Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was rather impressed with how much I could feel and relate for our heroine, but then I wonder if this is more a feature of good YA or just a feature of excellent writing.
In the end, I am forced to admit that my peer-pressuring buddies who twisted mine arms to read another YA title outside of my so-called comfort zone were all very right in their decision to do so. I feel as if I learned something very important in this book, even if I didn't discover anything new about myself or through the messages within the text. I *did*, however, think this would be a great book to introduce to my daughter once she gets to a certain age. The dark fantasy should appeal to any kid of any age, and the serious under and over-tones of both emotions and the intensity of the choices being made should make for a great tale to reread many times over, as children are wont to do.
And for those fans of Neil Gaiman, for either The Graveyard Book or Coraline, I think this one is a bit more accessible and readable. Yeah, I'm saying that, even though I'm a huge fan. I actually got into all of the characters in a way that's fairly uncommon for me. I usually fall back on plot or ideas or themes to carry the crest of the novels I read, and think it's a real lark and a surprise when a character is able to get under my skin and tear my stuffing out. (Not that I would go this far for this book, but the characterization was way above average.)
If I were a new reader, questioning or still questioning my identity, I might think this novel might rank as one of my absolute favourites of all time.
But since I feel like I can identify fine with all the bits and scraps that make up this poor girl's troubles, and since I saw through them and guessed at the end solution, sans "time", and because it harkened to all the old myths, it came across as truly beautiful example of wonderful writing, reintroducing a sense of wonder and fae in our world, I was more than merely pleased by the technique. I truly enjoyed it.
Plus, it was a delightful setup to be placed in 1920's England. I felt like I was living in a Twilight Zone episode of Downton Abbey with the idea-fantastic grace of The Anubis Gates, and the creepy ambiance of all the classic Stephen King horror, keeping us in the horrible now as dolls chitter at us.
Beyond all that, and beyond seeing what the character needed to become, I was quite surprised with a number of the magical scenes, so don't start assuming you'll guess everything in this novel, you horror fans. I'll definitely be reading more of Frances Hardinge.
(On a side note, I was absolutely convinced that the author was obese. All that HEAVY insistence on being HUNGRY all the time made me think of either an eating disorder or Audrey Two. So of course I checked out the GR page, and no, she isn't. She looks positively skinny. I scratched my head and wondered at the power of human imagination. The author is either POWERFULLY empathetic, or I'm a complete moron. Have fun with that, peeps. :)
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