Someone at Goodreads said that Fly By Night was “written as a gushy Valentine to the English language” and I’m hard pressed to come up with a better description. Because that’s exactly what this book is.
Hardinge is clearly someone who deeply loves and respects the power of words. They’re chosen carefully and deliberately and I often had the feeling she took her time in getting a sentence just right. It could have become too contrived but it doesn’t, and you actually realize there was no better way to convey that particular idea:
The papery sound of rain.
The captain was a grim-smiling river-king named Partridge. There was something crooked in the make of his right wrist, as if it had been broken and never quite healed, and something crooked in the corner of his smile, as if that too had been broken and put back together slightly wrong.
You read this and can perfectly hear that sound and clearly picture the kind of smile she means. I love it when an author uses diagonal ways to create an exact image.
Fly by Night is the story of 12-year-old Mosca Mye. She loves words and it’s her favorite treat to find new ones she can play with. Before her father died he taught her how to read, and in doing so he broke convention. You see, Mosca lives in a world where education is feared and books are seen with distrust.
When as travelling storyteller called Eponymous Clent (how great is that name?) passes through her town, she see him as her (and her pet goose Saracen) way into the big world. But Eponymous is not all that he seems and he takes her on an adventure that reaches the Kingdom’s highest circles.
Although Mosca is still 12, this is not a children’s story – it has too many layers, it’s too subtle in its humor and sarcasm, and is even more complex than your average YA. There’s intrigue, madness and debates about freedom of religion and expression. So much so that I now remember the book as political… and laugh-out-loud funny as well. Mosca Mye is a great heroine, here are two of my favorite lines:
“Where is your sense of patriotism?” I keep it hid away safe, along with my sense of trust, Mr. Clent. I don’t use ’em much in case they get scratched.”
“True stories seldom have endings. I don’t want a happy ending, I want more story.”
In the end, it’s a book about books, written by a book lover for other book lovers and I think you’d enjoy it. The second of the series, Twilight Robbery, is already out there.
Everybody knew that books were dangerous. Read the wrong book, it was said, and the words crawled around your brain on black legs and drove you mad, wicked mad.