Spoiler Free Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

the_lie_tree_front_coverFaith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

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I bought the Lie Tree for my birthday last year with the intention of reading it before YALC 2015 and alas that didn’t happen. However I did take it with me and get it signed! This year I’m a bit more organised and with all the hype surrounding this book between the Costa 2015 Book of the Year and the YA Book Prize nomination, I couldn’t resist picking it up in preparation for this year’s YALC.

Me with Frances Hardinge at YALC 2015

Me with Frances Hardinge at YALC 2015

Spoiler free

The Lie Tree is a book which is miles out of my reading comfort zone. I very rarely read anything in the realm of historical fiction, preferring dystopian or urban fantasies. I am so glad that I took this venture though because I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, it was ace! Our protagonist, Faith, is a fourteen year old girl on the cusp of being considered an adult in the Victorian time period in which the book is set. Her progression into adulthood is hindered by her family’s relocation to a small island named Vane where she is forced to essentially act as both nurse and teacher to her younger brother, Howard. Faith dreams of being a natural scientist like her father but she is constrained by her gender, a fact which she laments throughout the novel.

i am woman hear me roar

The period setting brings about a really interesting family dynamic because Faith, her mother and her father are all very strong willed characters but obviously Faith and her mother are subordinate to her father, who goes by “The Reverend” and seeing them trying to work around the social construct of the era is fascinating to watch play out. Furthermore the murder mystery element to the story is really cool, it’s like Victorian Cluedo but more twisted because there are so many people with different types of motives and you don’t know who can be trusted.

trust no one

The Tree itself is a super creepy concept and reading Frances Hardinge’s rich imagery of it really adds to that feeling, probably not helped by the fact I was reading at night as well. I don’t want to spoil you any further on that because figuring it out is part of the joy of reading this novel.

“The stone shelf reared before her, now cocooned in black tendrils. The dark spidery mound on top of it glimmered faintly in the dull, gauzy light of the lantern.

too spooky

Watching the plot unfold from the perspective of a fourteen year old girl is amazing because she is just so underestimated by every other character in the book which is why she gets away with so much sneaky and underhanded stuff, it’s glorious to witness her absolutely playing all the other characters because they truly expect nothing remotely interesting from her and she sees that as advantageous and WORKS IT.

“Women and girls were so often unseen, forgotten, afterthoughts. Faith herself had used it to good effect, hiding in plain sight and living a double life.”


Not to mention that she is INCREDIBLY sassy, particularly for the time period, as I expressed in some tweets this week:

pew pew pew


lie tree quote

So those are my thoughts on the Lie Tree! I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to both fans of the genre and people who are looking to read something a bit different because this is certainly unlike anything I have ever read before and that is AWESOME.

4 stars



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