Foolishly, when I was around 17 years old, I mused out loud to my friend, “I don’t know why it’s so difficult to be a successful artist. All you have to do is create something entirely new.”Entirely new. I said this like it was as simple as tying a shoe or picking a flower. Of course, it’s not that simple; it’s immensely difficult to be original. Just ask Nicholas Sparks and every Tom Cruise movie ever. Hey, even ask Shakespeare! But in The Lost Conspiracy, Hardinge fulfills my age 17 requirements for membership to the successful artist club because the story, characters, and world she creates are familiar but ultimately unlike anything I’ve ever read before. Gullstruck Island is a place where volcanoes fall in love; where certain people can detach their five senses from their bodies in order to witness events on the north of the island with their eyes while hearing a whisper on the south of the island with their ears; where individuals love their ancestors so much, they’ll gladly sacrifice arable land to expansive tombs instead. It’s also a place suffering from the effects of colonialism, a place full of internment camps for hated and distrusted tribes, a place where mass murder of a disliked tribe is acceptable. This wonderful, dark island becomes a breathing landmass with Hardinge’s fantastical prose. When people talk in clichés about reading, they often say something like, “I read because it allows me to explore other worlds.” I agree with this statement, but The Lost Conspiracy reminded me that those worlds need not reflect our own. It reminded me that, in fact, it is better to escape to a world completely zany, entirely backwards, and not quite sane. To accompany Frances Hardinge on more of her imaginative acid trips, I will be picking up her backlist shortly. She seems like the perfect author for a reader desiring beautiful prose, wacky plots, strong heroines, and original settings.