Cuckoo Song [book review]

My most recent read was the horror thriller Cuckoo Song, written by Frances Hardinge. At first, when I was at the bookstore, I wasn’t crazy about the cover. Sure, I love me some creepy dolls, but the cover didn’t scream to me. But the description did, and it was a staff pick, so I grabbed it.

I’m not disappointed.

I’m not the biggest fan of middle grade, though I’m starting to come around. This book was again, not a disappointment.

As a lover of all things horror, I was excited for this story. The premise includes missing memories, waking up to finding dead leaves in the main characters hair, and a crazy incident. Also, did I mention the main character eats dolls that come to life?

This story is a blend of horror and fantasy, and I wasn’t disappointed. And when I say fantasy, I don’t mean Disney stuff. I mean, it’s sort of hardcore and so interesting all at once. A new twist on changelings and creatures from another world with intriguing characters and a beautifully crafted world.

For those who want to read an interesting thriller, this is a good book. Even if you aren’t a middle grade type of reader, it’s worth it. I’m not a middle grade reader, and I loved the fact that the main character is thirteen (yay for no romance for once) (also yay for a character that isn’t a teen in high school).

Yes, you heard me, no romance. gasp.  Here’s the thing: I like romance. I write romance. I read romance. But sometimes, I want a good story with no romance. I want horror with just that: horror. I want thrillers and mysteries that are good on their own without some flimsy side romance.

This book delivers this. I mean, the main character is thirteen. And, in some parts, she’s kinda badass. Even for a book meant for a younger generation.


First, the beginning is mysterious and creepy, all rolled into one. I mean, Triss is eating rotten apples in the middle of the night, and she’s hella creepy, walking around half-mad in the night. I was so into it. Her younger sister hates her for no apparent reason, and her family is treating her like she’s a fragile doll. All very interesting for the set up of a creepy tale.

Of course, the book has its lulls, and the author does tend to overwrite during certain aspects of the book, but the description was almost magical, the characters were enchanting, and Triss was what I look for in main characters. And also, the plot twists are what I live for, and Triss has a pretty big one.

And to be honest, I don’t know why horror fantasy isn’t more common. It was a pleasure to read something I wasn’t expecting to read. When I picked the book off of the shelf, I was expecting the usual horror read, with creepy dolls and perhaps spirits. What I got was a dark fantasy that takes place in old England, with the unsettling plot of a girl who is not who she thinks she is.

I definitely recommend this book. Could it have been creepier? Sure. Could it have been explained a bit better? Of course. But this is the kind of book that reminds me of Coraline, which I adore. It has enough of it’s own twist to be interesting, and it definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat.

My recommendation is that you pick this book up asap. And don’t forget to toss out all your misconceptions of middle grade, YA, horror, or fantasy. Give it a try like I did. I wasn’t disappointed, and I hope you guys won’t be either.