Book Review: CUCKOO SONG

PrintE-mail Written by Ed Fortune


Frances Hardinge is one of the most talented writers of novels aimed at a younger audience out there today. Her work has a tendency to be off the wall and her latest offering, Cuckoo Song, is a heady mix of dark folklore, period drama and surreal body horror, presented in a way that is suitable for anyone who enjoys a spot of creepiness.

Set in a sleepy English town still recovering from the devastating events of World War One, it follows the unfortunate adventures of an eleven-year-old girl namedTriss. Something horrible has happened to her, but Triss can’t quite remember what. Things get worse when she discovers that she has a terrible and bizarre hunger, one that cannot easily be sated. To make matters even worse, pages are missing from her diary and her little sister, Pen (short for Penelope) seems to have taken an intense dislike to her. What follows is a fast-paced adventure filled with dark myth, marvellous and complex villains and lashings and lashings of ginger beer.

Hardinge’s talent is to take a slightly odd story and make it utterly bizarre. Because of the perspective the author has taken here, we get a fairly simple and traditional tale told in a unique and exciting way. Hardinge doesn’t hesitate to slam the reader with revelation after revelation; just as the reader thinks they’ve gotten a handle on what’s going on with Triss’ family, another event smashes apart their assumptions, drawing the reader in further. The characterisation is so strong that it is easy to imagine the story from other points of view as each antagonist feels like a real person with strong motivations.

Cuckoo Song is suitable for pretty much anyone over the age of ten. There is no content here unsuitable for younger readers though it has some gloriously scary moments that will raise the eyebrow of almost anyone, but then that’s the point. Architect of delicious creepiness that she is, Hardinge invites the reader to come with her on a wild midnight ride and you would be fool not to accept.

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