Review: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Alexis is wearing a yellow flannel and holding the UK copy of Unraveller in front of a black bookshelf.

Alexis:

I would read Frances Hardinge’s grocery list if she let me; she’s one of my auto-buy authors. I’m also obsessed with this spooky cover (despite my dislike of spiders!). ⁣

This was the perfect read to ease into autumn. In classic Hardinge fashion, Unraveller is beautifully and darkly atmospheric. I’ve always been obsessed with her writing style. And the world is unique and features a creepy forest/swamp called the Wilds and spider-like creatures called the Little Brothers. ⁣

The story follows Kellen, a rare unraveller of curses, and Nettle, a girl who was formerly cursed to become a heron, as they work to unravel nasty curses—and uncover plots and mysteries along the way. ⁣

Unraveller reads like part dark fairytale and part mystery, and of course it’s a 5 ⭐ read for me. ⁣

I bought the UK edition, but look out for Unraveller in the US on January 10, 2023! ⁣

Review: Deeplight by Frances Hardinge

Alexis:

Hi, everyone. I’m finally done with my first year of grad school, and you know what that means– I get to read for fun again!

Deeplight starts out as a slow burn. At first, it turned me off a little bit, but I know Frances Hardinge; she’s one of my favorite authors! She is a masterful worldbuilder, and she spends the first 100 pages exploring the world of Deeplight and letting you dig into the mind of her characters in order to set up a powerful punch later.

Synopsis: Deeplight follows Hark, a fifteen-year-old boy who’s a little lost in the world. He just feels like a sidekick to his longtime friend, Jelt, until he’s put on trial for a crime and sold as an indentured servant. If you couldn’t tell from the front cover, the story is set on an island, called Lady’s Crave, where thirty years ago, the sea gods “turned on one another and tore each other apart.” If the islanders are lucky, they can find relics of the dead gods called “godware,” which are powerful and valuable. Hark just so happens to find a heart, which saves the life of Jelt. But when it starts to change Jelt, and not in a good way, Hark searches for answers with the help of a girl named Selphin and an old priest named Quest. 

I think this is the first book I’ve read by Hardinge that has a boy narrator instead of a girl. I will admit: I kind of wish the story was told from the perspective of Selphin, a girl he meets on his journey. I connected with her character a little more than Hark. 

The plot picks up a ton during the second half of the book, and I found myself really appreciating how she set up the world in the first half. Hardinge’s plot always goes in a direction I’m not expecting, and her books (including this one!) are always the epitome of fantasy, always delving deep into her dark, imaginative world and filling them with masterful descriptions. And this is why she’s one of my favorite authors!

I love the morally grey characters, and how Hardinge focuses on a toxic friendship, a topic not often explored in fantasy. I think the character arcs were great. Hardinge also created a world where deaf culture is normal and accepted, and the characters often use sign language to talk to each other. Overall, this book is a well-drawn, imaginative sea story that travels in unexpected, vivid directions. 

VERDICT: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 

 

Review: The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Alexis: Read 2/4/19

“There was a hunger in her, and girls were not supposed to be hungry. They were supposed to nibble sparingly when at table, and their minds were supposed to be satisfied with a slim diet too.”

The Lie Tree is both about revenge and finding yourself. It manages to be a murder mystery book while exploring themes of science vs. religion, paleontology, family, and, of course, lies.

The book follows Faith, the 14-year-old daughter of a reverend/scientist, who moves to an island with her family. Throughout the story, she struggles with being a complacent girl in 19th century England while battling her desire to be seen and heard as a person with a brain and scientific ambitions. This was my favorite part of the book. I loved reading about Faith’s navigation through 19th century society and ideals. I felt and understood her frustrations as she dealt with being called useless. I also appreciated that Hardinge explored how her petticoats and corset always got in the way; it just felt very real to me. And, as the book progressed, I loved reading about her showing off her cleverness and proving to her mother, and the men in the book, what she can do.

Faith’s character was a little hard for me to like. I rooted for her to win, even through her ill-fated motives and her willingness to lie. I thought that the unlikability of the characters served the dark nature of the story and the Lie Tree well. However, at times, I found the story hard to get through because of this, and also because the plot was a little slow. Despite this, Hardinge is still a poetic writer and I enjoyed her descriptions and the murder mystery storyline.

VERDICT: 3 ½ out of 5 books

Alexis’ Library Haul

Alexis:

Library haul time! These are some of my most anticipated reads on my #tbr list.

  • Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
  • Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
  • In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende

Anna and I went to a coffee shop and got some work and writing done today. And then we went to Ulta, my second favorite store after Barnes and Noble.

I’m starting with In the Midst of Winter since it’s currently 28 degrees outside and dropping! I’ve always loved Isabel Allende’s writing style and I’m enjoying the beginning of the book.