On my epic trip of awesome I got a chance to read a book beginning to end. I actually tossed this book in my back pack on a whim 'cause I had totally forgotten I had got it and stuck it on my shelf. Turns out it was the perfect book to read as an October/Trip hybrid. The book is Cuckoo Song by the ever creative Frances Hardinge. The book, besides having a Halloween worthy cover also turned out to be a completely different read (in a good way) then I thought it would be. What made this book so interesting, let's find out. As always SPOILERS AHEAD!!!!!
Story - This story was so different from what I originally thought it would be. This is in some ways the fault of the blurbs. The way the description of the book and the one line "reviews" sound, I thought it would be a bit of a horror novel OR that Triss would take the whole book to figure out what she was. Instead I got a story of discovery and relationships. The story very much was about a family discovering who they really where and how they needed to relate to each other. The focus was on Triss and Pen, but all the characters had their places in the story. In the end the story was less about drawing out the suspense and more about discovery and growing. It had a clear beginning, middle and end. Very original story.
Character - I think one of my favorite aspects of the book was the author's treatment of the characters. Every single character had...I want to say two faces. There was the facade they showed the world for whatever reason and then there was their true selves. This was the most apparent in not-Triss as she was literally not her true self and had to discover who she was supposed to be, but every single character had multiple facets. The book did a great job at showing us how and why the society facade came about and why each character felt they had to show a different face to the world. We also got to discover each characters true self, their motives, loves, hates, history and all the complications of being a living being. Fantastic job with the characters.
Editing - Very good pacing for this story. The combination of writing and editing was great. None of this, let's draw out the mystery just for tensions sake. The book was more about discovery and less about trying for a gotcha twist. I felt like I got through this book very quickly. My only tiny editing qualm would be that the last quarter of the book started to feel a bit repetitive with the girls constantly running, hiding, sleeping and repeating. Overall though the pacing was spot on and the whole thing actually made great sense. Good job.
Family - At it's core I really felt that this story was about the Crescent family and how they had to deal with the massive changes in their life. They were a settled wealthy English family who's life was shattered by the war...as was most peoples. They all did things to adjust. Triss was "ill and sickly" so that her parents had somebody to take care of to take the focus off of their grief. Pen, to young to understand acted out because she knew no other way. The parents doing what they can to cope within the strictures of a very uptight society. The whole family just trying to cope. The catalyst of not-Triss forces the whole family to drop the veneer and really try and figure out why they act the way they do and to re-evaluate their relationships with each other. The fact that it was magical style creatures that brought this all to a head just made it all that much cooler :-)
Discovery - I think I have probably used this term at least 100 times in this post, but I felt that it was such a prevalent theme that I am going to talk about it some more. This whole book was about people discovering things...which is such a refreshing change from the gotcha twists, long drawn out secrets and endless telling of some other books I have read. We get to discover along with our characters pretty much everything. We learned about Triss and how she came into being. We learned about the Crescent family history. We learned about the tragedy of Mr. Grace. We learned about the Besiders and their story. Every thing that was discovered added to the story and gave us another piece to the puzzle. I love reading stories like this, they feel alive.
Besiders - The treatment of the Besiders was pretty spot on. From reading about a zillion various books, stories and studies of the old school fey, I felt that these slightly scary guys were great. The Besiders paralleled the humans in their need to change and adapt. As the humans had to grow and cope with the war and progress, so did the Besiders if they wanted to survive. I especially liked that while humans needed and craved stability and certainty, the Besiders are a mirror image, needing uncertainty and chaos to thrive. These were also not little flitting faires and regal elves. These were wild, varied and on occasion dangerous beings who were just looking to survive. They were the perfect mirror to our human characters and were utilized wonderfully.
Overall Impression - I loved this book. It was not originally what I thought it was going to be, but it turned out to be so much better. I know many people were disappointed when the book turned out not to be full on horror...but this just goes to show you not to judge a book by it's cover...or short description...or blurb. I am finding I really enjoy this author and her slightly skewed look on everyday life without going overboard to the flat out weird. It is a fine line to walk and so far I feel she does it beautifully. I give it 8 out of 10 unruly scissors and recommend it to anybody who wants an engrossing read, Victorian style fantasy and isn't afraid to ask some hard questions. I will be reading more of this authors stuff. Happy Reading Everybody!