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The Lie Tree


This is what people have been saying about The Lie Tree:

The Sunday Times – Children's Book of the Week

"A new novel by Hardinge is always an event, and this latest has her usual precision and originality of language, while telling an absorbing historical tale. Faith is the daughter of a stern clergyman – and natural scientist – whose family finds a new home in order to escape scandal about discoveries that he might have faked. Clever and curious, Faith is thwarted by the limited expectations of her sex, while her powerless mother resorts to flirtatiousness to protect her family.
A rich mix of murder, rumour, deception, adventure, suspicion, disillusion and the rise of the theory of evolution with a hint of botanical magic, this ingenious, characterful and well-crafted mystery is about restrictions overcome. It illuminates the Victorian age, and resonates for ours." ~ Nicolette Jones
The Lie Tree is also on The Sunday Times's 2015 summer reading list (paywall)

Down the Rabbit Hole

Listen to this radio review!
"I liked everything about this book. I loved this book so much, I can hardly bear to talk about it… because I just can't do it justice. […] I can't believe Frances Hardinge's not already universally loved." ~ Lucy Mangan

The Observer

"The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge combines masterly storytelling with illumination of a key period in the history of science – the mid-Victorians’ response to Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Hardinge adds a subtly fantastic element in the form of a tree that bears the fruit of knowledge (hallucination-inducing berries) under specific and troublesome conditions." ~ Geraldine Brennan, read more

The Literary Review

"Frances Hardinge has long produced high-calibre novels for the young: The Lie Tree is her best yet. Set in a typically slanted world – an alternative Victorian England – it follows Faith, the daughter of a discredited natural scientist, as she and her family move to a small Channel Island where everyone is against them. 'For the last year she had felt like a see-saw, clumsily rocking between childhood and adulthood,' writes Hardinge of Faith. This oscillation is mirrored in the plot, as she must grapple with her father's reputation and her own plight, while choosing between science and the orrational. Oh, and did I mention the existence of a tree fed by lies? Throwing evolution, feminism and revenge tragedy together, The Lie Tree is a thrilling, gleamingly involving novel that anyone might enjoy, with gorgeous, lush writing matched by a vividly hooking plot. If this book doesn't win prizes, I will retire to Sark myself." ~ Philip Womack

The Daily Mail

"This is a superb Victorian murder melodrama in which irrepressible Faith rebels against the hypocrisies and female repression of the era. Hardinge weaves Darwinism and religion, feminism and pragmatism, humour and violence into a gripping thriller that challenges on every level." ~ Sally Morris, read more

Strange Horizons

"The Lie Tree is more than a story about a young woman's coming of age. Hardinge gives us multiple female characters who do not fall silently into the roles expected of them – a natural scientist who has had to hide for decades behind a bumbling husband, a lesbian couple who must keep their relationship secret, Myrtle herself, who [is] probably much more aware than her husband is of how to manage the unsaid rules of Victorian society, and of course Faith, the young girl who refuses to sit back meekly and not question her world." ~ Mahvesh Murad, read more

The Book Smugglers

"Just like all of Frances Hardinge’s books before this, The Lie Tree is a complex narrative of subtle interwoven storylines that are surprising, dark, sad and incredibly beautiful. In fact, I'd say this is Hardinge's most beautiful book to date. That sort of beauty that comes from things that are so real they feel make you like your heart has been pierced. But in the nicest way possible." ~ Ana Grilo, read more

Booktrust's Best Book Guide

"This dark and enthralling novel delves into the world of religion versus science in the Victorian era. A sense of isolation and mystery radiates off every page, as this gripping tale twists towards its thrilling climax. An exhilarating and challenging novel that will captivate confident readers." ~ read more (PDF)

Books Monthly

"I remember reading and relishing FLY BY NIGHT a few years back – a wholly original tale with wonderful descriptive passages and a brilliant plot. Frances Hardinge has done it again with THE LIE TREE – a superb tale for young teens, but adults will also love it. This author is writing modern-day classics here and now – ignore them and you miss something quite magical…" ~ read more

Inis magazine

"The Lie Tree is an empowering read for any teen who feels equally excited and awed by the world of possibilities that opens to them when they reach the brink of adulthood. I cannot recommend it highly enough." ~ Juliette Saumande

Publishers' Weekly

"In Hardinge's superb tale of overarching ambition and crypto-botany, which recently won the Costa Book Award in the U.K., the Reverend Erasmus Sunderly, an eminent if unpleasant Victorian, has suddenly moved his family to a remote island, ostensibly to participate in a paleontological dig, but actually to escape scandal. Noticing that he is acting strangely, his 14-year-old daughter, Faith, a budding scientist whose intellectual curiosities are dismissed and discouraged, offers her aid and soon finds herself party to a terrifying discovery, a mysterious tree that apparently feeds on lies, rewarding the liar with astonishing visions. This so-called "Mendacity Tree" gives the tale an oddly allegorical feel, like something out of Spenser's The Faerie Queene. When Sunderly is found dead, an apparent suicide, it is up to Faith to clear his name, expose the murderer, and perhaps endanger her very soul. Hardinge's characteristically rich writing is on full display – alternately excoriating, haunting, and darkly funny – and the novel also features complex, many-sided characters and a clear-eyed examination of the deep sexism of the period, which trapped even the most intelligent women in roles as restrictive as their corsets. The Reverend's murder is a compelling mystery, grounded not just in professional envy and greed, but in the theological high-stakes game of Darwinian evolution and its many discontents. It's a ripping good yarn, one that should hold particular appeal for readers who are attracted to philosophically dense works like those of David Almond and Margo Lanagan. Ages 13–up."


"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 award, The Lie Tree 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 crossfire 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." ~ Julia Smith

Postcard Reviews

"The Lie Tree is a little gem of a story full of mystery and foreboding, even magical. It is an intelligent read and quite delightful." ~ Tracy Shephard, read more

The Bookbag

"Fans of Frances Hardinge will be familiar with the eerie, unreal atmosphere of her books. Mysteries lurk in the shadows, perplexing and sometimes menacing her characters, and the strange and the banal jostle each other for space on the page. A world both familiar and outlandish is offered to us, where once again a fallible but endearing heroine battles forces which threaten to overwhelm her at every turn." ~ Linda Lawlor, read more

Our Book Reviews Online

"How to start to describe The Lie Tree? It's a murder mystery, with gothic horror overtones, a morality tale, historical fiction it's very difficult to pin down! The important thing is that it's an excellent read. It's darkly atmospheric, filled with quietly brooding menace, with the lie tree itself oozing evil and corrupting those who engage with it; it captures the feel of Victorian times when Darwin's new theories about evolution were altering how people saw the world and man's place in it, scientific concepts were being proved false, and religious beliefs challenged; and the murder mystery has red herrings and plot twists galore. In addition, it has a 14 year old heroine not happy to take the quiet role assigned to her by Victorian standards. Faith has inherited all her father's curiosity about the natural world but finding her interest in science blocked, has turned her inquisitiveness to more personal matters – eaves-dropping on others' conversations, riffling through private papers. Not the behaviour of a nice Victorian young lady! This willingness to snoop on others proves useful though, as she tries to discover motive and culprit for her father's death. All in all, a book that should appeal across a wide range of ages and tastes, and one that I'd personally be tempted to re-read." ~ Maryom, read more


"What I loved about The Lie Tree was that it was a tale about women in general. All women, and not just Faith. As Faith entangles herself in the mystery of her father's death, she realises that other women too struggle with the same things that she does. The women of the Victorian age, all invisible, hidden and deemed less intelligent, less useful to society than their husbands and their fathers and their brothers. I loved that this was a story about how all women were unique individuals in their own ways, with their own stories and voices." ~ Cynthia, read more


"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 the island, she discovers that sometimes a single lie is more potent than any truth." ~ Julia Eccleshare, read more

We Love This Book

"Frances Hardinge explores themes of truth, sincerity and gender roles through beautifully written and powerfully descriptive prose: 'You knew where you stood with him, even if where you stood was within the blizzard of his disapproval' is how Faith speaks of her father. There is intrigue and suspense until the very end. A great read." ~ Laura Iredale, read more

Making Them Readers

"Hardinge mixes a thorough knowledge of a woman's position in Victorian Britain, with a keen sense of character and a knack for writing about strange and eerie circumstances to come up with a hybrid historic/fantasy novel which is fresh, exciting and gripping." _ Katyboo1, read more

Dancing on Glass

"One of the best things about The Lie Tree is its richness and the feeling that you are solidly grounded in a dense, yet mysterious, forest of intertextuality. Younger readers will be reminded of myths, fairytales and possibly some bible stories. Older readers will struggle not to think of Daphne du Maurier and all manner of nineteenth century classics, especially Wilkie Collins. There is throughout a delectable use of language to evoke period and mood; 'A half-human face with a sloping brow glowered with hostile stupefaction' provides the heat-trace of Dickens or Poe whilst retaining clarity and a sense of danger." ~ read more

Our Book Reviews Online

"How to start to describe The Lie Tree? It's a murder mystery, with gothic horror overtones, a morality tale, historical fiction… it's very difficult to pin down! The important thing is that it's an excellent read. It's darkly atmospheric, filled with quietly brooding menace, with the lie tree itself oozing evil and corrupting those who engage with it; it captures the feel of Victorian times when Darwin's new theories about evolution were altering how people saw the world and man's place in it, scientific concepts were being proved false, and religious beliefs challenged; and the murder mystery has red herrings and plot twists galore." ~ Maryom, read more

Robin's Books

"In today's world, social media allows us to project an image of ourselves different to the one seen by those who know us in real life. Which one is real? Probably neither. Everybody has a façade and normally for the best of reasons. This is a powerful message to the target audience of The Lie Tree and Hardinge delivers it with subtle grace, cocooned in an intriguing story." ~ Robin, read more

Glen Mehn

"This is Faith's story of discovery of her own strength and what it means to be a modern woman; it is heartbreaking, true and absolutely wonderful in its awfulness." ~ Glen, read more


"I must admit I didn’t see where this was going till really late on, and that was exciting. It’s so refreshing to read a mystery where I didn’t know who the killer was going to be straight away. I loved all of the little details that made this so easy to believe that it was the Victorian Era such as the jacket that Faith’s little brother had to wear to stop him from using his left hand, (because left handed-ness is obviously only a fad that a child can be trained out of) and all of the etiquette rules that women especially were supposed to adhere too." ~ read more

Dark Readers

"I was drawn in by this cover, which I love. I have a strange thing for trees on books and the weirder the better, and this was a lovely almost sinister image with the tree coming out grabbing your lies and it really reflects the nature of the book." ~ Stephen, read more

Edel's Book, Beauty, Life Blog

"I really enjoyed this story, mystery, magic and no good neighbours on a small island where this feisty young girl quickly learns who friend and foe are." ~ Edel, read more