The Lie Tree

Book review by
Michael Berry, Common Sense Media
The Lie Tree Book Poster Image
Exciting, twisty mystery stars clever Victorian teen sleuth.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Although it has fantasy elements, The Lie Tree does present a realistic picture of late 19th-century archaeology.

Positive Messages

Lies and gossip can have tragic consequences. Women and girls are frequently underestimated, but they often have interests and skills equal to or surpassing those of their male peers.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Faith Sunderly pretends to be a proper young lady who knows her place in her family and within her society. But after her father is killed under mysterious circumstances, she proves to be a tenacious investigator. She also learns about the dangers of using lies and gossip to exact revenge.


The Lie Tree has some violent scenes, but they're generally brief and understated. Faith's father dies under mysterious circumstances. A boy badly injures his foot in a rabbit trap. A girl shoots one of the villains. Someone jumps to her death into the ocean.


Adult characters are suspected of having affairs.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Lie Tree, by Frances Hardinge, is a Victorian fantasy/mystery featuring a resourceful female teen sleuth. The novel was selected as the 2015 Costa Book of the Year; these awards are given to the most outstanding books by authors based in the United Kingdom and Ireland. It has scenes of violence, but they're generally understated. A character's father is found dead. A doctor is thrown into a pit. A boy is seriously injured by a rabbit trap. Villains are shot and jump to their deaths. There's no strong language or substance use, and the only sexual content is that some adult characters are suspected of having affairs.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byL Rowland February 8, 2018

Victorian gothic

Initially slow moving book with the entertainment in subtle observation - may, gently, prepare children for Jane Austin in this respect.
Second half speeds up... Continue reading
Adult Written byStudent01 May 13, 2019


I think that the book is a VERY slow start and can be hard for some to understand, I also believe that it only gets exciting in the last 100 pages. I recommend... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byAnonymous Potato March 2, 2021


This book suks. It is lit b bverally about an apple disingating in da air ovr time. Dis book dooodooo water and if u wanna read it to ur kids, don't. Save... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byepicfart November 14, 2019

Really boring

I think that The Lie Tree is very boring and can start very slow. I reccomend that if you like murder mystery books that are only good on the last 100 pages thi... Continue reading

What's the story?

When her family abruptly moves from Kent to the isolated isle of Vane, Faith Sunderly doesn't understand the urgency of the situation. Her clergyman father, who's also a respected natural scientist, is embroiled in a scandal involving falsified fossils. When her father is found dead, Faith suspects murder, while nearly everyone else believes he took his own life. Determined to learn the truth and exact revenge on the guilty parties, Faith searches through her father's belongings and learns about a mysterious plant known as the Lie Tree. The tree feeds on lies and grows bitter fruits that grant revelatory visions to those who dare to eat them. Intent on her mission, Faith can't foresee the terrible consequences of nurturing the plant.

Is it any good?

A rich mix of Victorian mystery and timeless fantasy, this award-winning novel has plenty of plot twists and turns, as well as keen insight into the psychology of its cast of characters. In THE LIE TREE, Faith Sunderly demands justice for her murdered father, and author Frances Hardinge sets up a puzzling set of circumstances worthy of her sleuthing skills. The addition of a magical plant that feeds on lies and dispenses hidden truths adds a creepy tinge of the supernatural, not to mention a crucial serving of unpredictability. Each of the characters is seen in a different light by the end of the book.

Exciting, intense, and slyly funny, The Lie Tree will appeal to a wide and diverse audience of readers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the reasons why people lie. Are some lies worse then others? How do you know the difference?

  • Faith's father can't be buried near the church because people suspect he committed suicide. How have attitudes about suicide and mental illness changed since the 19th century?

  • What role does violence play in The Lie Tree? How is violence or the threat of it used to control people's behavior?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery and fantasy

Themes & Topics

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