Review: Fly by Night, by Frances Hardinge
March 3, 2015 § 6 Comments
Mosca Mye is on the run. She has burned down her uncle’s mill and freed the man who conned her entire village, and now she and the con artist and her beloved, homicidal goose are fleeing to the city of Mandelion. In Mandelion, Mosca quickly becomes entangled in a complicated whirl of politics, religion, espionage, and madness.
Fly by Night is so much fun. Hardinge’s pseudo-historical setting is intricately woven of familiar history and runaway imagination. Powdered wigs, printing presses, revolutions, rival monarchs, and mob caps mesh seamlessly with Birdcatchers, floating coffeehouses, and names like Mabwick Toke and Linden Kohlrabi. This is a world well built and fascinating.
Though the novel is nearly 500 pages long and rich with detail and reflection, it never drags. The intrigue, suspense, and skillful world-building propelled me along until the end.
This is definitely a book for book lovers: Mosca possesses the rare ability to read, and she devours anything printed. In her world, all reading, writing, and printing is under the control of the Stationers’ Guild, and performing any of these activities without their approval is criminal. I know, dear reader, I know: it sounds like a nightmare.
Hardinge’s novel deals with freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion, with genocide, treason, and guilds. So although Mosca is twelve and the book is free of foul language and explicit content, I would recommend Fly by Night to older readers, who are more likely to understand the historical, political, and religious aspects.
Fly by Night might be particularly good for readers who have loved, but outgrown Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. The books have so many elements in common: precocious orphans, treacherous/bumbling adults, mystery, suspense, fantastic settings, and an overall atmosphere of darkness.
Recommended for 7th grade+.
There is a sequel to Fly by Night, called The Fly Trap. I was satisfied at the ending of the first novel, but Hardinge’s writing is so good I would love to read the sequel anyway! And now I know any book of Hardinge’s is worth a try.
Have you read Fly by Night and/or its sequel? Have you read anything else by Hardinge? If so, what did you think? Finally, have you read any other books along the same lines as Fly by Night? Because I think I would like to read more of this flavor.