Monday, April 18, 2011

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

 The Blurb

"In a fractured Realm, struggling to maintain an uneasy peace after years of civil war and religious tyranny, a 12-year-old orphan and a homicidal goose become the accidental heroes of a revolution"

This book won the Branford Boase Award in 2006,and was listed in the School Library Journal's Best Books of 2006, it is seriously good.  It's well written, fun and most of all a heartening story of... no it's not, it's just fun. 

The plot

Mosca Mye breaks out of her virtual imprisonment to free the glib Eponymous Clent -- not because she knows he's innocent, but because she loves his ability with words, something that she has missed since the death of her father. With his ready lies and easy charm, it is amazing just how easy it is for the pair to get into trouble, get mixed up in a rebellion, and generally make a real nuisance of themselves -- helped in no small part by Saracen her deranged goose.

Why it's great

There's not many books where morally dubious characters can rescue themselves by convincing a highwayman that what he really needs is good publicity - and then instead of stooping there, follow the consequences of that action.  It's witty, beautiful and dangerous, a beautifully presented mythical 18th Century Middle England, fractured by religious and political upheaval.   (The religion part is completely fictional, adding nicely to the tone of the story and to Mosca's difficulties, born as she is under the inauspicious Palpitattle, god of keeping flies off the jam and butter.)  The romance (no not THAT sort of romance) and the humour in no way stand in place of plot, but do make the story more than just another adventure, but a true classic.

So this book is for teenagers?

I would argue that the people who will truly love it are good readers around ten and up, especially people who love fantasy or historical fiction.  Frances is someone who loves words, and writing, she's an incredibly gifted, as I have already remarked in my reviews of Verdigris Deep and Twilight Robbery.  Her use of language is amazing, as one would expect in an English professor - and it is that mastery of language along with remarkable plotting and wonderful characters that make her a must read.  Truly remarkable.

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