September 9th, 2016


Cuckoo Song, by Frances Hardinge

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Triss’s eyes opened. Something scratchy was touching her cheek. She reached up, pulled the dead leaf out of her hair and stared at it. One by one, she recalled her actions the previous evening. Had she really climbed out of her window, gobbled windfalls and then stood on the banks of the Grimmer, feeling that it might speak to her? She picked her way through the memories with disbelief, like a householder surveying rubbish scattered by foxes overnight.
This was shortlisted for the BSFA Award last year, but I was pretty burnt out from Clarke Award reading at the time and didn't get to it until now. It was also shortlisted for the Andre Norton Award and the Carnegie Medal, and won the British Fantasy Association's Robert Holdstock Award (which perhaps I should think of adding to my list of awards to track).

I'm not sure if I'd have voted for it ahead of Ancillary Sword, but I really enjoyed this story of a twelve-year-old girl who finds that strange things are starting to happen to her and her family (still recovering from the loss of her elder brother in the recent war), including her own strangely immense appetite and the leaves she keeps finding in her hair, and then begins to realise the awful truth of how she has been changed, and the relationship of that change to the evil forces faced by her family and her world. I particularly liked the dead brother's girlfriend, who is the Trustworthy Adult yet with significant baggage of her own, but just generally there is a great sense of time and place, with many nods to similar stories (John Masefield in particular) but making something new out of it. I slightly wish I had a cousin or niece of the ideal age for it, but my cousins are a little too old and my nieces a little too young.

This was the top unread sf book on my list as recommended by you guys last year. Next is Angels & Visitations, by Neil Gaiman.