanting to claw someone’s eyes out! It’s so fitting, then, that it is Faith who gets to make the discoveries, to seek out the truth – even if she has to do it behind everyone’s back and by telling the blackest of lies.

While the story is only 90% there for me in the end, despite or possibly because of some of the later twists and turns, the world building is spot on. I was utterly sucked in to the atmosphere the author creates. This is not a book you can read in small doses – it’s the kind that demands a curling up on the sofa with plenty of refreshments, while you devour as much as you can in long sittings!

Recommended. Duh! 😉

Paperback: 410 pages / 36 chapters
First published: 2015
Series: none
Read from 26th-29th August 2016

My rating: 9/10

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