Title: Cuckoo’s Song
Author: Frances Hardinge
Page Count: 410
This is my third Frances Hardinge novel, and unfortunately it’s also my least favourite of the lot, at least so far. There was some good stuff here, but I also got the sense that it was at least 100 pages too long. In fact, the actual setup of the main story took so long that by the time that the story proper was underway, I couldn’t actually remember how we got there.
The thing with this book was that while I didn’t think much of the story itself, especially when compared to her others, it was still beautifully written. In fact, I’ve been consistently impressed by the stuff that Hardinge has come out with, and she’s more than earned her place on my list of auto-buy authors even despite this one.
Still, there were a few elements here that were common to both this and Hardinge’s other work, including the fact that it’s a sort of cross between historical fiction and magical realism. That’s the good news – the bad news is that it’s slow to take off and only really worth sticking with if you love the writing style.
What I will say is that if you’re a big fan of fairy tales then you’re definitely going to find something that you like here. There are some great little tie-ins with fairy tale lore and I liked the descriptions of the thorns that afflicted one of our main characters. This is kind of the problem that I had – it was very competently written and all, but the subject matter just wasn’t really for me, and I wasn’t too much of a fan of the magic system.
It’s a shame really, because I was excited to get to this one and it turned out to be nowhere near as good as I was expecting. At one point, I was thinking about giving this a two star rating, but I feel like that’s being a little harsh, especially because she is an author that I like. It just wasn’t everything that it was cracked up to be.
Would I recommend it? I guess that depends. If you’ve read and enjoyed some of Hardinge’s other books then it’s got to be worth a go, but I don’t think I’d recommend picking it up first. Why would you, when she has plenty of others?