An out of practice reader discussing the books I get around to reading.
This book has been on my "To Be Read" shelf pretty much since I first joined BookLikes. When I saw it at Barnes and Noble I was interested in the concept and thought it could be a fun, even spooky read. I think it was even under a shelf marked, "Spooky Reads for Teens" or something like that. It was at the library and I figured why not.
Cuckoo Song follows Triss after she falls into the Grimmer, which I think is a river. Maybe a creek. In any case, she falls into a body of water (thus why I'm counting this for the fall square) and nothing is the same after that. Her sister hates her, her dolls scream at her, and she's always hungry. Also, leaves appear in her bed in the morning. As she tries to figure out what's happening, she learns that there's an unseen world around her and the forces in this world have it out for her family and she must stop them.
This book was a strange read for me. I found it compelling and didn't want to stop reading, but I also found it underwhelming. Sort of like when you chug a drink and then are thirsty again almost immediately. It's kind of a cool that it parallel's Triss' inability to feel full, but I doubt that was intentional. It created an unsatisfying story for me and not because the story wasn't good or the writing wasn't well done. Hardinge is a really good writer and the story itself was a fun ride. The characters themselves were also interesting and well rounded.Those of you who like stories with complex female characters will really appreciate the ones in this story, I believe. So there was nothing that sticks out as just WRONG. It just felt hollow, didn't thrill me or anything.
I think the story's biggest issue is there's just so much detail and events going on and it causes the story to drag. It doesn't feel like it's dragging while you're reading, but when you put the book down you realize you've just read four chapters where nothing really happens. Nothing major anyway. If I were to redo this book, I would have cut down majorly on the first fourth of the book, since it was just repeated events making you go, "What's wrong with Triss?" It really didn't do much and instead was just an elaborate set up for the actual plot. Triss has seven days, according to the weird voice, and most of them are spent not knowing what's going on. That to me feels like a waste of time and just a way to make it so when the action starts, there's a tighter timeline. It feels kind of cheap to me.
Part of the trouble is I knew about Changelings before I read the book. The title plus the strangeness about Triss immediately alerted me that there was a Changeling in our midst. So much of the story is solely focused on the mystery of what's wrong with Triss, but that wasn't a mystery to me. I knew what was wrong with her. So I was just waiting for them to get on with the greater question of, "Why would someone want to put a Changeling in the Cresent family?" I think if I hadn't of known about the creatures, it would have been more suspenseful for me. Or if had been something different from a Changeling. That would have been cool and less predictable. Oh well.
When it comes to the technical components of the story, it was constructed very well. Especially the world building. I LOVED the world and mechanics of the Besiders. It was such an interesting concept, the way they and their magic work. I wish we had gotten to them so much sooner and that they had a greater presence in the story. They really were my favorite part. So I have to give credit to Hardinge there.
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It's an okay story. Nothing particularly special but still a fun read. If you like stories like Neverwhere, I think you'll enjoy this one.
MAJOR SPOILER BELOW
One last complaint to wrap up this review: There was what felt like a major copout when it came to the conflict resolution: How on earth did the Architect not realize that he was dragging Trista along? All the other Besiders could tell she was one of him. How come he suddenly couldn't? Perhaps I missed something but I was pretty miffed about that. It was so cheap to me and too easy.