Library header image
Unraveller UK cover

Introduction | Reviews | Garajonay | Marshland Myths | Here be Spatial Anomalies



This is what people have been saying about Unraveller:

The i newspaper

"… Hardinge is a worthy successor to Pullman, yes, but in fact, she is in a league that is entirely her own, a writer whose ideas are modern yet timeless, their execution compelling, eerie, sublime.

"If you are a teenager who has not yet discovered her books, seize upon them. And if you believe yourself to have outgrown books like Unraveller, allow Hardinge to set you straight." ~ Marianne Levy, read more

Sunday Times (Childen's Book of the Week)

"Hardinge won the Costa Book of the Year in 2015 for The Lie Tree. This latest novel, nearly 500 pages long, is another ambitious fantasy, this time about a world in which some people are implanted with a kernel of hate – or curse egg – that grows, and is unleashed to blight other lives. Kellen is a boy who can unravel curses by finding their cause and undoing them with a combination of truth-telling and making amends. This elaborate metaphor for psychoanalysis, or for coming to terms with our own damage, becomes an epic adventure, involving magical creatures, duplicity, dangerous authority, the power of a gay marriage and a growing bond between Kellen and Nettle, a girl he rescued from a curse that had turned her into a heron. This detailed, thoughtful, original read is not one to rush, but to savour." ~ Nicolette Jones, read more

The Guardian

"In Kellen's world, anyone who hates deeply enough can place terrible curses on their enemies, but only he can unravel them. Dangerous people want to use Kellen's gift, and a conspiracy of Cursers is gathering … This multilayered, humane and brilliant YA fantasy is the Costa-winning Hardinge's best yet." ~ Imogen Russel Williams, read more

The Observer

"As the nights draw in, where better to lose yourself than in the pages of Frances Hardinge's Unraveller, a world of misty marsh-woods, uncanny creatures and moonlight markets, where anyone with enough hatred in their hearts can summon a life destroying curse. Fifteen-year-old Kellen has the rare gift of being able to unravel a curse, travelling to help the afflicted with his companion, Nettle, uncovering a deadly conspiracy along the way. Themes of humanity and redemption play out against this intricately woven backdrop, illuminated by characteristically sublime prose. Hardinge may be marketed as a young adult author, but herein lie rich rewards for readers of all ages." ~ Fiona Noble, read more

The Times (Children's Book of the Week)

"If you like your children's books gothic, rich in language and occasionally baffling, you will already know Frances Hardinge. The author – who won the Costa prize in 2015 for The Lie Tree – is distinguished by a prose style that is often described as 'beautiful' or 'luminous' and her latest is no exception. Her new novel, Unraveller, about curses and their consequences, is complex and clever …. To navigate one of the author's intricately constructed worlds is to sometimes feel as though you are in a wild, fantasy Dostoevsky novel. I was sucked into this magical epic." ~ Alex O'Connell, read more

New York Times

"A new Frances Hardinge novel is always cause for celebration, and Unraveller is no exception. In the country of Raddith, people live in complicated relation to the Wilds: magical marshlands full of dangerous gifts and beautiful threats. Among these are the Little Brothers, spiderlike creatures who, out of sympathy for the angry and suffering, grant some people the ability to curse others. A curse might make a wicked man’s hands weep blood, turn a woman into a harp or children into birds, all depending on the grief and fury of the curser.

Kellen is an Unraveller — someone who can undo curses. Nettle is a girl who was cursed to be a heron until Kellen unraveled her back into her human form. Together they travel Raddith, frequently at odds, trying to fix the fraying edges of their world.

The last Hardinge book I read was A Face Like Glass, which had a much more mechanical structure, operating like precision clockwork. The new novel’s power springs from the wilderness in its heart: intuitive and compassionate, as intricate as knot work. Hardinge’s concept of “deep” and “shallow” wilds — and what those different proximities to magic do to people — is haunting and lovely. The two points of view make the book a kind of loom worked between Kellen and Nettle, a warp and weft intersecting to bring a richer image into view." ~ Amal El-Mohtar, read more

Wall Street Journal

"The ever-inventive Frances Hardinge has conjured another original dark fantasy for readers 12 and older in Unraveller, a relentlessly imaginative story of talent, trauma and sacrificial love set in a country where people consumed with hatred have the power to inflict curses. A vengeful woman changes her stepchildren into birds, so that one child kills another; a resentful fisherman transfigures his enemy into a worm, which he impales on a hook; a jealous husband turns his wife to stone.

"Hot-tempered 15-year-old Kellen is the only person in the land of Raddith who can unravel curses. He's able to perceive the disfiguring nature of hatred as 'layer after layer of fine silken threads, strung from wall to wall by a thousand obsessive thoughts … the weight of them tugging on the frame of the world and pulling it subtly out of shape.' He has a way of untangling these malevolent threads to restore the victim to a semblance of normalcy.

"Unfortunately, Kellen can't help unraveling other things too: Ropes and fabric fray when he's nearby, and, when he's enraged, so do people. Expelled from his community of weavers, Kellen spends his time unknotting curses alongside a troubled girl, 15-year-old Nettle, one of his first rescues.

"The dynamics of the teenagers' friendship and their enlistment in uncovering a dangerous conspiracy drive the story, but the book's principal love relationship is between two men: a ferocious one-eyed 'marsh horseman' who rides a carnivorous steed and a gentle farmer with a heart strong enough for two.

"As with all Hardinge, half the pleasure of Unraveller comes from her virtuosic ease with language: A violent blow sends 'a shoal of stars' across Nettle's vision; a tormented woman's mouth is 'a deep crevice from which miserable, creaking moans escaped'; a vindictive man is like fruit 'eaten hollow by wasps,' with 'only poison and buzzing' inside. The story ends on a note of redemption, for Nettle in particular, that's so welcome it comes as a shock. Frances Hardinge doesn't usually make readers burst into tears, but I guess there's a first time for everything." ~ Meghan Cox Gurdon, read more

Kirkus (starred review)

"In a land where curses are real and binding, a young weaver discovers that teasing them apart is wrapped in unexpected consequences.

"Hardinge has a rare gift for crafting strange and original worlds, and here she's in top form as she chucks two teenagers into webs of deadly magic and conspiracy in Raddith, where curse eggs are illegal but readily available to be cast by anyone out of spite or hatred. The journey takes rude, ill-tempered Kellen, whose unique talent for unravelling affects not only curses, but any woven garment or item in his vicinity, and his constant (in every sense) companion Nettle, seemingly meek and inoffensive if you didn't know her, from the populous capital of Mizzleport to swampy wilds haunted by terrifying creatures to eldritch Moonlit Market (where everything, including memories and daydreams, is vulnerable). The author gradually brings Kellen (and readers) to an understanding that curses are not always undeserved, that those who bestow them may be damaged but are not invariably evil, and that perhaps we all have the capability to control the hatred that fuels them. Along with weaving in frequent desperate straits and near brushes with disaster, she embroiders her tale with memorable lines; a romantic subplot involving a rider bonded to a demonic horse and, by the end, even more so to his loving husband; and a cast of characters who are memorably distinct. The cast presents White.

"Brightening toward the end, frightening throughout, psychologically acute."

School Library Journal (starred review)

"Hardinge again displays her knack for imbuing mythological-feeling tales with casts of creatures and characters who are fully realized and impeccably described, rendered in astonishing detail while carefully avoiding verbosity."

Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)

“Brilliantly developed world. Kellen and Nettle are both memorable from their first introduction. As always, Hardinge is masterful at her ability to write poignant, thoughtful passages while also ably developing an expansive fantasy world that is believable and relatable.”

Daily Mail

"A fantasy world and special gifts are also at the heart of multi-award-winning Hardinge's new book. The clever concept is that volatile, 15-year-old Kellen can unravel curses cast by the spider-like Little Brothers. Kellen teams up with Nettle, a girl he 'unravelled' from being bewitched into a heron, then discovers that someone with a grudge has vowed revenge on him, but who? Gall, a terrifying, one-eyed marsh horseman offers him a deal to survive – but can he be trusted? Can anyone? It's complex, twisty, with a sometimes bewilderingly large cast of characters, but the pace never flags." ~ read more

Irish Times

"'Those who live in the country of Raddith fear having a curse placed upon them. A curse could cross any distance, permeate any stronghold, pass through any armour. It could find you wherever you hid, and no bodyguard could defend you from it.' Those who curse others are aided by the Little Brothers, spider-like creatures living in the strange marshlands known as the Wilds, who seek out those consumed by rage or hatred and see the 'curse-egg' as a gift towards those who are otherwise powerless. Throw two teenagers into the mix – Kellen, a boy with a talent for unravelling curses, and Nettle, a girl recovering from several years spent as a heron – and you have the latest weirdly-wonderful book from the Costa-Award-winning Frances Hardinge. Unraveller glimmers with eerie magic, taking its protagonists on a long and complicated journey that allows us to see some of the horrors that have come from being cursed. Girls are transformed into harps whose music speaks of their torment; men are sentenced to wriggle endlessly on the end of a fisherman's hook as bait. This inventive, immersive fantasy entertains and intrigues while also inviting us to consider pain and punishment. Are those with the potential to curse inherently dangerous, or are they justified in striking out at their persecutors? Should they be placed in a hospital to keep the rest of society safe, or is this treatment – 'We lock them away for years in windowless rooms in chains and iron helmets!' – what keeps them sufficiently angry to curse again and again? There is nothing as facile as a moral to this story, though; the dangers and threats of the world resist easy solutions. Hardinge's work is always exquisite; this latest volume is no exception." ~ read more

October issue of SFX – 4 star review

"Curses grow like wildflowers in this beautifully written fantasy."

Fuse 8

"If you would like to read a story you’ve never read before, one that flies by the light of an internal logic so straight and true that you never doubt for a moment that this is a real world, Unraveller is your next read." ~ Betsy Bird, read more


"Characters run the gamut of humanity: sometimes lazy, sometimes mean, sometimes cruelly ambitious, some even genuinely good and earnest. I guarantee you know someone like every character in this book. Ultimately, through Unraveller, Hardinge shows a deep understanding of how people work: their hopes and aspirations, nightmares, and everyday doggedness. As she has in previous novels, Hardinge continues to explore humanity with honesty, compassion and – perhaps most wonderfully – hope." ~ Alexandra Pierce, read more


"There’s incredible grace and skill in the way Hardinge untangles the idea of feelings made manifest—and of how two teenagers come to understand that nothing, not rage or anger or love or cursers or family—is inherently good or bad." ~ Molly Templeton, read more


"Unraveller is a multilayered, challenging and unflinching read, with occasional depictions of gore and body horror that may unsettle some readers. It poses a difficult but deeply necessary question: What does it mean to truly heal and be healed?" ~ Tami Orendain, read more


"Beautifully written, this world of sinister magical creatures, spiteful curses and all-too-human cursers is vividly evoked. Hardinge explores emotions such as envy and spite with great sensitivity, showing how people’s lives can be twisted out of recognition if they allow these feelings to take over – and how they can affect others." ~ read more

Gingernuts of Horror

"This is fantasy fiction at its absolute best, which is loaded with beautifully crafted sentences, deep meaningful relationships and engaging mini mysteries as the story advances to a terrific ending. Highly recommended." ~ Tony Jones, read more

School Reading List

"Unique and compelling, this beautifully written fantasy may well be the best young adult novel you will read in 2022." ~ Melanie Dillon, read more

Nine PM Writer

"Yet another achingly beautiful, heart-stabbing, brain-twisting story from the Queen of Fairytales." ~ read more

The Horn Book

"Hardinge creates a top-notch fantasy with a fresh setting populated by original monsters (Bookbearers, Gladelords, Dancing Stars) and the feel of old folktales."


"Hardinge’s immersive world building and layered plot pull readers into an adventure full of mystery, treachery, political machinations, and danger. A thought-provoking pick for tweens."