Review Blog

Jun 24 2015

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

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Pan Macmillan, 2014. ISBN 9780330519731
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Horror. Historical fantasy. Carnegie Medal in Literature Shortlist (2015), British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Novel (2014), James Herbert Award Nominee (2015). When Triss wakes up after she falls into the Grimmer there is something terribly wrong. She can't remember things and hoping to find answers in her diary she finds that the pages have been torn out. Her little sister Pen is terrified of her and she is so hungry that she is prepared to eat anything, even the doll whose glass eyes swivel around to look at her. She leaves a trail of leaves behind her and her tears are like spider webs. She soon discovers that things are even more terrible than she could have imagined and she finds herself on a quest for the truth in the frightening Underbelly of the city, where the evil Architect rules.
This is a very scary and utterly unique horror story set in the period just after World War 1. Hardinge brings alive the 1920's when jazz music was considered fast, and returned soldiers were not themselves. Triss' family have been mourning the death of Sebastian, killed on the battlefields and the family dynamics are really detailed. Pen's feelings of jealousy for her sister, the games that Triss' mother plays to keep Triss close to her and the self-satisfaction of Piers, Triss' father, all highlight the need for the family members to find a place for themselves. Although the reader knows that Triss is not herself; that she has been taken over by Not-Triss, the changeling is such a complex and caring character that her search for the truth, her courage and compassion and longing to stay alive keep momentum of the story going.
And then there the action as Not-Triss jumps from roof-top to roof-top in pursuit of the Architect, the thrill of the jazz music and the cakes in the tea-shop, the scare of the giant scissors and a pervading sense of eeriness and the result is one thrilling read.
This is highly recommended for people who enjoy a story that is multifaceted and intricate but which also frightens while tugging at the heartstrings. Readers who liked Neil Gaiman's Coraline or who like fairy tales retold will enjoy this.
Pat Pledger

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