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The Lie Tree, Frances Hardinge

Was this Faith, the good girl?

The girl in the mirror was capable of anything. And she was anything but good, that much could be seen at a glance.

Back in July, I got a book bundle from Books Are My Bag, for my book crawl selfies. I read The Apple Tart Of Hope very soon afterwards, but hadn’t read any of the rest yet. Until the other day, when I saw that The Lie Tree had won the Costa children’s book award, and lots of people talking about how great it is, so I figured it was probably time to read it.

When we first meet Faith, she and her family are on their way to start a new life on a small island. Faith’s father is a reverend and a natural scientist, and Faith soon discovers that he is fleeing a scandal. Faith, naturally clever and inquisitive, wants to follow in his footsteps, but is told that, as a girl, she may not study, for she must be a good girl, look after her younger brother, and grow into a dutiful wife.

The slow unravelling of Faith’s apparent goodness, her discoveries and the way that she learns to exercise her power and her own agency, not as a daughter but as a person in her own right, is beautifully written. The story is exciting and original, and very dark, in a skin-crawlingly creepy sort of way which I loved. It is not predictable, throwing in some excellent twists, and the characters have depth and mystery to them which is very intriguing. While it is mysterious, and there is a murder, I wouldn’t call it a murder mystery as such, and while the lie tree itself is fantastical, I wouldn’t describe it as a fantasy – this is a novel that covers a lot of bases without spreading itself too thinly, and it is very cleverly done. I’m excited to share it around and recommend it to other people who I think will really love it.

Many thanks to Books Are My Bag for, once more, sending me a book that I otherwise mightn’t have read at all!

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