Will enthrall readers young and old Oct 21, 2008
I discovered Fly by Night by chance, and it scares me that I might have missed the opportunity to revel in such an enveloping story and to marvel at such engrossing writing. Fly by Night is Oliver Twist meets The Golden Compass meets Fahrenheit 451. Written with a jubilant embrace of the English language and a Dickensian grasp of storytelling by first-time author Frances Hardinge, Fly by Night is the tale of a runaway orphan, her indefatigable goose companion, and her haphazard descent into a breakneck adventure involving murder, banned books, and floating coffeehouses.
Mosca Mye is 12 years old. Orphaned and living with her aunt and uncle in a village perpetually soaked by rain, Mosca steals a goose named Saracen and flees in search of the kind of life she has glimpsed in books. In this fictional world that resembles eighteenth-century England, unauthorized books are banned and women are strangers to reading. But Mosca’s father—a banished scholar and radical—taught his daughter to read before his death. As a result, Mosca has a mind of her own, and that determination leads her to make decisions that land her in the midst of scandal and political intrigue that just might lead to her demise … or the end of a tyrannical reign.
The novel is marketed as a book for high schoolers, but I recommend ignoring that pigeonhole. After all, Fly by Night is ambitiously conceived and gloriously executed—a literary nugget that also gleams for adults. Hardinge imagines a world where the Artful Dodger and Bill Sykes could almost be lurking around the next corner. Characters are anointed with unlikely and entertaining names like Eponymous Clent, Aramai Goshawk, and Mabwick Toke. The world through which Mosca sprints and meanders is vividly familiar and yet singularly distinct—populated with a colorful parade of characters that includes an insane duke, identical-twin queens, and deified idols known as Beloveds (who bear such auspicious names as “Goodman Sussuratch, He Who Preserves the Unwary from the River’s Embrace”). Mosca outshines all of the glorified, however, and her quest to find and save a banned printing press will enthrall readers young and old.