Goodreads: Cuckoo Song
Age Category: Middle Grade/ Young Adult
When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; she keeps waking up with leaves in her hair, and her sister seems terrified of her. When it all gets too much and she starts to cry, her tears are like cobwebs…
Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…
Frances Hardinge once again brings a highly original fantasy world to life in Cuckoo Song, a book that is part atmospheric Gothic horror story and part fairy tale. A delicious feeling of suspense slowly builds up through the story, as the protagonist Triss wakes up from an accident, only to discover that her family seems unfamiliar and her hunger is insatiable. Once the revelations begin, however, the plot is all flash and danger; I simply could not predict the twists and turns the story would take. Hardinge is one of my favorite authors writing today, and Cuckoo Song lives up to the expectations I have for her novels–an inventive, quirky, and supremely satisfying read.
Much of what I love about Hardinge’s work is how different it feels–not only from anything else on the market, but also from whatever else Hardinge has written. Cuckoo Song takes readers to 1920s England, but one they have never before experienced. In this England, magic coexists with the mundane, and that magic is nothing expected. Even as Hardinge employs familiar elements of fairy tale and folklore, she subverts them, making the villains seem sympathetic and the usual protagonists seem cruel. But readers’ sympathies will likely shift and change over the course of the story, because these characters are complex and there are no easy answers.
More than a fairy tale, Cuckoo Song is also a family drama, one that digs deep into the fractures in the Crescent household after the death of their son Sebastian in the war. The family has tried to paper over the hole left by Sebastian’s death, and all are silently suffering as a result. Thus, even when the characters seem brutal, they are also understandable. Horrible things have been done in the name of grief, and guilt, and jealousy. Cuckoo Song does not look away from these terrors. But it also holds out hope–that courage and love can still make a difference.
Cuckoo Song will enthrall readers with its deeply atmospheric world, its dark suspense, its twists and its turns. But it will also capture them with its complex characters and beautiful prose. Frances Hardinge always delivers an exception story–Cuckoo Song is no exception.