The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Genre: Historical Mystery, Young Adult
My Rating: 5/5
Synopsis: Faith’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 . . .
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding this book. Its own special displays in Waterstones book shops and numerous mentions in blog posts on new anticipated releases. I hadn’t read a good old historical mystery in a while, so I was intrigued by the unique premise of The Lie Tree.
And let me tell you, the hype is well deserved. The eerie mystery of the lie tree; the bleak and claustrophobic island of Vane; Faith’s dysfunctional family. The book had quite a dark tone to it, but it wasn’t sombre. Faith didn’t wallow in her own sorrows, but she wasn’t immune to her emotions either.
She’s maybe a little meek at the beginning, but you can see she has the potential to grow, anger and intelligence carefully concealed beneath the image of the dutiful daughter. When her father dies of a rumoured suicide, Faith’s family is disgraced. The islanders shun them, servants spread malicious gossip, and Faith’s mother seems more concerned with her funeral dress than anything else. The death of her father is just enough to tip Faith over the edge, to reveal the bright spark beneath. And wow, I was really impressed with Faith once she got going.
She’s smart, calculating, even malicious when she needs to be. But you never hate her for it; she’s only mean when others are mean to her. She gives as good as she gets, especially when it comes to her reluctant ally Paul Clay. I loved their dynamic, their retorts. Faith really is a strong heroine, determined to set things right at any cost. She battles against the patriarchal forces trying to keep her from her passion for the natural sciences, even if it means playing the dull-witted daughter to get her way. I really enjoyed Faith as a character and many YA novelists could take some tips from Hardinge on how to craft a female protagonist that is actually strong and witty instead of being argumentative and selfish. She’s not rude for the sake of it, in a bid to seem funny or independent; she uses words to her tactical advantage, but is still ultimately compassionate, a caring sister to her little brother Howard.
The mystery is also one that keeps you guessing. Faith believes her father’s death is in fact a murder, and I had my suspicions from the beginning. They proved to be true, but I was never really sure; Hardinge definitely kept me guessing. All her characters are well-rounded and interesting, the roles they play in the Reverend’s murder tantalisingly ambiguous.
The book was a neat little package. Strong lead, unpredictable mystery, believable fantastical moments. If you haven’t already picked up a copy then I really suggest you do; you won’t regret it.
Have you read The Lie Tree? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!