I have to admit, The Lost Conspiracy took me the better part of a week to finish. And I just finished it–this morning. The book that everyone SLJ’s BoB has been going on and on about, sending on to the next round, and the next. And now, I understand why. I had read a book by Frances Hardinge before: Well-Witched, a book targeted towards tweens that I barely made it through. Had I remembered that, I might not have read this book with such an open mind. Then again, this book is so well-done, it might have won me over anyway. It certainly won over Judge Angela Johnson in Round 2, who admits to mostly reading contemporary fiction and that reading the first Harry Potter book took her a year to read. A year!
The Lost Conspiracy is incredibly layered. This 566-page chunk of a book starts out feeling like a anti-colonialist fantasy. We meet Hathin and her sister Arilou, who is a Lost–a person whose senses can go out into the world without their body. I like the concept of the Lost. Hathin and Arilou are Lace, members of the island’s native tribe, who tell fanciful stories about the volcanoes on the island, smile all the time and decorate their teeth. All of these details are great, and there are many more I haven’t mentioned. There’s the usual conflict between the Lace and the Cavalcaste (the colonizers), though there has been a lot of racial mixing. I am not going to get into plot here because I’m going to get overwhelmed. Hardinge uses all the pages of her book to tell this story. Only once did I think “Is it over yet?” and that was 10 pages out from the finish line, as the loose ends of the story were being tied up. As you can guess, there were some serious loose ends in a novel this size.
We already know that I loved Charles and Emma (full review here). So how would choose between these two? Well, I would say that both probably required a lot of planning and plotting and probably some research and/or backstory creation. Both books teach you something about human nature–though only features “real” people. It’s really an impossible decision, but a decision nevertheless!
Bottom line: I would give it to The Lost Conspiracy. It’s just so re-readable, in a way that Charles and Emma is not. Maybe that’s a silly reason to reward a book, but it’s my silly reason. I think re-readability is an important quality in literature. I bet Judge Megan Whalen Turner will pick The Lost Conspiracy as well, though I haven’t yet read any of her books (The Thief is on my shelf!) nor do I know what reasons she will give. Alas, I will have to wait until Wednesday to find out.