A children’s novel has been named Costa Book of the Year for only the second time in the prize’s history.
The judges said Frances Hardinge’s Victorian murder mystery The Lie Tree would “grip readers of all ages”.
Hardinge beat bookmakers’ favourite, debut author Andrew Michael Hurley’s gothic horror The Loney, to win the Â£30,000 prize.
The previous children’s novel to win was Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass in 2002.
Receiving the award, a clearly surprised Hardinge said: “It is a fantastic time to be writing children’s fiction and YA (young adult) fiction.
“For those people who might be hearing this who think that children’s and YA fiction is not their thing please do come and explore – there’s a beautiful jungle out there.”
The Lie Tree, the author’s seventh novel, tells the story of Faith Sunderly whose family have left England for a remote island to escape a scandal.
When Faith’s father is found dead under mysterious circumstances, she sets out to uncover the truth and discovers a strange tree that feeds off whispered lies.
James Heneage, chair of the final judges, said: “Part horror, part detective, part historical, this is a fantastic story with great central characters and narrative tension.”
Hardinge, he added, “brilliantly articulated” the voice of a precociously intelligent 14-year-old in a male-dominated Victorian society.
“There is something deep inside me that wants it to be a bestseller,” he said. “It’s a book to read in one or two sittings. It is a real page turner.”
2015 COSTA CATEGORY AWARD WINNERS
Costa First Novel Award: Andrew Michael Hurley – The Loney (John Murray)
Costa Novel Award: Kate Atkinson – A God in Ruins (Doubleday)
Costa Biography Award: Andrea Wulf – The Invention of Nature (John Murray)
Costa Poetry Award: Don Paterson – 40 Sonnets (Faber)
Costa Children’s Book Award: Frances Hardinge – The Lie Tree (Macmillan Children’s Books)
Frances Hardinge was brought up in Kent and studied English Language and Literature at Oxford, where she also lived for many years. She now lives in Isleworth.
She started writing her first children’s novel, Fly by Night, whilst working full-time as a technical author for a software company. Her other books include Verdigris Deep, Gullstruck Island, Twilight Robbery, A Face Like Glass and Cuckoo Song.
As well as Hurley’s The Loney, Hardinge’s The Lie Tree beat a shortlist that consisted of novelist Kate Atkinson for A God in Ruins, Scottish poet Don Paterson for 40 Sonnets, and historian and writer Andrea Wulf for The Invention of Nature: The Adventures of Alexander Von Humboldt, The Lost Hero of Science.
Heneage chaired a final judging panel that included comedian, writer and actor Katy Brand, actress and author Jane Asher, broadcaster, writer and actress Janet Ellis, writers Louise Doughty, Matt Haig, Penny Junor, Martyn Bedford and poet and children’s author, Julia Copus.
The winner was announced on Tuesday night at an awards ceremony held at Quaglino’s in central London.
The Costa prize honours outstanding books by authors based in the UK and Ireland and was previously known as the Whitbread award.
Last year’s Costa book of the year went to Helen Macdonald’s H is for Hawk.