As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 8, 2011

Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, 2006

Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye hasn't got much. Her cruel uncle keeps her locked up in his mill, and her only friend is her pet goose, Saracen, who'll bite anything that crosses his path. But she does have one small, rare thing: the ability to read. She doesn't know it yet, but in a world where books are dangerous things, this gift will change her life. (Goodreads)

Review by Pica, teenage bookworm

I love this book. I can't believe I forgot about how much I loved it for such a long time. I reread recently so that I could have it fresh in my mind when I read Fly Trap, the sequel. This time around, I consciously noticed a lot of parts of the story that I had subconsciously noted and made me like the book last time. Through witty exchanges, politics, mystery, wonderful characters, and above all, a love of language, Hardinge creates a story that is nearly impossible not to enjoy.

First and foremost, I adore Hardinge's writing style. When I was rereading Fly By Night this time, I was sorely tempted to write down some of my favorite quotes, but I was enjoying the story too much to be bothered to put the book down, and I also realized that I could have easily filled up pages of favorite quotes. I can find a great quote by flipping a any random page. For example, within one page of meeting Mabwick Toke, a character who plays a large role in the puzzle of Mandelion's ever-shifting politics, Hardinge gives the reader this description:

“Mabwick Toke ran a quick eye over the ballad, droning the words to himself in his throat. Absentmindedly, he caught up a quill to jot and correct, occasionally licking the nib to wet it. This was clearly a habit of his, since the tip of his tounge had become black as that of a parrot. He drinks ink, thought Mosca, looking at his black tounge. He eats nothing but paper, she added to herself, noting his dry, pale lips and the crumpled-looking skin of his face and hands."

The book is absolutely filled with such descriptions. Harding thinks of the most imaginative and wonderful descriptions of everything from the most ordinary - the water of Chough, Mosca's hometown, for instance - to the somewhat fantastical - such as the floating, kite-powered coffeehouses in Mandelion.

My second favorite aspect of Fly By Night are the wonderful characters. These characters are not shallow in the least. From Mosca, our quick-witted heroine, to Eponymous Clent, the wordsmith and con man, to The Cakes, who befriends Mosca, to even the Duke of Mandelion and Lady Taramind, there is no character with a missing backstory or unclear motives. Even the villains are fun to read about, and many characters who seem insignificant upon first meeting end up with a larger role than expected. And of course Saracen, Mosca's loyal (and homicidal) goose, can liven up any scene.

The third best part of this book would have to be, of course, that it is so incredibly funny. Even the more serious scenes have a line or two that makes the reader smile.

Additionally, every character takes part in tons of witty dialogue, and I found myself laughing out loud throughout the book.

Many separate strands of plot come together at the conclusion create a colorful and engaging narrative. Fly By Night is, in addition to a puzzle about the politics of Mandelion, a commentary on government, religion, freedom of speech, and an engaging yarn about a girl navigating the world. (By the way, I totally missed the whole commentary part when I read Fly By Night the first time, years ago. Of course, that extra layer makes it even better.) I highly recommend Fly By Night.

Market: Middle Grade, Young Adult
Language: None
Sensuality: None
Violence: Mild. There is reference to violence that happens “off camera”, but very little happens in the text. Saracen tends to attack people but its generally funny rather than violent.
Mature Themes: Politics, religion, coming-of-age

Book formats:


candice ashment art said...

I need to be young again so I have more time to read good books like this. thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

This looks so good! Thanks for the terrific review, Pica! Yet another book to add to my To Read list!