September 23, 2016
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Nothing about the move to the island of Vale makes sense. The time is Victorian England and Faith Sunderly’s father is both a pastor and a naturalist. Like many others, he struggles to reconcile the scientific findings of the age (fossils and clues of evolution) with his Bible and his God. Then she finds her father dead, draped across a tree beneath the edge of the cliff that overlooks the beach.
The local magistrate is convinced it was suicide. But Faith had been with her father the night before. They had moved to a botanical specimen to a hidden cave before he met with someone in the dark of the night. Whoever it was was the last person to see her father alive.
Picking through her father’s papers, Faith discovers that the specimen was a Lie Tree. It thrives in darkness and dank air, growing when it is fed a lie. The more people who come to believe the lie, the larger the fruit it produces. The bitter, vile fruit grants who ever eats it a vision. Her father believed it revealed a hidden truth. Faith wonders about this even as she spreads lies so that she can eat the fruit and solve the murder.
I don’t want to go deeper into the plot because there are so many delightful twists. Personally, I appreciated the thoughtful look at the men and women who struggled to study science in an age ruled by religious fear and chauvinism.
At the beginning of the books, Harginge’s characters seem straightforward but as the story progresses Faith and the reader discover their hidden agendas and reasons for distrust and manipulation. By the end, Faith, like her father, suspects that the tree may be almost as old as time itself.
This book is a must for fans who live historic fiction as well as fantasy. My one complaint is the cover. The tree’s fruit was described as a type of citrus, looking like a small lime. The cover image depicts an apple. Inaccurate on one level, it does give a clue as to the possible identify of this mysterious, malevolent tree.