Book Review: Cuckoo Song

Today’s book: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Let’s get straight to the point: This book has uprooted The Great Gatsby as my all-time favorite book. I am not exaggerating. Which is odd, because I usually don’t react that much to books. I worry that I’m being too generous with my praise, but when I like a book, I really like a book.

I can’t even say why I like it so much with absolute certainty. The author is a genius with the pen. Or word processor. It’s got a delicious blend of creeps and fascinating storytelling and world building that kept me riveted to the last page. It’s a blend of fairy-tale and fantasy and horror that honestly makes me want to know more, read more, about the world and its backstory.

I am so very impressed with the way Frances Hardinge writes. She writes like a master, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of her before now. This is how I want to write. I can’t remember ever having gotten bored while reading the book, which is seriously rare for me.

The only complaint I can think of is that it starts a bit slow, but I thought there were plenty of creeps and unanswered questions to keep me interested.

Another good point: none of the main characters acted like idiots. Well, except for one, but he was a bad guy, so he doesn’t count. They all talked to each other as much as can be expected, given the situation, and they noticed details very well, especially considering two of the three main characters are children. I’ve read other books where a character managed to miss an incredibly obvious clue and I felt like smacking them. Nothing like that here.

It might just be because I’m still a newbie, but I want to wield the Chekhov’s gun plot device as well as this book did. If I sound like I’m gushing, I’m sorry, but I am now a huge fan of this author.

The main character is a preteen girl during the 20s who’s coddled and smothered by her parents, while her rebellious little sister hates her. And of course the “perfect” older daughter has no idea why the little sister hates her so.

Except, she’s so hungry, so impossibly hungry. And no matter how much she eats, she doesn’t gain any weight. She eats and eats and eats, and she’s still hungry. And anyone who’s seen a horror movie may have a vague idea where this is going, but I was honestly surprised by the revelation and outcome.

Thanks to her years of coddling and smothering, said main character thinks she’s going insane. Eventually, you find out that the main character isn’t who she thinks, and she only has a limited amount of time left to live. I won’t go into details because of spoilers, but I thought the ending was a genius solution to a major problem, and it tied up loose ends quite nicely.

The book was sweet, and made me care about characters I honestly didn’t think I’d like when we first meet them. So, A+ for that.

My rating: 5/5 stars. You can also read my review on Goodreads here.

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