Retro Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Angie over at Angieville and focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc.
The Lost Conspiracy by Frances Hardinge comes highly recommended by Megan Whalen Turner and you can see her talk about the book here. You all know how big of a fan I am of MWT and her books so of course, I wanted to read The Lost Conspiracy as soon as I read MWT’s write-up. Good thing the hardcover is available in Fully Booked for P680. I decided to write a Retro Friday review of this because it seems like not a lot of people have heard of the book and it deserves to get more attention.
Here’s the summary from Frances Hardinge’s website:
On an island of sandy beaches, dense jungles, and slumbering volcanoes, colonists seek to apply archaic laws to a new land, bounty-hunters stalk the living for the ashes of their funerary pyres, and a smiling tribe is despised by all as traitorous murders. It is here, in the midst of ancient tensions and new calamity, that two sisters are caught in a deadly web of deceits.
Arilou is proclaimed a beautiful prophetess — one of the island’s precious oracles: a Lost. Hathin, her junior, is her nearly invisible attendant. But neither Arilou nor Hathin is exactly what she seems, and they live a lie that is carefully constructed, and jealously guarded.
When the sisters are unknowingly drawn into a sinister, island-wide conspiracy, quiet, unobtrusive Hathin must journey beyond all she has ever known of her world — and of herself — in a desperate attempt to save them both. As the stakes mount and falsehoods unravel, she discovers the only thing more dangerous than the secret she hides is the truth she must uncover.
At 576 pages, this is a pretty hefty volume so I couldn’t lug it around with me. I decided to start reading it last weekend because it was a long weekend. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish it. I spent my days at work, constantly thinking of the time when I could go back home and continue reading this story set in a lush, tropical island called Gullstruck. I know Gullstruck is a fictional island but it sort of reminds me of the Philippines because of the coastal setting and the presence of indigenous, brown-skinned people (the Lace) who are largely mistrusted by Towners and colonists. People who have magic in Gullstruck are the Lost, beings who are able to send out their senses out to the world. Their senses fly out of their bodies to watch over the island and carry messages back forth between the towns and villages. Twelve-year-old Hathin was born to take care of her older Lost sister, Arilou. Lost children aren’t fully in control of their body because their senses aren’t firmly rooted in their physical selves. Hathin is my kind of girl – smart and resourceful, she constantly struggles to handle the unexpected circumstances thrown her way. At the start of the book, she’s used to being in the sidelines because people don’t notice her and she feels like her sole purpose in life is to take care of her sister.
One word to describe this book? Brilliant. Even before I started reading the book, I knew it was going to be good because it was recommended by MWT. It’s a very absorbing read that will suck you in and wouldn’t let you go until you finish the story. This is the kind of book that should be better known, I’m kind of surprised that it isn’t that popular. I think it would appeal to a lot of people because being classified between middle grade and young adult fiction, the book is pretty easy to read. Everything about The Lost Conspiracy is wonderful – from the worldbuilding to the storytelling and characterization. It has a varied set of believable characters and all of them are fully realized to the extent that you’ll root for the heroes and you’ll even understand the motives of the villains. You will never get bored with the fast-paced plot, which twists and turns so much that you can never predict what will happen next. Just when you think you’ve figured things out, Frances Hardinge throws you for a loop. Not that surprising since the word “conspiracy” is right there in the title. I don’t think I can write a review that will do this book justice so let me end this post by saying that I’d love for all of you to read this book, especially epic fantasy fans out there looking to sink their teeth into something really good.
Since volcanoes rule in Gullstruck, I was reminded of my trip to Mt. Pinatubo so I’m sharing an image of the volcano’s crater lake: