I’ve been sharing many reviews from those books randomly picked at the library. I’ve honestly had pretty fabulous luck when it comes to choosing a book by its cover. Which is great, you know? It means exposure to authors I wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.
The Lie Tree is one of those books by one of those authors.
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.
But as Faith’s untruths spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter…
Our protagonist is fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderling, the daughter of a reverent and older sister to a six-year-old brother. Since the story is set in Victorian England (hello favourite time and setting!) Faith’s life prospects are bleak. I mean, what did women mean in Victorian England? Not all that much. Girls? Even less.
To complicate matters, Faith is interested in science–a major taboo for women, who have smaller heads than men and are therefore not as intelligent, according to a doctor in the book.
But Faith is smart and adept. And not just at science, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
At the beginning of the book, we learn that the family is moving to a small town on a small island because the reverent has been disgraced.
Other things we learn early on include the fact that Faith is naturally curious, would do almost anything for her father’s approval, and has a tendency to lie. Not often, no, that just wouldn’t do for the daughter of a spiritual leader. But she lies well. Not something a reverent’s daughter should be proud of, but so ironic, since she has that in common with her father.
Now, the honourable Erasmus Sunderly, despite being a reverent, is also a natural scientist–one with an enormous secret. As you could tell from the blurb, it involves a fantastical tree that feeds on lies and bears fruit that offers truths to the liar when consumed.
And when the reverent dies under strange conditions, Faith knows the lie tree must be involved somehow. Nobody believes her, though, so she does all an ignored girl in Victorian England could do–she conducts her own investigation.
Oh, and she adopts a pet lie tree.
The lie tree is what brings me to the review part of this post.
You see, this book is written splendidly. Frances Hardinge has a way with words that can cause goose bumps. Her style is easy yet compelling, and I’ll definitely seek out more of her work.
My greatest and only critique of the book is that so much is given away in the blurb, and so much of the story is given away too early on, that you run out of plot. Had it not been for my genuine curiosity concerning Faith’s personal character arc, I probably would’ve lost interest. I mean, this is a mystery novel, but you already know what the punchline is about halfway through the story.
Having said that, it still shows what a great writer Hardinge is. In the end, Faith’s personal story is strong enough to carry the book, even if the mystique of the lie tree and some other things are revealed early on.
Also, though I accurately predicted most of the whodunnit part of the plot, there is a final twist that thrilled me, and the book ended on a high note.