Fairy Tale Friday: The Rumpelstiltskin Problem by Vivian Vande Velde

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, by Vivian Vande Velde, was published in 2000 by Houghton Mifflin.

Have you ever wondered just what was going on when that odd little man with the long name stepped up and volunteered to spin straw into gold for the miller’s daughter? When you stop to think about it, there are some very peculiar, not to mention hard to explain, aspects to that story. Vivian Vande Velde has wondered too, and she’s come up with these six “alternative” versions of the old legend. A bevy of “miller’s daughters” confronts the perilous situation in ways that are sometimes comic, sometimes scary. Usually it’s the daughter who gets off safely. Other times—amazingly—it is Rumpelstiltskin himself who wins the day, and in one tale, it is the king who cleverly escapes a quite unexpected fate. Once you’ve read The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, you may never think about fairy tales in the same way again.

Rating: 4/5

I have a soft spot in my heart for Rumpelstiltskin, so when I read the author’s note that prefaced The Rumpelstiltskin Problem, I was a little disgruntled at how Vande Velde so callously tore apart my beloved fairy tale. Luckily, the six tongue-in-cheek “retellings” that followed were hilariously simple and brilliant reimaginings of the original fairytale. All of Vande Velde’s “explanations” for some of the odd occurences were wonderful, and I liked that she took a different approach for each story. Sometimes the miller’s daughter was the hero. Sometimes it was Rumpelstiltskin. And the king even gets his own part to play in one of the stories.

The Rumpelstiltskin Problem is certainly not a “serious” retelling of Rumpelstiltskin, and Vande Velde’s humor is of a particular type which everyone may not enjoy, but the whole thing is wickedly clever regardless. It’s a quick, easy read and very conducive to reading out loud to children. It’s not particularly satisfying, but it is fun!

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Middle Grade

The lord high chamberlain said, “Christina’s father, what is the meaning of this?”

“I am not Christina’s father,” Otto said. “I don’t even know who Christina’s father is.” Now what? He continued, “I…might bear a slight resemblance to the man, but in truth I am a dangerous magical creature who knows all sorts of enchantments besides the spinning of gold form straw, and I have come to take what is rightfully mine. IF you don’t over my—this girl, I will put a terrible spell on you.”

He had been worried that he looked so frightening, Christina might not realize she was being rescued. And, indeed, he saw that she had clapped her hand to her forehead and that she was shaking her head.

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Fire Bringer by David Clement-Davies

Fire Bringer, by David Clement-Davies, was published in 1999 by Dutton Books.

It is a dark time for the deer. A tyrannical new Lord of the Herd has ended the old way, the yearly play of antlers that ensured a change of leadership. At his command is a corps of young stags, antlers sharpened for the kill, whose mission is complete dominion over the animal world. But a prophecy among the deer promises a hero—a fawn with the mark of an oak leaf on his forehead. His unique bond with all creatures, including humans, will bring a new age of freedom. Rannoch is born the night his father is murdered. His mother, Eloin, keeps him hidden from the deadly attention of the Lord of the Herd, but soon Rannoch is forced to flee, beginning a perilous, wondrous journey. Among the mountains and haunted glens of the Great Land, the young stag encounters strange herds, makes unusual allies, and, at last, finds the knowledge and courage to face his extraordinary destiny.

Rating: 3/5

Fire Bringer is one of the books I read multiple times growing up. Even after not having read it for ten or more years, I remembered quite a bit of it—little scenes and moments stayed with me throughout the years (the same goes for Clement-Davies’s The Sight). So I was excited to read it again, to see if it was as good as my multiple rereads as a child warranted.

Fire Bringer is terribly expositional in the beginning; Part One is loaded with information about the world and the culture of the deer and, combined with the agonizingly slow build-up to the main part of the plot, can be a bit of a tedious read at times. Luckily, though, the book gets much better after Part One is over and the more exciting Parts Two and Three begin.

Although Rannoch can be annoying at times, with his denial and angsting, there are moments—mostly after he accepts his role after Bracken’s confession—where he becomes rather awesome. Pretty much the entire final battle is one big awesome moment after another with Rannoch, who doesn’t quite quit angsting but at least steps up his game big time.

I did find there was some cheesy dialogue and scenes mixed in with the better parts of Parts Two and Three, but for the most part the book is well-written and engaging and very unique for the time (and still unique now, although the Warriors series and others do something similar). I liked the inclusion of Scottish/English history mixed in the background of the deer and how that also affects the deer.

Fire Bringer is a fond memory of my childhood reading, and, while it’s not quite as good as I remember, I still enjoyed it. It’s expositional in the beginning and cheesy in places all throughout, but it’s a unique, memorable fantasy and will teach you more about deer than you ever wanted to know.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Violence, death

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

“Silence!” cried Sgorr suddenly. “Blindweed, tell me what you know of a fawn in the herd with an oaken mark on his forehead.”

Blindweek blinked, but it was clear to him now that Sgorr was only probing and that Rannoch was still safe. How it had been discovered, Blindweed could not guess.

“A leaf?” said the old stag, feigning surprise. “Impossible. I would have heard about it.”

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Honor Redeemed by Christine Johnson

Disclaimer: Honor Redeemed, by Christine Johnson, was provided by Revell in exchange for an honest review.

Two years ago, Prosperity Jones waved farewell to her beloved David as the army sent him to faraway Key West. Now with her parents gone, she has but one prospect for the future: make the dangerous journey from Nantucket to Key West to reunite with David and secure a happier life. But when Prosperity arrives penniless in the South, she is dismayed to find David has not been eagerly awaiting their reunion. In fact, he is married to someone else. Scrambling to survive and nursing a broken heart, Prosperity gains the friendship—and the affection—of a kind doctor. Could he be the answer to her loneliness? Or will her life be upended by circumstance yet again?

My rating: 1/5

Honor Redeemed is meant to be a heartwarming, romantic story about two people overcoming obstacles to be together, but mostly it just made me angry. When I read the blurb, I was hoping that Johnson would do something new with the “love interest marries another” trope, but to my annoyance, everything that occurred in this book was unoriginal, obvious, and boring.

I’m also angry for the sake of poor Aileen, who was described as some sort of vicious harpy harlot who stole away the main character’s love interest for her own benefit and who was really the ultimate victim in this novel. I hoped that Johnson would describe an “it’s been two years, long distant relationships are tough, and David moved on which actually happens in real life” scenario, where Aileen and David actually love each other and Prosperity learns to move on from a broken heart. Instead, we get she-devil Aileen (poor thing), sanctimonious David, and too-virtuous Prosperity for a truly nauseating plot. Of course David is so disgusted by his wife (even though we’re told over and over how “honorable” he is for doing it even though he clearly despises Aileen) that he never consummates the marriage, so of course he and Prosperity can still be considered chaste before they are married. The hoops Johnson is jumping through are a little ridiculous, in my opinion.

So, yes, Honor Redeemed was clearly not my cup of tea. It’s never good to get angry at a book, and I was constantly angry at the portrayal of the characters, the plot, and the general “this is a romance so there’s a lot of sighing of names and heart flutterings” atmosphere. I really, really wish authors could be more original, but Honor Redeemed was about as unoriginal and annoying as a book can get.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/29Kwnk3

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys, was published in 2016 by Philomel.

Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. Yet not all promises can be kept.

Rating: 5/5

The sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff is the greatest maritime tragedy in history, with approximately 9,400 people dying after the ship was torpedoed by a Soviet submarine. And prior to reading this novel, I had never heard of it.

During World War II, when both Stalin and Hitler (two of the deadliest men in history, behind Mao Zedong of China) were committing horrific atrocities in Eastern Europe, thousands of refugees from Poland, the Baltic States, and Prussia fled to Germany (and beyond) to escape the Russian army advance. Ruta Sepetys depicts the journey of four fictional characters, but her thorough research and own family history means that what lies within the pages of Salt to the Sea is as real and as historical as any nonfiction account of the same story.

At first, the jumping between characters is a little jarring and makes the story feel disjointed, but as more and more is revealed and as each character comes alive on the page, that disjointedness completely disappears. Each character has been affected differently by the war due to their differing backgrounds and Sepetys deals with all of these backgrounds and characters well—although I do wish slightly more had been done with Alfred (though maybe the glimpses and hints we got are all we need).

My favorite character was probably Emilia, because Emilia embodies the essence of selflessness and self-sacrifice. Her story is the most heartbreaking, which perhaps make her sacrifice on board the ship all the more profound.

Salt to the Sea is best experienced through reading it, and no review that I write can adequately describe the experience I had while reading it. It’s a must-read for those who like WWII history, and it’s a must-read for those such as I who had very little knowledge about what on in Eastern Europe during WWII and especially of such a disaster as the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff. Sepetys is one of the best historical fiction writers for young adults that I know of today.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

“You’re right—Polish. Her name is Emilia. She’s fifteen, from Lwów. But she has no papers.”

“Where’s Lwów?” I asked.

“In southeastern Poland. The Galicia region.”

That made sense. Some Galicians had blond hair and blue eyes like the girl. Her Aryan look might protect her from the Nazis.

“Her father is some sort of math professor and sent her to East Prussia where she might be safer. She ended up working on a farm.” Eva lowered her voice. “Near Nemmersdorf.”

“No,” I whispered.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/29BuPcc

An Elegant Façade by Kristi Ann Hunter

Disclaimer: An Elegant Façade, by Kristi Ann Hunter, was provided by Bethany House in exchange for an honest review.

Lady Georgina Hawthorne has always known she must marry well. After years of tirelessly planning every detail of her debut season, she is posed to be a smashing success and have her choice of eligible gentlemen. With money and powerful business connections but no title, Colin McCrae is invited everywhere by accepted nowhere. He intends to marry someday, but when he does it will not be to a shallow woman like Lay Georgina, whose only concerns appear to be status and appearance. But beneath her flawless exterior, Georgina’s social aspirations stem from a shameful secret she is desperately trying to keep hidden—and that Colin is too close to discovering. Drawn to each other despite their mutual intent to avoid association, is the realization of their dreams worth the sacrifices they’ll be forced to make?

My rating: 4/5

When I first started reading An Elegant Façade, I thought that I would probably enjoy it but that overall it would be another generic (and maybe even clichéd) historical romance. Then, Kristi Ann Hunter introduced an issue that I’ve never seen a Regency novel do (and very few contemporary novels, for that matter): dyslexia.

Dyslexia is difficult enough today, but Hunter captures perfectly how devastating it would be to have it in the Regency period, when a woman’s worth was determined by 1.) her dowry and 2.) her ability to run a household. Georgina is carefully and elegantly written, and every aspect of her character made sense to me, right down to her frustration and her thoughts about God. The romance, though bobbling slightly here and there, is also written well in light of Georgina’s dyslexia and it helps that Colin is almost as interesting as Georgina.

My one small quibble is that Georgina’s insistence that she didn’t want anyone helping her understand Bible passages was played as a strong, good thing to do but felt wrong to me, as if Hunter was dismissing the benefits of having someone wiser help you (especially if you’re just reading the Bible for the first time!). It’s probably not what Hunter meant, but in my opinion Georgina should have gone to someone right at that moment. Her character didn’t need that showing of independence (and, realistically, I think it would actually be more harmful for her, from the things revealed about her).

An Elegant Façade combines interesting characters, good writing, and one of my favorite settings (Regency England) for a delightful, heartwarming story that addresses a topic little spoken of (and especially not in Regency novels). The topic is dealt with respectfully but also in a way that resonates in the setting and in Georgina herself. The romance is also well-done, and overall the book is quite an enjoyable read.

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/29G7xgf

The Prophet of Yonwood by Jeanne DuPrau

The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau, was published in 2006 by Random House. It is the prequel to The City of Ember.

Eleven-year-old Nickie sees so many possibilities for her trip to Yonwood, North Carolina. Her family has just inherited an old mansion from her great-grandfather, and Nickie hopes it will become her new home. She is ready to get away from the city, where impending war has bred an environment of fear and anxiety. Perhaps Yonwood will be the place where Nickie can do a little good in the world—and maybe even fall in love. But Yonwood is not exactly the haven Nickie had imaged. A local woman has received a terrifying vision of fire and destruction, and her tormented mumblings sound like they might be instructions for avoiding the coming disaster. As the people of Yonwood scramble to make sense of the woman’s mysterious utterances, Nickie explores the oddities she finds around town—her great-grandfather’s peculiar journals and papers, a reclusive neighbor who studies the heavens, a strange boy who is fascinated with snakes—all while keeping an eye out for ways to help the world. Is this vision her chance? Or is it already too late to avoid a devastating war?

Rating: 1/5

I have to confess something—I didn’t actually finish The Prophet of Yonwood (I got about halfway through before I had to stop). I don’t usually post reviews of books that I don’t finish, and the not-finishing-books-thing happens rarely in any case. Yet I thought I should post a review, anyway, since this book is part of a series that I’ve reviewed here on the blog.

The reason I didn’t finish The Prophet of Yonwood was because I found it incredibly boring and dull. It lacks the beauty of The City of Ember and doesn’t have sequel-interest like The People of Sparks. The worldbuilding was confusing and of the type I dislike: expositional, with random bits of information thrown out at you. I found myself asking over and over, “What’s that? Who’s that? How did that happen?” and not in a curious, I-want-to-know-more way, but in an “I’m really confused and this doesn’t make any sense” way.

I also found The Prophet of Yonwood an extremely unnecessary book. I never cared in The City of Ember or in The People of Sparks about how the world got that way. And The Prophet of Yonwood, with brand-new characters, expositional storytelling, and a tendency to take its dear sweet time getting anywhere important and instead going on for a few chapters about a boy and his two pet snakes, tries to make me care—and I don’t.

Also, there’s some weird science fiction/supernatural stuff going on and I’m not a fan. Sorry, DuPrau, but The Prophet of Yonwood made me not want to pick up the last book at all.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Anti-organized religion.

Genre: Dystopian, Middle Grade, Realistic

At first he thought he was imagining it, it was so faint. A light seemed to be growing behind the curtained and shuttered windows on the ground floor. IT was a bluish light, like moonlight. It gleamed very faintly around the edges of the windows, in the gaps between the shades and the frames, until a narrow, pale-bluish rectangle appeared around all the ground-floor windows. What was it? Did Hoyt have twenty televisions that went on all at once? Was he doing some weird sort of experiment? Whatever it was, it gave Grover an eerie feeling.

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The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, by Janet Fox, was published in 2016 by Viking.

Twelve-year-old Katherine Bateson believes in a logical explanation for everything. But even she can’t make sense of the strange goings-on at Rookskill Castle, the drafty old Scottish castle-turned-school where she and her siblings have been sent to escape the London Blitz. What’s making those mechanical shrieks at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And who are the silent children who seem to haunt Rookskill’s grounds? Kat believes Lady Eleanor, who rules the castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish, one by one, Kat must face the truth about what the castle actually harbors—and what Lady Eleanor is—before it’s too late.

Rating: 3/5

I heard some good things about The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle, so I decided to pick it up even though I don’t usually tend to go for paranormal/supernatural. And while I didn’t think it was blow-me-away-amazing, I did like the subtle tension underlying the novel and the atmosphere of terror created not just by WWII, but also by Lady Eleanor.

Kat was also a good protagonist, although the “you’re the only one left and have to save everyone” mechanic is a little overused, in my opinion—but it does make for good tension. I liked the other characters, too, although I wish the charmed children were more directly involved with the plot. Once they became charmed, they melted into the scenery a little—it would have been nice to see the other characters interact with them a little more.

I wish Lady Eleanor’s character had been developed a little more, and the resolution of the novel got a little hazy in its attempts to explain everything. There were a few things that I thought were simply hand-waved away, and other things didn’t make much sense as to why they happened. I also thought the book would have been better as a whole without the additional MI6 side plot thrown in, although clearly it’s a way for Fox to continue writing books with Kat as the main character.

I enjoyed The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle for its subtle tension and spookiness as well as its use of historical artifacts and philosophy as magic. I thought some of the characters could have been more developed, especially Lady Eleanor, and the resolution of the book could have been a lot neater in its execution, but it’s a fine book for those who enjoy spooky reads.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Historical Fiction, Supernatural, Middle Grade

The door burst open behind them. “Kat!” Robbie fell into the room, Peter on his heels, Robbie’s eyes like saucers. “Kat! You won’t believe it. We found a secret hiding place. A hidden room. With something—or someone—locked inside that makes terrible shrieky noises.”

Kat looked at Peter, who nodded, then back at Rob.

He was white as the cliffs of Dover. “Sure as sure,” Rob said in a low voice, “sure as sure, it’s a ghost.”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/29vbt85

The Silver Bowl by Diane Stanley

The Silver Bowl, by Diane Stanley, was published in 2011 by HarperCollins.

Unwanted at home, Molly goes to work for the king of Westria as a humble scullery maid. She arrives at the castle with no education, no manners, and a very disturbing secret: She sees visions, and those visions always come true. One day, while she’s working in the king’s great hall, young Prince Alaric passes by. Molly finds him unbearably handsome—but also unbearably rude. But what does it really matter? She’ll probably never see him again. In time Molly is promoted to polishing silver and is given a priceless royal treasure to work on: the king’s great ceremonial hand basin. But there’s something odd about it. The silver warms to her touch, a voice commands her to watch and listen, and then the visions appear. They tell the story of a dreaded curse that has stalked the royal family for years. There have already been deaths; soon there will be more. As tragedy after tragedy strikes the royal family, Molly can’t help but wonder: Will the beautiful Alaric be next? Together with her friends Tobias and Winifred, Molly must protect the prince and destroy the curse. Could a less likely champion be found to save the kingdom of Westria?

Rating: 1/5

I try to read books as continuously and as smoothly as possible and unfortunately, my reading of The Silver Bowl was broken up by me heading to a school retreat for a couple of days. Then further readings were marred by my tiredness from said retreat. However, while I think that break in reading did slightly negatively affect my overall thoughts about the book, I honestly don’t think it was by very much.

The Silver Bowl is an interesting book. There are two different tones throughout, which are odd and jarring to read: there’s the “adventure time” tone, which is a little more informal, and then there’s the “let’s get down to the plot” tone, which becomes much more formal, especially near the end. I also found it jarring how Molly narrates without any trace of dialect unless it’s the word “something,” in which case it becomes “summat.” Why just that one word? Why include it at all when Molly has no other equivalent verbal dialect?

I also found the part towards the end where Molly goes into the bowl rather out of place and cheesy. All of a sudden, she’s striding around thinking of weak spots and analyzing enemies like she’s a video game character. It’s especially strange since up until that point she portrays no interest or skill in fighting.

The rest of the book I don’t really remember. As I said, my reading of it was broken up and the last half of it I read while tired and drifting, so my impression of it didn’t stick (or the book wasn’t particularly memorable). Mostly I found The Silver Bowl odd, uneven in tone, and jarring in way too many places.

Recommended Age Range: 14+

Warnings: Some violence, death.

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Soon I felt the tingling beneath my fingers. The silver began to grow warm. How long before the voice would start telling me to listen, to pay attention, to—?

“Listen!” it said. “Pay attention! There is not much time.”

As before, the pattern began to grow misty and melt before my eyes until gradually an image was revealed. It was blurry at first, as when you look at the world with tears in your eyes. But quickly it settled and sharpened.

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/29rHThh

Sword of Waters by Hilari Bell

Sword of Waters, by Hilari Bell, was published in 2007 by Simon & Schuster. It is the sequel to Shield of Stars.

Arisa isn’t certain how to respond when her mother, the Falcon, formerly a dangerous bandit but now lord commander of the army and navy of Deorthas, entrusts her with this extremely special mission. Everything changed for Arisa when she and her friend Weasel stumbled upon the ancient shield rumored to bestow power upon whoever holds it. With the shield, the Falcon was able to gain her new station, bringing Arisa into a world of royalty Arisa isn’t even sure she enjoys. Now the Falcon wants Arisa to get close to young Prince Edoran, and join with Edoran and Weasel to search for the legendary sword that matches the shield. As Arisa’s search progresses, however, she realizes she may be in danger from a deadly stranger. Worse—she and her friends may be in even graver danger from someone they know all too well!

Rating: 2/5

I’m not quite sure what to make of Sword of Waters. I didn’t find it as interesting or as charming as Shield of Stars, and I had too many problems with the plot and with the characters to really enjoy it. I thought it was a decent follower to the first book, but it didn’t improve on anything.

I thought the plot dragged in the middle, especially since at the beginning of the book Arisa promises her mother that she’ll find the sword and then spends most of the rest of the book going to class, bickering with Edoran, and not even thinking about the sword at all until the last third of the book when the plot demands that it be found.

Probably some of my disinterest in the book was Arisa, who was annoying. She’s the sort of character who thinks she’s in the right and will scoff at everybody else but is so completely wrong that it’s frustrating. I hated her stubbornness, her rashness, and most of how she treated Edoran, especially at the end when the poor guy is trying to get some good suggestions out and Arisa keeps interrupting him and calling him an idiot. And then she goes off and takes the sword and shield at the end, whereupon I almost started yelling at a book.

I still found the book endearing, for the most part, and even though I didn’t really like Arisa I did like most of her interactions with other people. I found it rather telling that Arisa refers to her mother as “the Falcon” rather than as, you know, “Mother.” And I really like Edoran and I’m looking forward to having his viewpoint in the next book.

I do wish, though, that all this confusion about whether or not the sword and shield are magical would have been cleared up. So far they just seem like antiques with a symbolic history, which is okay, I guess, but it doesn’t really match how people view them.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: Some small violence.

Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

“The old priests gave the sword, the shield, and the crown of earth to Deor’s heir, after his death,” Edoran told them. “That’s him. King Brend.”

“He’s not very happy,” said Arisa, looking at the painted man’s eyes. “Why doesn’t he hold the sword and shield? And if he was given a crown, why isn’t he wearing it?”

“I don’t know, and I don’t know,” Edoran told her. “But my father wondered about that too. All the legends agree that Brend was given the crown of earth, in exchange for his father’s sacrifice, but my father thought it must have been lost long ago, because there’s no mention anywhere of what it looked like. The sword and shield are the real ones, since they were still around when these portraits were painted.”

You can buy this here: http://amzn.to/29fvydT

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge, was published in 2016 by Amulet Books.

Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is modest and well mannered—a proper young lady who knows her place. But inside, Faith is burning with questions and curiosity. She keeps sharp watch of her surroundings and, therefore, knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing—like the real reason her family fled Kent to the close-knit island of Vane. And that her father’s death was no accident. In pursuit of revenge and justice for the father she idolizes, Faith hunts through his possessions, where she discovers a strange tree. A tree that bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit in turn, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder. Or, it might lure the murderer directly to Faith herself, for lies—like fires, wild and crackling—quickly take on a life of their own.

Rating: 3/5

I love Frances Hardinge, but her books are so strange that I’m caught between “this is great” and “this is weird and I can’t really get into it.” That’s exactly how I felt reading The Lie Tree, which takes a simple setting (Victorian England) and gives it a supernatural twist with the concept of a lie tree, which basically gives you truths if you feed it lies. Or something like that.

I will briefly express my displeasure at Hardinge for getting many religious facts wrong, such as the entire concept of the Nephilim and other cliché representations, but at least she is somewhat open-minded and doesn’t paint one group or the other with too thick of a brush. And, granted, since the book takes place in the Victorian era she does do well occasionally with representing the thought process at the time, although, again, it’s incredibly clichéd and stereotypical most of the time.

So, yes, The Lie Tree is strange, and I’m so sick of “women can’t do anything so protagonist sets out to Do Something” novels, but it was still pretty good. Hardinge is a great writer, and the strange parts had a sort of attraction to them even as they repelled me. The villain, while not terribly obvious at first, is almost too obvious once revealed, as in my reaction was something like “oh, of course that’s who it is. Why would it be anyone else?” But the book was engaging and typical Hardinge, and it certainly didn’t put me off from reading any more of her works. I liked Faith well enough and overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole.

Recommended Age Range: 12+

Warnings: None.

Genre: Supernatural, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

Faith opened her mouth to apologize, but the words died in her mouth. Her father’s posture, always ramrod-straight, was now oddly slumped. She had never seen his face so pale, so slack. Her skin tingled.

There was a clammy smell in the room, she realized, the cold scent she had noticed in the Folly. Now it ran little ice-fingers down her throat, through the nerves of her teeth, and across the backs of her eyes. The air was alive with it.

“Father?”

You can buy this book here: http://amzn.to/29fsyBK