cover image The Lost Conspiracy

The Lost Conspiracy

Frances Hardinge, . . Harper, $16.99 (576pp) ISBN 978-0-06-088041-5

British author Hardinge's latest feat is a luminous example of gifted storytelling at its best. Set on Gullstruck, an enchanted island of dueling dormant volcanoes, lush jungles and warring tribes, two sisters in a shunned race of perpetually smiling Lace people possess a secret. Arilou, first in line to become the next Lady Lost (a hallowed figure with a propensity for out-of-body travel), shows no sign of being the mystic she is believed to be. Hathin, Arilou's official “translator” and unofficial guardian, attempts to hide their deceit at all costs. But when a Lost Inspector comes to town to authenticate Arilou's identity, their ruse—and the fate of the Lace people—is in danger. The detailed tale that unfolds is epic, but unlike some long-for-long's-sake snooze fests, this journey feels effortless and wholly satisfying. Deliciously complex yet easily digestible, Hardinge's (Well Witched ) prose is what makes the reading so enjoyable (“While Arilou's name was meant to sound like the call of an owl... Hathin's name imitated the whisper of settling dust”). Every turn of phrase (like the book itself) is thick with poetry and meaning. Ages 10–up. (Sept.)