Book Review: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Published in 2014, this young adult fantasy novel, Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, tells the story of Triss Crescent, a young girl struggling to rediscover her true identity after a traumatic accident leaves her with amnesia.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

TitleCuckoo Song
AuthorFrances Hardinge
GenreFantasy, Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Publication DateMay 8, 2014
Length416 pages

Where to Purchase

Overview of the Plot

Cuckoo Song takes place in post-World War I England and centers around 14-year-old Triss. After waking up from an accident that she can’t remember, Triss senses something is off. She looks like herself in the mirror, yet doesn’t feel like the girl she was before. Peculiar occurrences keep happening around her, including objects disappearing, strange creatures showing up, and terrifying dreams of transforming into a monster.

Triss also notices changes in her personality – she’s now voraciously hungry all the time, and enjoys catching and eating live insects. Frightened by what’s happening to her, Triss tries to hide the changes from her parents and her younger sister Pen.

Eventually Triss learns the truth – she died in the accident, and the Triss that returned is an imposter, a ravenous fairy changeling named The Architect who took her place. With the help of a friend named Shill, Triss must try to resist The Architect’s urges and hold on to her humanity before the changeling fully takes over.

My Thoughts on the Book

I found Cuckoo Song to be a gripping, imaginative read that pulled me in from the very first chapter. Though marketed as a young adult novel, Frances Hardinge’s superb writing makes it a book people of any age can enjoy. Here are a few of my thoughts about what makes the book so engaging:

  • Hardinge creates an immersive sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding Triss’ unsettling transformation. As a reader, I shared the protagonist’s confusion and unease as she realizes she’s changing into something inhuman against her will.
  • The author does an excellent job capturing Triss’ fear that she is slowly losing her identity and humanity. I felt sympathetic to her plight and hoped she could find a way to regain control.
  • The book presents themes of belonging, otherness, and finding one’s true self that both young adult and mature readers can connect with. I found myself reflecting on my own adolescent struggles with identity.
  • Hardinge’s prose is elegant yet accessible for a young adult audience. She has a knack for vivid descriptions that make both the setting and action come alive.
  • Though dark at times, the book maintains a thread of hopefulness. Triss discovers inner strength and courage she didn’t know she had in order to fight against The Architect.
  • The whimsical elements such as fairies and talking dolls add imaginative flair. I was charmed by the magical ambience Hardinge creates.
  • The characters are well-developed and complex, particularly Triss/The Architect. I was fascinated by the interplay between her human and fairy natures.

In summary, I found Cuckoo Song to be an enthralling and thought-provoking fantasy brimming with magic, drama and depth. It’s a book I would readily recommend to both young adult and adult readers who enjoy poignant stories about discovering oneself. Hardinge has crafted a captivating tale full of suspense, emotion and lyrical writing. I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her novels in the future.


  • Paula Davis

    Paula Davis is a dedicated and seasoned content writer for Dreaming and Reading, where she brings her extensive knowledge and passion for literature to a wide audience of fellow book enthusiasts. With the heart of a true bookworm, Paula has immersed herself in the literary world, devouring approximately 50 books annually for the last 15 years. This impressive reading habit has not only provided her with immense joy but has also significantly honed her expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness in the realm of book reviews. Her insightful and well-crafted reviews reflect her deep understanding and appreciation of various genres, offering valuable guidance to readers in search of their next great read. With a finger always on the pulse of the latest literary releases, Paula Davis is a trusted voice and a go-to source for book recommendations and reviews.

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