Review: THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge

Posted by on Sep 9, 2015 | Leave a comment

The Lie Tree


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. The bigger the lie, and the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

But as Faith’s untruths spread like wildfire across her small island community, she discovers that sometimes a single lie is more potent than any truth.

A beguiling tale of mystery and intrigue from the award-winning author of Fly By Night and Cuckoo Song.


There are a lot of books I’m impressed by and rate five stars, but occasionally a book comes along that I absolutely fall in love with, and five stars simply aren’t enough.

I adored The Lie Tree. It’s the second Frances Hardinge novel I’ve read in the space of about a week, the first being Cuckoo Song. Cuckoo Song I really liked, especially its poetic prose, but The Lie Tree ticked all of my ‘favourite book’ boxes.

The Lie Tree follows fourteen year old Faith as an unknown scandal forces her and her family to start a new life on a small island. Faith’s father is a natural scientist, famous for the fossils he’s discovered. Faith shares her father’s enthusiasm for science—despite society’s opinion that women don’t have brains big enough for such pursuits—and thinks of him with much respect and affection. So when he’s found dead under mysterious circumstances, she’s determined to investigate, and uncovers her father’s greatest secret: the mysterious and creepy Tree of Lies. Her father’s death turns out to be only one of many mysteries Faith needs to solve, and there’s much at stake.

The Lie TreeAs you can guess from the cover, The Lie Tree has gothic and fantastical elements, but it’s not primarily a fantasy. Set in Victorian times, it’s superbly researched, and the historical themes are just as powerful as the supernatural parts. The clash between natural science and religion is explored and embodied in the Tree of Lies and in Faith’s father’s motivations. Another major theme is society’s attitude towards women, as Faith and other female characters come up against all sorts of prejudices and restrictions, some of which are ‘endorsed’ by bogus scientific tests. There’s a quiet feminism running throughout, and it’s really effective.

There’s a lot going on beneath the surface in The Lie Tree, yet it’s also a real page-turner and very entertaining. Frances Hardinge lays multiple little threads throughout the story, which all come together beautifully by the end. No character is there to fill a gap, and small details turn out to be important. It’s the most satisfying of murder mysteries.

I’ve raved enough! Definitely check out The Lie Tree if you can. I’ll be looking forward to whatever Hardinge writes next.





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