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Literature / The Lie Tree

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The Lie Tree is a Young Adult mystery novel by the British author Frances Hardinge, first published in 2015.

Faith is the meek, dutiful daughter of famous archaeologist Reverend Erasmus Sunderly—on the surface. Beneath this she craves knowledge and will take any opportunity to exercise her curiosity.Fleeing a mysterious scandal, Rev. Sunderly abruptly relocates his family to the windswept island of Vane, where they immediately draw the ire of the locals. As the scandal catches up with them, Faith notices her father behaving oddly. He asks her to help him conceal a strange plant in the dead of night. When her father is found dead, Faith will need all her cunning to uncover the truth, along with little help from the titular Lie Tree.

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The Lie Tree contains examples of:

  • Cool Pet: The Chinese trinket snake Faith's father brought back from his travels.
  • Daddy's Girl: Faith's most prominent characteristic is admiration of her father. She desperately seeks his approval as a daughter and fellow scientist, which is nigh impossible when she's living in a man's world. After he dies, Faith uses the titular tree's power with two goals in mind: Restore her father's good name and find his killer. Accepting her father was far from perfect is what allows Faith to grow into her own person.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Explores the misogyny of the Victorian setting. Women are dismissed as delicate and unintelligent. Suicide is also treated as a crime.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Killer dies chasing the last fruit of the Lie Tree over a cliff.
  • Fatal Flaw: Faith's internalized misogyny, which causes her guilt and anguish throughout the book, and prevents her from deducing the true killer.
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  • Fantastic Flora: The Lie Tree's leaves combust when exposed to sunlight and it consumes lies whispered to it.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: The Lie Tree's fruit induces visions.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: Faith wears the trinket snake in order to unnerve Paul Clay.
  • Improvised Weapon: Myrtle uses a poker to prevent Uncle Miles from harming Faith.
  • Mama Bear: Myrtle strikes Uncle Miles with a poker and banishes him from the house after he physically assaults Faith.
  • Not Like Other Girls: Discussed and Subverted: Faith is initially hostile and dismissive towards other women, particularly her mother, Myrtle. Her attitude changes after she gains some understanding of the pressures they face and how hard it is to defy societal expectations.
    Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.
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  • Self-Disposing Villain: The Killer dies chasing the last fruit of the Lie Tree over a cliff.
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