Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Cuckoo Song by Frances HardingeCuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: 8th May 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. 

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family - before it's too late...


“But scissors are really intended for one job alone – snipping things in two. Dividing by force. Everything on one side or the other, and nothing in between.”

Cuckoo Song is the latest novel by one of my all-time favourite authors, Frances Hardinge, so I was very excited to have been given the chance to read this before it’s released. I know I talk about Hardinge from time to time but I cannot emphasise how imaginative and original each of her books are; Cuckoo Song has shot up the list of my favourite reads this year so far.

Our protagonist, Triss, is a sickly child living with overbearing parents and a younger sibling, Pen, who seems to hate her. As the novel opens Triss has evidently gone through a traumatic event that she can’t quite remember but has developed the oddest habits since – she has a constant gnawing hunger, memories which feel like they aren’t hers, and strange, inexplicable things have started to happen around her. As Triss begins to realise who she really is the story opens up into a wickedly spooky tale of creatures that live in impossible places, striking bargains that cannot be broken with unwitting people and creating things out of mundane objects. And although all of this is fantastic, this at heart remains a story about sisterhood, courage and believing in yourself, that you deserve a place in the world.

I loved the characters, especially Triss and Pen. Hardinge develops the relationship between the two of them in a realistic, poignant way – the two sisters fight constantly, doing petty things to each other and yet the bond between them runs deep and true despite everything that happens. Pen was wonderful, a nine year old whirlwind of rage and tantrums mixed with extraordinary bravery, vulnerability and naivete. Triss is actually a really intriguing character and I loved watching her battle with her instincts while trying to figure out who she was and where she belonged – she is a character who above all you want to root for, and it’s a clever subversion of things we tend to only think about in a negative light because this story places Triss as a protagonist rather than an antagonist. The other characters were also amazing – Violet was another favourite because I just loved the image of her swearing and smoking while listening to jazz and riding on her motorcycle. The antagonist is a great character too because his presence is so sinister, and I loved the myriad characters that live on the ‘other side’ because they bring a spooky, kind of scary, actually, tone to the story.

I loved the prose; the descriptions of the world, the detail given to Triss and the sheer imagery of her character was outstanding tbh. Also, the reveal? I did not see it coming, guys. What a good everything when a book can wrap you in its story so successfully. Gullstruck Island is still my favourite novel of hers, but Cuckoo Song was a fantastic addition to Hardinge’s works and I really hope a lot of people read it because it deserves to be read and talked about more.

8 comments on “Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

  1. Librarian Lavender 14/05/2014 1:52 pm

    The cover alone is scary already, I love it! I can’t wait to read this book, it sounds amazing!

    • Tatum 15/05/2014 11:01 pm


  2. Jessica @ Rabid Reads 14/05/2014 2:55 pm

    I haven’t read anything by this author (or truthfully, even heard of her–SORRY!), but I am seriously curious now. This book sounds like a dark fairy tale what with the unbreakable bargains and impossible places. AND being one of four sisters, I always have a soft spot for books that emphasize that relationship. Definitely checking this out. Wonderful review!

    • Tatum 15/05/2014 11:05 pm

      She writes the kind of books you describe so I’d definitely recommend checking out some of her other stuff 😀

  3. Natalie 15/05/2014 12:07 pm

    Everything you have said about this one entices me. Especially the sisterhood! Both sisters being great characters, and siblings that drive each other mad but love each other dearly? Glad you reviewed this one or I’d never have heard of it!

    • Tatum 15/05/2014 11:06 pm

      Heeeeeeeeeeeee, it is my mission in life for everyone to learn about Frances Hardinge tbh. I’m so glad I got you interested 😀

  4. Rachel 16/05/2014 2:20 pm

    Ohhhh dear. This is currently in my DNF pile – I wrote about it here ( but didn’t reference it. It took me forever to get into it and I wasn’t really enjoying it so looked it up on goodreads and saw so many people gushing about his author (I wasn’t familiar), I loved the cover and expected great things from this read, but I found it to be quite slow. I wanted to keep going to see what the outcome would be (which you have me intrigued over!) but it really put me in a slump!

  5. Jaden @ Booklol16 17/05/2014 3:38 pm

    Do went read the Cuckoo Song but it will be my first Hardinge book but have heard of her.

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