Jeanette's Reviews > Fly by Night

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge
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Jul 05, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: dystopian, fantasy, fiction, young-adult, middle-grade

I absolutely loved Frances Hardinge's A Face Like Glass so I had high expectations of Fly by Night. Perhaps that was a little unfair as Fly by Night is Hardinge's debut novel (published in 2005).

Twelve year old Mosca Mye is named after the common housefly by her erudite, eccentric, book-loving, historian and philosopher father Quillam Mye. After his death, Quillam Mye's books and histories are burnt by the frightened villages in the rain soaked village of Clough. Eventually word-hungry Mosca is able to escape the un-tender 'care' of her aunt and uncle with her only friend, the goose Saracen, and the wordsmith, Eponymous Clent, of dubious character and motivations despite his flowery prose. They end up in the city of Mandelion and find themselves in the thick of a plot to overthrow the city, a guild war between the locksmiths and stationers and all kinds of chaos and mayhem. Mosca needs to find where her heart truly lies, and the path to freedom and knowledge.

There is much to like in this baroque book based on Victorian England, with a good dash of the aftermath of French Reign of Terror mixed in. Hardinge conjures up unique and memorial characters worthy of Dickens, a complex plot, some quirky and occasionally evocative description and a convoluted and vivid world with the finesse reminiscent of A Face Like Glass. The book uses omniscient point of view though it largely from Mosca's perspective. While it took me over half the book to begin to warm to Mosca as character, I do like the human touches in the growing friendship between Mosca and Clent or Mosca and the Cakes. The plot had satisfying layers, even if a little predictable for the thinking reader.

I think not connecting with Mosca at first made this book less compelling reading than A Face Like Glass but what I was particularly disappointed in was the cardboard cut out stereotypes of the motivations of the antagonists, especially the birdcatcher villain, which is clearly pushing the author's own (non)faith position. It seems to me that in 20th century - or most other centuries for that matter - that people who lack of belief in one God have been as guilty of programs and terror (from Stalin to Mao to Pol Pot), while on the other hand, 18th century deists and theists were just as (or more) likely to be building hospitals, schools or be involved in social reform for workers, the poor, women, children, prisoners and/or slaves, supporting freedom of speech and democracy - as inciting homicidal mayhem.

While Mosca is a very young protagonist, the complexity of prose and plot is probably more Young Adult in tone. A book worth reading.
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Reading Progress

July 5, 2015 – Started Reading
July 5, 2015 – Shelved
July 5, 2015 – Shelved as: dystopian
July 5, 2015 – Shelved as: fantasy
July 5, 2015 – Shelved as: fiction
July 5, 2015 – Shelved as: young-adult
July 5, 2015 – Shelved as: middle-grade
July 13, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison Stegert Sounds fantastic. Start here or with A Face Like Glass?


Jeanette I think start with this one :) I loved A Face Like Glass and thought it the stronger book, more complex and original.


message 3: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison Stegert Have you get out Frances's website? It's gorgeous. And her childhood! gah. Rural Kent in a rambling old house near a weird town. Thank you for introducing me to her.


message 4: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison Stegert Grr. Spell check *have you checked out* her website.


message 5: by Alison (new) - added it

Alison Stegert Grr. Spell check *have you checked out* her website.


Jeanette A pleasure :) I see what you mean about the website - gorgeous and intriguing :) Maybe one day I'll be able to something like that (adding it to my bucket list) :)


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