Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

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Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Tanja Jennings
Reviewed by Tanja Jennings
Summary: From the striking and haunting front cover which has already inspired a make-up demo on You Tube, to the intricately crafted fairy tale with a twist, this book is a piece of art. Hardinge writes beautiful, lyrical, descriptive prose which makes her story come alive.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 416 Date: May 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780330519731

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Shortlisted for the 2015 CILIP Carnegie Medal

Marketed as a twisted fairy tale, Cuckoo Song is so much more. Hardinge’s lyrical style sets it apart from other fantasy reads. Such phrases as she was weeping spider silk lend it a melody all of its own. At the story’s heart is the sense of wanting to belong and connect with others. It revolves around Piers Crescent’s daughter Triss who wakes up after an accident to find that her world has changed. She doesn’t feel that she is herself and starts to exhibit extremely peculiar behaviour. She is ravenous and inexplicably binge eats. For some reason her little sister Pen appears to hate her, scissors act strangely around her and her parents are anxious for her to remain ill and cosseted. She has memories from the time before she nearly drowned but she can’t visualise the actual incident.

Hardinge creates a phantasmagorical, richly imaginative landscape as Triss starts to explore what has happened to her; how it involves her brother Sebastian and his fiancée Violet, what role a mysterious architect plays and the significance of a bridge. Dark forces are at play and Triss is the only one who can solve the mystery before it is too late for the Crescent family but is she really whom she appears to be? Who are the Besiders and what is the midnight ride? Why is a tailor so interested in Triss’s health and who is followed by endless snow? All these questions and more will be answered if you let the book take you on its spellbinding journey which includes a surreal and dramatic set piece involving the silver screen as you have never seen it before. Initially it is a slow burner as it sets the scene but it switches effortlessly into a wild ride before ending in a thrilling climax. Hardinge is effective in portraying characters in shades of grey rather than mere black and white as they struggle with their various dreams and desires.

Cuckoo Song is worthy of the Carnegie long list as it challenges stereotypes. Like Chris Wooding's ""Poison"", it inverts usual fairy tale conventions and resets the boundaries. I enjoyed it and I hope you will too.

If you like elegantly crafted fantasy you should try The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, an inverted amalgam of well loved fairy tales exquisitely illustrated by Chris Riddell or for more sinister magic and menace Tinder by Sally Gardner. For a collection of fairy tale tropes such as mermaids, witches, goblins and dragons explore The Kingdom Under the Sea by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski or experience the magical retelling of The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey set in 1920's Alaska. Alternatively if you would like something completely different which translates traditional fairy tales into an imaginative tour de force featuring a futuristic setting of lovelorn cyborgs and malicious moon queens why not lose yourself in The Lunar Chronicles: Cinder by Marissa Meyer and Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles, Book 2) by Marissa Meyer. You might also enjoy Impossible by Nancy Werlin.

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Buy Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge at


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