Frances Hardinge’s books ranked by scariness

Readings Kids bookseller Dani Solomon is a Frances Hardinge super fan. We asked her to rank the award-winning British author’s books by their scariness and here is the result.

The following books are all ranked from least scary to most scary, and there’s a special list of titles at the end for readers who don’t like to be spooked, but still love good, thrilling reads.


5. Verdigris Deep

One evening, Ryan and his friends steal some coins from a well. Soon after, strange things begin to happen. Peculiar marks burn on Ryan’s knuckles and light bulbs mysteriously explode. Then the well witch appears, with her fountains for eyes and gargled demands. From now on the children must serve her - and the wishes rotting at the bottom of her well.

A fun scare for ages 8+


4. The Lie Tree

Faith discovers a strange tree while looking for clues to her father’s death. The tree only bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it; the fruit, when eaten, delivers a hidden truth to the eater. The bigger the lie and the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered. The girl finds she’s good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter…

An existential scare for ages 14+


4. Deeplight

In an alternative world, fifty years after the death of the gods, a fifteen-year-old boy, Hark, finds the still beating heart of a terrifying deity and uses it to try to save his best friend. Hark risks everything to keep the heart out of the hands of smugglers, military scientists and secret fanatical cults, to try to use it to sustain the life of his best friend, who is gradually and eerily transforming. But how long should someone stay loyal to a friend who is himself becoming a monster?

(Published on 29 October)

A tyrant god scare for ages 12+


2. Cuckoo Song

When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out. Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest to find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late…

An old school Irish fairies scare for ages 12+


1. Skinful of Shadows

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the wandering ghosts which try to possess and hide inside her. When a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment though, she is invaded. The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession - or death.

An old school evil ghost scare for ages 12+

Plus, here is a list of non-scary (but equally great) books from Frances Hardinge…

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Frances Hardinge

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