Ahoy there me mateys! This be the first book in me Ports for Plunder – 19 Books in 2019 list. I have wanted to read this book for years and was so glad I finally did. I think that overall I liked this book even though I had major problems with the plot.
First things first, I absolutely loved the lie tree itself. I adored how it worked. I adored its creepiness. I adored the mystery surrounding it. It was just darn cool. The tree is definitely what kept me reading. I just had to know more about it. Ultimately, I was extremely satisfied with how the tree portion of the plot turned out even if I still have unanswered questions!
One of the other things I loved about this book was the time period. The juxtaposition of belief in God versus dealing with the discoveries in science and how that reflects on mankind’s place in the world was one of the central themes in this book. An archaeology dig and fossil discussions were used to illustrate these points and as I dig archaeology, I loved the ideas around the topic. I would have liked even more of the excavations themselves to have been explored in the book but alas that wouldn’t have been relevant to the plot. This book comes down firmly in favour of science and not God, so more religious readers may not be down with that.
In addition to archaeology, the book also has a heavy use of the development of photographs as plot points. This was the time of post-mortem photos of deceased family members. It is rather morbid to the modern sensibility but during the period of the book the practice was beginning to thrive. I loved how the photos were used in this book and the technology discussions involved.
So with all of these fun things aside, the major problem was the far-fetched nature of the plot. The main character is Faith Sunderly. Faith is in the transition period between childhood and adult responsibilities. Being a girl in 1860 is no picnic. Faith’s family is also horrible too. Her father is abusive and crazy. Her mother is conniving and self-centered. So much of this plot revolved around the fact that Faith runs wild on the island. I can buy a little of that because of the messed up family dynamics. But seriously, with there being servants in the household and Faith’s little brother being put under her charge, Faith should not have been able to run amok and not be missed. I just found this part implausible given the era and circumstances and was annoyed with how it played out. Also Faith’s father worship was creepy given his abuse and lying and negligence.
The murder mystery aspects of the plot were laughable. The author tried to use Faith’s naivete as an excuse for why she didn’t catch on to who the murderer was. And yet in the next breath, Faith’s cleverness and cunning are lauded. And the final reveal of the murderers and reasons for the killing were not to me taste at all. Then there were the odd things like a harrowing trip through the waves in a rowboat that almost ends in disaster and yet a 14 year old girl with no experience makes the same trip multiple times by herself. Nope not buying it. There are many other problems that I can’t get into without spoilers.
So in short, I enjoyed most of the writing style, Faith’s character in general, Faith’s interactions with her brother, the technology, the tree, and the time period. I was not a fan of how the plot unfolded and had trouble suspending me disbelief for the majority of the plot points. Cool world-building kept me reading. I am glad I finally gave this one a shot even if the book was unsatisfying on the whole. The lie tree was worth it. Arrr!
Goodreads’ website has this to say about the novel:
Faith Sunderly leads a double life. To most people, she is reliable, dull, trustworthy – a proper young lady who knows her place as inferior to men. But inside, Faith is full of questions and curiosity, and she cannot resist mysteries: an unattended envelope, an unlocked door. She knows secrets no one suspects her of knowing. She knows that her family moved to the close-knit island of Vane because her famous scientist father was fleeing a reputation-destroying scandal. And she knows, when her father is discovered dead shortly thereafter, that he was murdered.
In pursuit of justice and revenge, Faith hunts through her father’s possessions and discovers a strange tree. The tree bears fruit only when she whispers a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth. The tree might hold the key to her father’s murder – or it may lure the murderer directly to Faith herself.
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