Cuckoo Song is an atmospheric and creepy fairy tale with exquisite writing and complex relationships. Triss wakes up unaware of who or where she is. As her memory slowly returns, she continues to feel like something isn’t right, although she’s not sure what. Her parents treat her as if she’s ill and her sister treats her like she’s a monster. It’s best to read this book without knowing much more than that. The first part of the book reads like a creepy mystery. I didn’t understand what was going on with Triss any more than she did and that made the story very compelling. The more we find out, the more questions there are. It’s not long, though, before the truth about Triss is revealed and once it is, the story evolves into a dark fairy tale with sinister villain and ominous situations.
The relationships between the characters are worth a whole post of their own. Triss’s family has never fully recovered from the loss of her older brother during WWI. They deal with their grief in unhealthy ways and try to pretend that things are normal. Triss suffers because her parents constantly treat her as if she’s ill as a way to protect her from the dangers of the world. Meanwhile, younger sister Pen is always on the outside. Her parents ignore her and her sister dislikes her. As the story develops, so does the relationship between Triss and Pen. I didn’t grow up with a sister near in age so I’ve never experienced that type of relationship, but the bond between the sisters was so well written, I feel like I understand. The author perfectly captures how you can love your sibling but still sometimes not like them very much – how you can be jealous of them or say horrible things to each other, yet you still love them and fear for them and ultimately want them to love you back. There were some really painful moments between the two, but also some really sweet and poignant moments.
The pace is rather slow but steady. There are a couple of exciting, faster-paced scenes toward the end of the book, though. This is definitely not a book that you’ll race through. Instead, it’s one that will immerse you in an atmospheric tale. The writing itself is exquisite. It’s charming and sometimes a little ethereal and is overall superb.
In terms of age, this book has some definite crossover appeal. Though it’s creepy, there’s nothing graphic. I wouldn’t hesitate to let my 8 year old read it, though I don’t think he would completely appreciate all of it and it’s above his reading level. It’s also sophisticated enough to be enjoyed by teens and even adults who like a good fairy tale.
Overall, I really enjoyed Cuckoo Song. I would have liked it to move a little bit faster in a couple of places, thus the 4 star rating, but the superb writing style, complex relationships and interesting take on fairy lore make this a book that I highly recommend.
Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.