“Now there’s nobody to judge me, to tell me about myself. Nobody to impress, nobody to disappoint. Now is the time I find out who I am.”

Cuckoo Song is the fifth Frances Hardinge book I’ve read, the third profiled here, and hands-down my favorite so far. However, it’s hard to discuss here without spoiling the main premise of the plot, which isn’t fully revealed until about a quarter of the way through, and I love this one too much to do that. But I can say that it has all the important elements of a GU story – an Adversary and his minions, several companions, distant parents, time running out, rescue of a family member, return home in the middle, solitary defeat of the Adversary, as well as a labyrinthine area and a journey, if not underground, upside-down.

Triss (whose name actually changes a couple of times, in one of the most striking evolutions I’ve seen as a Girl comes to understand who she really is), 13, emerges from nearly drowning in a pond with hazy memories not only of that event, but of her entire life before. As she pieces together what happened and why she feels so strange, she uncovers a whole other world beside her own, and a host of dangerous enemies.

This is a weird one even for Hardinge (I noted some Goodreads reviewers had trouble connecting with the character, and her strange proclivities) which is probably why it resonated so strongly with me. You’ll just have to trust me that it’s worthwhile. Especially for those who love fairy folklore (although I don’t think “fairy” is once mentioned, nor is it nearly that simple).