Lie Tree

Faith is the daughter of a preeminent naturalist and reverend. Suddenly, she and her family are uprooted and move to a remote island off the coast of England. The Reverend Sunderly is supposedly there to assist in an excavation near some sea caves that might uncover new fossils. Faith begins to suspect there is something more to their exile.

Her mother, Myrtle, is a manipulative chameleon who changes her stripes to suit her needs. Her younger brother Howard is sweet but naive and Faith finds it frustrating that he should be doted on just because he is a boy.

By degrees, Faith involves herself in the ongoing archaeological site and uncovers a strange plant that thrives on darkness and lies, all the while trying to solve a murder on the island.

Ammonite Fossil
Fossil of an Ammonite, an extinct group of marine mollusc animals

While technically a young adult book, there is very little about it that is obviously for teens. These moments are few and far between, and in general it focuses on telling a good story, not appealing to a demographic.

Faith is a complicated, strong character. She must learn how to navigate a realm between who she wants to be and being there for her family. She explores the boundaries of doing the right thing and doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Above all, she is observant.

Even without Uncle Miles’s warning, Faith would have known that a storm was breaking as soon as she entered the house. Quiet people often have a weather sense that loud people lack. They feel the wind-changes of conversations, and shiver in the chill of unspoken resentments. ~Pg. 99

Thematically, Hardinge weaves in and out of the ideas of the tree of knowledge, of good and evil, of evolution and creation, and of perception and reality.

Faith felt neither triumph nor guilt. The darkness was lonely, and time was running out. She thought of the Lie Tree in its roaring cave, and oddly this made her feel a little less alone.

As sleep cradled her, she imagined her lie spreading silently like dark green smoke, filling the air around the house like a haze, spilling from the mouths of those who whispered and wondered and feared. She imagined it soaking like mist into waiting leaves, seeping like sap down gnarled, slender stems and forcing itself out into a small, white spearhead of a bud. ~Pg. 217

Diatoms (seen here under a microscope) are a group of algae that can be found in the oceans, in freshwater, in soils and on damp surfaces.

The Lie Tree is a well-plotted, sophisticated novel that is enjoyable for adult readers as well as teens. It is a great addition to the canon of Victorian-era drama with strong female characters.

Many thanks to Jason at Abrams Books for the review copy.


Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams (April 19, 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1419718959
ISBN-13: 978-1419718953
Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches

4 thoughts on “REVIEW: THE LIE TREE by Frances Hardinge”

    1. It’s really smart, something I look for in any book but very much appreciate in YA.

Comments are closed.