From School Library Journal
"In 19th-century Britain, the study of natural history was reserved for gentlemen. Unlucky enough to be born female, science-minded Faith, the heroine of this dark and captivating period novel, can't hope to follow in her naturalist father's footsteps. Yet when those footsteps lead to his suspicious death, Faith turns her "weakness" into an advantage. Underestimated by everyone, from her father's colleagues to the servants to her own mother, she embarks on an investigation that propels her into the scandal that ruined her father's reputation and entices her to adopt his morally questionable research methods.
"The Lie Tree" shares the rich, cerebral atmosphere and feminist bent of Andrea Barrett's history-of-science-inspired fiction for adults, weaving it all together with gossamer fairy-tale thread. The book's title refers to a plant — Faith's father's secret discovery — that withers in the light and feeds off of lies. Faith believes that reason and logic must hold the explanation to the Lie Tree's puzzling attributes, since, for her, "'magic' was not an answer; it was an excuse to avoid looking for one." Nonetheless, she can't deny that when she whispers untruths into its leaves, things happen: Both the plant and Faith's covert power start to grow.
Hardinge's gorgeous descriptive language is charged with menace and meaning. Lying in bed one night, Faith imagines "her lie spreading silently like dark green smoke, filling the air around the house like a haze, spilling from the mouths of those who whispered and wondered and feared … soaking like mist into waiting leaves, seeping like sap down gnarled slender stems, and forcing itself out into a small, white spearhead of a bud." "The Lie Tree" is a murder mystery that dazzles at every level, shimmering all the more brightly the deeper down into it you go."
"Mystery, magic, religion, and feminism swirl together in Hardinge's latest heady concoction... Hardinge creates a fierce, unlikable heroine navigating a rapidly changing world and does it all with consummate skill and pitch-perfect prose, drawing readers into Faith's world and onto her side and ultimately saying quite a lot about the world. Thematically rich, stylistically impressive, absolutely unforgettable."
"Hardinge, who can turn a phrase like no other, melds a haunting historical mystery with a sharp observation on the dangers of suppressing the thirst for knowledge, and leaves readers to wonder where science ends and fantasy begins... Smart, feminist, and shadowy, Hardinge’s talents are on full display here."
"Hardinge’s characteristically rich writing is on full display—alternately excoriating, haunting, and darkly funny—and the novel also features complex, many-sided characters and a clear-eyed examination of the deep sexism of the period, which trapped even the most intelligent women in roles as restrictive as their corsets."
"There is an effortless beauty to Hardinge’s writing, which ranges from frank to profound. Though layered, the plot refuses to sag, driven as it is by mystery, taut atmosphere, complex characters, and Faith’s insatiable curiosity... It is a book in which no details are wasted and each chapter brings a new surprise. Readers of historical fiction, mystery, and fantasy will all be captivated by this wonderfully crafted novel and the many secrets hidden within its pages."
“The elements of the mystery are masterfully keyed to the concerns of the Victorian time period, and its unfolding is handled with a dexterity that never loses sight of the gender problem; the book also directs its light onto matters of faith and doubt, and the issue of lies and truth in the pursuit of science. The excitement and danger, coupled with Faith’s intrepid though morally flawed pursuit of justice, call to mind Hardinge’s Fly by Night (BCCB 9/06); give this to readers unafraid to think disquieting thoughts as they race through a breathtaking, action-packed adventure.”
"Everything in this audacious novel is on the cusp or in limbo, setting up delicious tensions and thematic riches. The time is nineteenth-century England just after Darwin’s theory of evolution has thrown the scientific world into turmoil; the setting is the fictional island of Vane, between land and sea; the main character is a fourteen-year-old girl caught between society’s expectations and her fierce desire to be a scientist... Hardinge maintains masterful control of the whole complex construct: everything from the sentence level on up to the larger philosophical and political questions. A stunner."