Fly By Night


Frances Hardinge


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

October 30, 2018

rances Hardinge is a great author, I have yet to read a book of hers that I didn't admire. Her first book I read was A Face Like Glass, which I thought was a dazzling fantasy novel, in its world building and inventiveness. Next I read The Lie Tree, which has a very different tone, but is still full of magic and tension. Now I have finished Fly By Night, another clever construction of whacky characters and even more bizarre societies. Hardinge reminds me a little of the writings of Jack Vance, who was a master of describing unique civilizations and their strange denizens. Vance also loved obscure words, and Hardinge also employs plenty of unusual words - the plot of this story revolves around printing presses and published words. Like Vance, Hardinge also loves fanciful names: Lady Tamarind Avourlace, Aramai Goshawk , Black Captain Blythe, and of course, the heroine, Mosca Mye, whose name means Fly. It seems that the hour when you are born determines which saint you must be named after, and Mosca was born in the hours of Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns. There are lots of crazy customs in Hardinge's world, but of course it seems normal to the people who live there.

Young Mosca Mye is an orphan, she's been living under the tough rule of her cruel uncle. Her pet goose, the cantankerous Saracene, is her only friend. Sick of her uncle's abuse, Mosca decides to free a loquacious prisoner, Eponymous Clent, from the stocks and make her escape with him. But in the course of the rescue, Mye burns down her uncle's mill - accidentally of course - and so the pair must truly flee from Clough. Mosca soon discovers that the eloquent Clent is nothing but a lying, charming conman, but they find that they are forced to fall into together to survive. The two join forces, but they don't exactly become friends. More like comrades of convenience. They certainly can't trust one another!

Mosca and Eponymous find themselves in the city of Mandelion, which is ruled by powerful guilds. There are the locksmiths, the watermen, and the exceptionaly powerful stationers guild. The stationers control the printing of any document, book or pamphlet, and so have great control over the dissemination of knowledge. But a radical (or a group of radicals) are printing up revolutionary handbills, and so must be crushed. Desperate for money, Eponymous offers to work as a spy, and so enlists Mosca in intrigue and daring-do.

In addition to the guilds, there are aristocrats ruling the city states of the Fractured Realm (it is called this because the kingdom has been riven by Civil War, until the terrifying Birdcatchers were completely wiped out - or were they? The Duke of Mandelion, Vocado Avourlace, is unmarried, and so has no heir. There are various schemes afoot to seize power, and Eponymous and Mosca find themselve in the middle of the intrigue. There is a lot going. Escapes. Plots. Discoveries. It is all great fun. Who knew a goose could be so terrifying?

This book is shelved on the Young Adult section, but I greatly enjoyed and recommend it.