Author: Hardinge, Frances
On an island off the south coast of Victorian England, fourteen-year-old Faith investigates the mysterious death of her father, who was involved in a scandal, and discovers a tree that feeds upon lies and gives those who eat its fruit visions of truth.
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|Accelerated Reader Information:|
Interest Level: MG
Reading Level: 6.40
Points: 17.0 Quiz: 180945
|Reading Counts Information:|
Interest Level: 9-12
Reading Level: 5.60
Points: 24.0 Quiz: 68616
School Library Journal (00/02/16)
Full Text Reviews:
School Library Journal - 02/01/2016 Gr 7 Up—In a time when a young woman's exterior life can be stifling and dull, Faith Sunderly's interior life is cavernous. She has a sharp mind; a keen interest in the scientific research that has made her father, the formidable Reverend Sunderly, famous; and an irresistible impulse for sneaking, spying, and skulking around. Faith's curiosity about the world around her, which she must keep hidden, is a source of personal shame and the one thing about herself she longs for people, especially her father, to notice. When the Reverend is invited to take part in an archaeological dig on the insular island community of Vane, the whole family packs up and moves with him. It doesn't take long for Faith to suspect there are darker reasons the family left London in such a hurry, and just as she's starting to put things together, her father is found dead. Setting out to prove her father's death was a murder, Faith uncovers a web of secrets the Reverend has been keeping, all centered on one of his specimens—a small tree that thrives on lies and bears a fruit that tells the truth. Faith believes she can use the tree to find her father's killer and begins feeding it lies. As the tree grows, so do Faith's lies and her fevered obsession with finding out the truth. Hardinge, who can turn a phrase like no other, melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge, and leaves readers to wonder where science ends and fantasy begins. VERDICT Smart, feminist, and shadowy, Hardinge's talents are on full display here.—Beth McIntyre, Madison Public Library, WI - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.
Booklist - 03/15/2016 *Starred Review* On the small island of Vale, something unnatural this way comes. Is it wicked? Perhaps, but it is quickly evident in Hardinge’s newest tale—following her acclaimed Cuckoo Song (2015)—that things are not what they seem, and the answers to such questions are rarely black and white. As 14-year-old Faith Sunderly and her family arrive at their new home, many questions swirl in the girl’s head. It isn’t long before she learns that their exodus from Kent has less to do with an ongoing excavation on Vale than it does with escaping scandal. After catching a glimpse of one of her father’s private letters, she understands that he, Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, a renowned naturalist, has been accused of faking his most famous fossil discovery. Faith meets this news with incredulity: “His bleak and terrible honesty were the plague and pride of the family.” She bears a fierce love for her stern and distant father, which is underpinned by an unrequited yearning for his affection and approval. Despite possessing a highly intelligent and inquisitive mind, the reverend’s daughter is never permitted to be anything but dutiful and demure; unlike her six-year-old brother, Howard, who ignites his father’s pride simply by being a boy. Throughout the novel, Faith is thwarted by limits placed on her gender. In 1868, the roles of women, science, and religion are under scrutiny and often at odds with one another; Darwin’s The Origin of Species is only nine years old, and its ideas of evolution are beginning to knock against the teachings of the church. Faith, who has spent hours reading the scientific volumes of her father’s library, longs (in vain) to be part of these heated debates, even as the local doctor informs her that the small female skull makes it impossible for women to be intellectuals. As these injustices are bandied about, Faith feels not only incensed and confused but also ashamed for masking her own cleverness so that she might be thrown a scrap of worthwhile conversation: “Rejection had worn Faith down. . . . Even so, each time she pretended ignorance, she hated herself and her own desperation.” These concerns are interwoven with a story of intrigue and, possibly, murder. From the outset, Reverend Sunderly’s behavior is strange. He is secretive and disappears for hours to care for a plant no one is permitted to see. When Faith interrupts her father one evening, he is forced to take her into his confidence. Thrilled by this moment of bonding, Faith agrees to help him relocate his precious plant in the dead of night, but come morning, the reverend’s body is discovered with a broken neck. She is positive that someone is behind his death, and she takes it upon herself to discover who. Faith finds some answers in the reverend’s journal, but it contains even more mysteries—prime among them the plant she recently helped him to hide: the Mendacity Tree. According to her father, a man of science and reason, this rare specimen feeds not on sunshine but on lies, from which it bears a fruit that will reveal great truths to the person who consumes it. Faith can’t help but wonder whether this tree, seemingly the stuff of fairy tales, might show her what happened to her father. And so she follows in the reverend’s footsteps: she conducts scientific research on the plant and nurtures it with lies, the ramifications of which outstrip both logic and imagination. There is an effortless beauty to Hardinge’s writing, which ranges from frank to profound. Though layered, the plot refuses to sag, driven as it is by mystery, taut atmosphere, complex characters, and Faith’s insatiable curiosity. The 2015 winner of the UK’s Costa Book of the Year Award, this novel is the first children’s book since Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass (2000) to receive the honor, and both books use the lens of fantasy to observe a young girl caught in the cross fire of science and religion—though Hardinge’s touch is more nuanced. It is a book in which no details are wasted and each chapter brings a new surprise. Readers of historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy will all be captivated by this wonderfully crafted novel and the many secrets hidden within its pages. - Copyright 2016 Booklist.
Bulletin for the Center... - 04/01/2016 Fourteen-year-old Faith Sunderly bears the misfortune of being a girl with a bent toward the natural sciences and a fierce intelligence in the nineteenth century, when the job of a woman was to be quiet and ornamental. Her father has an impressive reputation as the discoverer of a fossil that proves that the Nephilim referred to in the Bible were real, a find that many of his admirers latched onto in the wake of the recent publication of Darwin’s theories of evolution. However, the Sunderlys have had to depart London under a cloud of suspicion that his fossil is a hoax. Faith’s, er, faith in her father is unwavering despite his dismissal of her gender, so when he asks for her help in relocating a mysterious plant specimen to a cave accessible only by a treacherous passage through the sea, she is elated; when he is found dead the following morning, she is determined to uncover what drove them to their new island home and led to her father’s death. The elements of the mystery are masterfully keyed to the concerns of the Victorian time period, and its unfolding is handled with a dexterity that never loses sight of the gender problem; the book also directs its light onto matters of faith and doubt, and the issue of lies and truth in the pursuit of science. The excitement and danger, coupled with Faith’s intrepid though morally flawed pursuit of justice, call to mind Hardinge’s Fly by Night (BCCB 9/06); give this to readers unafraid to think disquieting thoughts as they race through a breathtaking, action-packed adventure. KC - Copyright 2016 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
School Library Journal - 12/01/2016 Gr 7 Up—Faith Sunderly is intensely curious about her famous father's scientific research. When he is suddenly found dead, she is convinced that he was murdered, and pieces together clues and uncovered secrets, like the reverend's prized specimen—a tree that thrives on lies and bears a fruit that, when eaten, reveals a hidden truth. In this dark and haunting mystery, Hardinge creates her own truth-telling magic. - Copyright 2016 Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and/or School Library Journal used with permission.