Title: The Lie Tree
Author: Frances Hardinge
Genre: Children Fantasy
Publication date: 2015
The leaves were cold and slightly clammy. There was no mistaking them. She had seen their likeness painstakingly sketched in her father’s journal. 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…
I stumbled upon The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge in a second-hand book store while browsing for an undervalued books to add to my never-ending home library(most books there are still waiting to be read, if you must know but that’s another story). What grabbed my attention was the weird cover and the mystery-infused summary. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.
When I first opened the book I was on the defense since I read it is a children’s book and I wanted something exciting, something deep and intelligent, something that would make my mind work rather than tell me things as they are. And thank God, or rather thank Frances Hardinge, I got all of that and more.
You’ll have to excuse me for all the superlatives I’m putting in this review but I must say that it has been a long time since I got hooked to a story to such extent.
The book is about a young girl, Faith, who is no longer a child but not yet a woman. The story unfolds in Victorian England on a strange, tiny island called Vale. Faith and her family move there after a grandiose scandal surrounding her famous father and natural scientist – Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, in a desperate attempt to run away from the rumors and find a way to clear his name. But there is a question that keeps Faith up late at night – is her father truly innocent or is he a fraud as the rumors claim?
Things become even more suspicious when Faith’s father is found dead under suspicious circumstances suggesting he took his own life. Refusing to believe that, Faith embarks on a quest to find the truth no matter what.
The Lie Tree is an intelligent, mysterious tale that touches on themes about loyalty and betrayal, truth and lies, revolution and evolution, obedience and rebellion while still maintaining the dark sense to the story and keeping it all PG13.
And if you don’t think the original plot or the incredibly well-intertwined themes and storylines are enough to hold your attention then you have a number of realistic, daring and entertaining characters to make you want to follow them down to the Lie Tree cave, up to the cliff where one find his death and pretty much anywhere they go.
The complexity of each character, their outstanding qualities – good and bad – was what got me really into the story. I honestly hate black-and-white characters – they are unrealistic, predictable and quite frankly, boring. No one is truly just good and bad, we all make bad decisions, we all do what we think best even if that is not the best for somebody else. This is true for all of Hardinge’s characters and what makes them so thoroughly engaging.
Like Faith’s father who does despicable things, lies, and even gets people killed(mind you, he is a man of God and science) and all of that he does in search of answers that would benefit and change the whole world. Faith’s mother, a beautiful, shallow woman at first glance, constantly belittles her daughter for trying to think too much, trying to do un-lady-like things(like be a natural scientists which is a strictly male thing) but she does all of this to protect her daughter, to make her life easier in the future since her pursuit of knowledge will only bring her pain, mockery and no financial stability.
“This is a battlefield, Faith! Women find themselves on battlefields, just as men do. We are given no weapons, and cannot be seen to fight. But fight we must, or perish.”
And finally, Faith, a too-smart-for-her-own-good girl that is ready to do anything and everything to win her father’s love. Her character arch is one to be envied – she goes from a dull, devoted daughter to a badass, smart hero just to prove her father’s death was not a suicide and to save her family’s fortune. It does not sound particularly heroic or interesting when I put it so plain but mind you, the story develops in a time where every woman was praised for being dull, shallow and beautiful and mocked and shunned for being smart, capable and driven.
“There was a hunger in her, and girls were not supposed to be hungry. They were supposed to nibble sparingly when at table, and their minds were supposed to be satisfied with a slim diet too.”
What Faith does, considering her circumstances, is worth admiring especially after such a major catharsis in her life. Her inner struggle between being what society expect her to be and being herself is a major theme and I absolutely love it. The ending of the story was another remarkable moment not because Faith wins and proves them all wrong for underestimating her and laughing at her – no, that doesn’t even happen.
Even when she is right, even when she has proven smarter and more capable than all the renowned scientists, her achievements are regarded as lucky guesses and being in the right place at the right time. But that is okay with Faith because she had grown, just as we all do reading the book, and she had come to understand how the world works.
Yet, she is not planning to give up even though she knows in her heart she will never be respected as a scientists, she would never be admired for her knowledge or intellect or even her achievements. Still, she has no doubt in choosing her path. That makes her final words even more bad-ass:
“I want to be a bad example,’ she said. ‘I see.’ Myrtle stirred herself, ready to walk to the prow. ‘Well, my dear, I think you have made an excellent start.”
So that being said I would give a 5/5 rating for this book for all the emotions it made me feel and the way it represented women and their struggles throughout.
What about you? What rating would you give? What are your thoughts and takes on The Lie Tree?