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Fly by Night #1

Fly by Night

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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.

Enter Eponymous Clent, a smooth-talking con man who seems to love words nearly as much as Mosca herself. Soon Mosca and Clent are living a life of deceit and danger -- discovering secret societies, following shady characters onto floating coffeehouses, and entangling themselves with crazed dukes and double-crossing racketeers. It would be exactly the kind of tale Mosca has always longed to take part in, until she learns that her one true love -- words -- may be the death of her.

"Fly by Night" is astonishingly original, a grand feat of the imagination from a masterful new storyteller.

486 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2005

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About the author

Frances Hardinge

31 books2,495 followers
Frances Hardinge spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and the two things inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. She studied English at Oxford University and now lives in Oxford, England.

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5 stars
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3 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 899 reviews
Profile Image for Nikoleta.
693 reviews275 followers
April 23, 2017
Αυτό το βιβλίο μιλάει για τις λέξεις. Αναλύει τις λέξεις, τις ξεψαχνίζει, τις ξεμπροστιάζει, τις θαυμάζει και τις αγιοποιεί.
Λέξεις που χρησιμοποιούνται ως προπαγάνδα, λέξεις που διαστρεβλώνουν, μεγεθύνουν ή μικραίνουν νοήματα, λέξεις που προκαλούν τρόμο, λέξεις που αποκαλύπτουν την αλήθεια και άλλες που ψεύδονται ασυστόλως. Που προκαλούν, ξεσηκώνουν επαναστάσεις, δημιουργούν ήρωες και εκθρονίζουν άλλους!
Ένα καταπληκτικό βιβλίο με υπέροχη αφήγηση, παραστατικές σκηνές και ανάλαφρο ύφος! Ένα βιβλίο παιδικό μεν αλλά όχι τόσο αθώο, γεμάτο χαριτωμένες και ειρωνικές σπόντες για την ανθρώπινη κοινωνία. Διότι από τότε που δημιουργήθηκε ο Λόγος τίποτα δεν είναι πια απλή υπόθεση…
Profile Image for Adam Boisvert.
47 reviews2 followers
May 20, 2014
In the back of Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge gives us the following warning: "This is not a historical novel. It is a yarn. Although the Realm is based roughly on England at the start of the eighteenth century, I have taken appalling liberties with historical authenticity and, when I felt like it, the laws of physics."

What she fails to mention is that it's a rollicking good yarn. It follows the adventures (and mis-adventures) of Mosca Mye. Her problem is she loves words of all shapes and sizes (her father broke convention and taught her to read before he conventionally died) but she lives in a world where most folks fear education and distrust any sort of writing. In trying to better herself and broaden her horizons she encounters a variety of colourful characters, from con men to tradesmen, dutchesses to revolutionaries. Written by, for, and about bibliophiles; Fly By Night is ultimately a story about the power of words, and whether this power should be feared or embraced.

Profile Image for Lucy .
343 reviews34 followers
March 24, 2009
Fly By Night opens with a short history of The Fractured Realm, and things look grim indeed. A history peppered with monarchs and parliament, guild wars and religious inquisitions, and a holy terror of the dangers of the written word are the backdrop for this story.

Mosca Mye, orphaned, black-eyed and stubborn and addicted to the written word, burns down her uncle’s mill (accidentally,) releases a con man from the stocks (on purpose,) and flees town with only her homicidal and loyal goose Saracen as a companion. And thus begins Mosca’s adventure in a city that is a political hotbed of unrest, where people are rarely what they seem and loyalties may change at the drop of a hat. Mosca only wants to find her place and follow her love of the written word, but she will soon find herself a pawn in a political intrigue that has many sides. Only her fierce ingenuity (and Saracen’s loyalty) will be able to help her make it out alive.

This is one of those brilliant books with a million details and descriptions and characters, but all of them are interesting and important and colorful and worth reading about. The Fractured Realm has one of the most interesting political and religious histories that I have seen in children’s literature – or any literature – in quite a while. It is quite an ambitious feat, and Hardinge pulls it off with aplomb. Hardinge’s character descriptions are short but paint the picture. (One example: “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.”) And lest you think the details superfluous, they are always important and relevant and interesting. I daresay there is not one inch of superfluous material in this brilliant story. And Mosca is an irrepressibly likeable heroine who learns early on how to lie convincingly and how to stay afloat and try to do the right thing. She is clever and interesting and smart and a lot of fun, and I would happily read more about Mosca and her homicidal Saracen. It goes without saying (but I will say it anyway) that this book is highly, highly recommended for anyone who likes interesting characters, political and religious unrest done well, compelling stories and/or good writing. Which is to say, everyone.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 5 books4,102 followers
September 26, 2019
I've read a number of book-centric books over the years and quite a few of them are YA. Some hit you over the head with the book and others are subtle enough to flow right over you and sneak up and bite you in the behind.

This one is the latter kind.

Sure, the power of words is all over the place, but where I like it most is in Hardinge's worldbuilding. The history of this place is not only fascinating and rough, but clever and multilayered. I get the impression we're in an early English period right after the printing press came out. But unlike that period, books soon became anathema. Like religious persecution, even.

Of course, that makes our heroes and villains well-learned action types falling in with thieves and revolutionaries, and that's just plain fun.

So why did I give this four stars rather than five? Because some of the text is a bit dense and the flow wasn't perfect. But I LOVED the world and had a pretty good time with the characters. And the God Goose. :)
Profile Image for TheBookSmugglers.
669 reviews2,006 followers
July 12, 2012
Original review posted on The Book Smugglers

I am overcome with Imperious Feelings demanding that I find the Right Words to write this review. Fly By Night is Absurdly Brilliant. This is not an overstatement.

How else could I possibly qualify a book that features a main character named Mosca1 Mye whose love for words is both impetus and trademark? Whose love for words is the driving force toward a life of High Adventure in the company of a smooth-talking charlatan named Eponymous Clent and a murderous pet Goose named Saracen? Whose journey takes her through completely unpredictable twists and turns in a political game where no one knows who is ally or foe?

If not brilliant, what other word could I possibly use to describe a book that is defined by original, unusual worldbuilding as well as Impressive Intellectual Sharpness?

With regards to the former: Fly By Night is set in an alternate 18th Century (but not quite) where years ago, after getting rid of its monarchy, the Fractured Realm plunged into a gruesome Civil War when Birdcatchers – a radical religious movement – came to power. Ten years after all Birdcatchers have been killed (or have they?), the Realm is ran by different Guilds of Tradesmen. The Guilds’ power have been growing exponentially, especially that of the Stationers Guild (who control all printing materials, anything without their seal is deemed illegal) ; the Locksmiths Guild (who have the keys to every door) ; and the Watermen Guild (who control all movement along the river). The power balance is precariously held together by a truce between all Guilds and even one small wrong move could start a whole new war. Mosca and Clent (and Saracen) find themselves in the middle of this complex game of power which is complicated by a Duke who is slowly going mad and whose sister has Ideas of Her Own. Not to mention the emergence of an illegal printing press that has been spreading Illegal Radical Words all over the Realm.

The latter comes from the fact that this is a book with a main character who loves words in a world that fears them. Being a book about words – their importance, their potential, their beauty – one of the most brilliant things about it is how the author brandishes her words like Weapons of Mass Construction.

From the Thought Provoking:

Brand a man as a thief and no one will ever hire him for honest labor – he will be a hardened robber within weeks. The brand does not reveal a person’s nature, it shapes it.

Via the Utterly Hilarious:

(…)Mosca and Saracen shared, if not a friendship, at least the solidarity of the generally despised.

All the way to the Extremely Acute:

‘Where is your sense of patriotism?’

‘I kept it hid away safe, along with my sense of trust, Mr Clent. I don’t use ‘em much in case they get scratched.’


And the Plain Beautiful:

‘But in the name of the most holy, Mosca, of all the people you could have taken up with, why Eponymous Clent?’

Because I’d been hoarding words for years, buying them from peddlers and carving them secretly on to bits of bark so I wouldn’t forget them, and then he turned up using words like ‘epiphany’ and ‘amaranth’. Because I heard him talking in the marketplace, laying out sentences like a merchant rolling out rich silks. Because he made words and ideas dance like flames and something that was damp and dying came alive in my mind, the way it hadn’t since they burned my father’s books. Because he walked into Chough with stories from exciting places tangled around him like maypole streamers…

Mosca shrugged.

‘He’s got a way with words.’


Fly By Night is a book that provokes, incites and invites the reader to participate in a wordily love-fest. Granted that at times, this comes across as slightly heavy-handed especially towards the ending but this was simply not enough to make any damage to the immense love I feel for this book.

But that is not all! For Fly By Night is also Coming of Age of the Highest Quality. Mosca’s journey is superbly executed by exploring her loneliness, her perceived uniqueness (which is not true at all, given the truths that she unveils) as well as the connections she forms with other people (especially the Cakes. How could I not love the Cakes?). Her arc has moments of Utter Despair, Sad Mistakes as well as Great Bravery.

Most of all, I loved the development of the relationship with Clent and I loved the bond they formed over a shared loved for words (for better or worse). Take this incredible moment where they have a fight:

Mosca’s opening offer was a number of cant words she had heard peddlers use, words for the drool hanging from a dog’s jaw, words for the greenish sheen on a mouldering strip of bacon.
Eponymous Clent responded with some choice descriptions of ungrateful and treacherous women culled from ballad and classic myth.
Mosca countered with some from her secret hoard of hidden words, the terms used by smugglers for tell-alls, and soldiers’ words for the worst kind of keyhole-stooping spy.
Clent answered with crushing and high-sounding examples from the best essays on the natural depravity of unguided youth.


Isn’t this Staggering Good Writing?

I had a lot of fun reading Fly By Night and as you can probably see, a lot of fun writing this review too. I freaking love when that happens, those are the best kind of books. Fly By Night is a Totally Awesome Book and I already got the sequel because one is not enough for me: just like Mosca, I too, want more story.
Profile Image for Lightreads.
641 reviews534 followers
June 18, 2013
Frances Hardinge understands all those important rules of storycraft like 'the true tension is internal,' and 'you don't have to be good to be relatable,' and 'if you put a loaded goose on the mantelpiece in act I, you have to fire it by act V.'

Ung, so good. So so good. This was her first published novel, and it's true, it doesn't have the tautness and precision of her later The Lost Conspiracy. But this is also a weird and wonderful book. It's young adult fantasy about a twelve-year-old girl who burns down her uncle's sawmill and blackmails her way out of her tiny town with a confidence man and her homicidal goose companion (though, really, given geese, that's redundant, I could just say "her goose companion.") This book kept shifting under my feet. First it was blackhearted bickering roadtrip funtimes, and then it was fantasy spy funtimes, and then it was about revolutions, and then it was about illegal printing presses, and then it was about trust and ferocity and betrayal and growing a conscience and so many other things all at once that I can't remember them all.

But mostly it's about Mosca, who is twelve and messed up and literate but undereducated and curious and coldhearted. And I loved her so much. Here she is, judge for yourself:

""Sacred just means something you're not meant to think about properly, and you should never stop thinking. Show me something I can kick, and hit with rocks, and set fire to, and leave out in the rain, and think about. And if it's still standing after all that, then maybe, just maybe, I'll start to believe in it, but not till then.""
Profile Image for Trish.
2,017 reviews3,436 followers
September 26, 2019
This is my third book by this author and the first she ever published. Sadly, it shows.

The story is that of a world where books have become forbidden. Into this world a girl is born with the unusual name of Mosca. The girl is smart and inquisitive and loves learning about words. As is only natural for a story like this, personal disaster strikes and she is forced to flee her home together with her gander (the best character here if you ask me). She meets a lot of people, from vagabonds to thieves to royalty to tyrants and many more.
A revolution in this strange and yet familiar world is inevitable and of course Mosca is at the center of it all.

I really liked the premise of this story that is set in a world where words have so much power. And I liked the author's worldbuilding as much as her own way with words. However, the story itself was dragging on and on and on and just couldn't grab me. In the end, a good idea and nice prose turned out not to be enough for me, sadly.

Don't get me wrong, the story is multilayered, the characters show potential. So it wasn't actually bad (see my rating). However, the characters never truly reached their full potential and the twists were ... not really twist-y for me but rather predictable.

Sometimes you just don't click with a story and this was such a moment for me. I loved her other two books and am looking forward to the new one coming out shortly, but this was kind of a let-down.
919 reviews255 followers
February 2, 2016
"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."


Frances Hardinge can certainly turn a wonderful phrase. Her words skip and giggle and gleam, at once sly and coy. Characters are never simply "brown haired" or "blue eyed" but rather given descriptions such as "The little man's mouth was a small, bitter V-shape, and seemed designed to say small, bitter things."

Unfortunately, in Fly by Night, the plot leaps about as wildly as the words - and this is no longer such a compliment. Characters are trusted and not trusted and trusted again and everyone is constantly on different sides, motives changing so often it almost gives you whiplash to read about. Later books weave their pieces together far better than here.
Profile Image for wittierninja.
130 reviews
December 31, 2007
This is truly a book about readers, for readers. I know that the plot is not unfamiliar to many of you: lonely girl or boy, spends more time with books than with people because books are friendlier, kinder, less cruel. And then something magical happens, blah blah blah. Fly by Night is a little different in that instead of exploring the power of books to a child, it delves into the strength of words and names, and how both affect the world and how they determine the kind of person you become. The writing is smooth, and I had, at first, thought it was going to be those types of books that looks great (spot lam! cool jacket art! rough edges!) but is poorly written. I am happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. If you're looking for something easy to read, easy to enjoy, and easy to lose yourself into, then I'd definitely encourage you try this.
Profile Image for Sharon.
991 reviews73 followers
January 1, 2023
CW: animal harm, (mentioned) animal death, Romani slurs (You know the one - "g")

In fourth grade, I had to write a book report. This is not terribly unusual; most children have to write a few at that age.
So, I went to the library. Somewhere between the end of second grade and the start of third, I had realized that one might access stories more successfully if they really put their mind to reading. Slowly, I realized that the act of reading was not quite the chore I thought it was previously and found myself enjoying. I also realized that the longer and the thicker the volume, the more story it contained.
And that is how my sights landed on Fly by Night.
Many fourth graders write book reports. But, I would dare say not many write book reports on anti-monarchist, atheistic, and anti-censorship, stories about religious upheaval and anarchy.

This book is magical, without a single instances of magic, and historical in a world that does not exist. I always like to imagine this is the 1700s precursor to a 19th century steampunk world.
And every page has informed my way of thinking. I can so clearly see in these pages the way I think about power and government, criminal justice, censorship, atheism... and so much more. I can appreciate that this may be a divisive book. It's funny and witty, but it's also a wordy contemplation of language and writing. It's non-magical historical with a fair amount of violence and a lot of guns. It hits with just the right amount of force to appreciate the intelligence of its child audience but still be something to work towards.
It reads well when you're 10 or when you're 25.

I know the joke of bookworms is always "But how could I choose?!?" when asked for a singular book. And I appreciate the struggle in many ways - I do have that problem with film. But this is the book. This is my favorite book.
I read it in fourth grade and rediscovered it in sixth grade and it has held the title ever since. I say with little doubt that I do not believe any book will ever dethrone it.
Profile Image for Daniel.
714 reviews48 followers
July 18, 2022
TL;DR: 4 stars, perhaps trying a bit too hard with the prose in the beginning, but a fun plot underneath and likable characters.

For my second outing with Hardinge, (the first having been Deeplight), I went with her first published novel, which was a distinct contrast with her ninth. While the themes are not so far removed, the prose itself was quite different, and a bit of a difficulty for me early on.

Before picking up Deeplight, part of the appeal really, was Hardinge's reputation as a writer. I was expecting fancy prose, playing with words and language, etc. That was probably the one aspect where Deeplight let me down a bit, actually. I did not find much in the way of wordplay or figurative writing in Deeplight. I thought it showed an extremely high level of craft on a deep level, but it was not particularly remarkable on the surface.

Fly By Night was a the reverse of that. While Hardinge is categorized as a children's writer, I felt there was absolutely nothing childish in Deeplight other than the character's ages. In Fly By Night, you could perhaps add two more elements to that list: the plucky pet accompanying the heroine, and the level of coinkydink upon which the (otherwise excellent) plot often leans for its progress.

The prose, especially early on is littered with the sort of metaphor and simile I was expecting when I first picked up Hardinge, and when it lands it's fantastic. Unfortunately far too often, it doesn't land, and I felt it distracted or obscured more than aided the narrative. The choice of words often challenged, and I used the kindle's dictionary function more than I typically do in most "adult" books, much less anything marketed as "middle grade" or "YA".

The level of coincidence aside, the plot was very much my sort of thing, and while I stalled out around 38% for quite a while, eventually I picked in up again and finished it in about a day.

The setting has more of a damp dim cluttered, and claustrophobic feel than Deeplight which seemed to take place nearly entirely on a beach or the ocean, but the challenges faced by Mosca, while on the dark side for a twelve year old, did not have the depressed, tragic, impending doom sense I had while reading Deeplight. The other characters were all interesting and/or likable.

All in all, a good outing and I'll be reading more Hardinge soonish, I expect.
Profile Image for Ashley.
65 reviews
July 1, 2007
This is probably the best example of what I call "not-quite-fantasy" that I've read since Lloyd Alexander's The Kestral. While it takes place in a fictional country loosely based on seventeenth century England, there is no magic in this story, except for the elusive magic of words which the author both idolizes and exhibits in her own gorgeous prose. The young protagonist makes her way through a complex and realistically imagined world complete with an elaborate social structure, religion and history. She struggles convincingly, as so many young adults do, with the question of what to believe and who to trust. I could go on and on about memorable characters, a touch of dark humor, and the author's talent for savoring the absurd. But never mind; just read it.
Profile Image for Fedra.
427 reviews100 followers
July 13, 2018
Δε ξέρω αν θα μπορούσε κανείς πραγματικά να γράψει κριτική για τούτο το βιβλίο. Ακόμα και με όλους τους επαίνους, πάλι θα το αδικούσε. Είναι ένα πραγματικό λογοτεχνικό διαμάντι και η Μαρία Αγγελίδου έκανε και πάλι εκπληκτική δουλειά στην Ελληνική μετάφραση (αυτό πρέπει να το σημειώσουμε γιατί είναι κι εκείνη καθώς φαίνεται μια μαγίστρα των λέξεων!)

Σας το προτείνω ανεξαρτήτως ηλικίας. Έχει περιπέτεια, φιλοσοφικές αναζητήσεις, ερωτήματα ζωής, χιούμορ, φαντασία και ήρωες σαν να έχουν ξεπηδήσει από τη πραγματικότητα.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,385 reviews408 followers
February 22, 2021
This was just the middle grade adventure I needed this very moment. It was so entertaining and absolutely flew through this. Wasn't sure of it in the beginning but then I was hooked. I need to try to find the next book somewhere
Profile Image for Peter Tillman.
3,682 reviews347 followers
January 6, 2022
I don't read much YA, but my GR friend and master reviewer Carol. convinced me to read this one. You should go read her review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Just as she says, "Fly By Night is a playful, sophisticated story, as suited to the older reader as the young adult. The story of a twelve-year-old misfit girl–she can read–weaves an antagonistic buddy-trip, a spy caper, guild wars, city revolutions, freedom of the press and a journey of self-discovery into a satisfying book that I wholeheartedly recommend."

Well, "me too." I thought it was a bit overlong -- the book would have benefited from a final edit, as is true of so many books in these seemingly edit-free days. Grump, grump. And the macguffin/alt-hist devices were wearing thin towards the end. But a great debut! 3.7-ish stars, and I'll likely be reading on. Thanks, Carol. for the reco!
Profile Image for Jennifer.
444 reviews202 followers
Read
April 24, 2022
DNF 25% - Alas, Hardinge's piquant and unpredictable writing couldn't keep me interested in this tale of political intrigue, skullduggery, and murderous ganders. I usually find her writing weirdly and sometimes unpleasantly immersive, but I had no problem putting this one down for long stretches of time. (Two weeks later: uh...who was Partridge? What's the deal with the Locksmiths vs. Stationers vs. Birdcatchers again?)

It didn't help that the characters are either unpleasant, secretive to the point that we know almost nothing about them even a quarter in, or emotionally distant. Our main character Mosca, a 13-year-old girl "with the keen instincts of the unloved," remains very much alone in a hostile world for as far as I read, and her marvelously bellicose goose Saracen is out of the picture early on.

The plot is convoluted and the pacing is leisurely, and I just stopped caring. Which is too bad, because Hardinge writes some of the strangest and most evocative descriptions, the kind that you read twice just in order to taste them properly.

The sun slid to rest, and the western sky gleamed like a copper kettle in firelight. Mosca, watching the sun's last gleam, saw it split by the flight of a buzzard, which seemed to douse the light in that instant with its black wings before swooping away to land on top of a haystack. Without warning, the hills which had been sunning themselves like so many contented dogs closed in, black and ragged as wolves.


Yup. Too bad.
Profile Image for Anna.
146 reviews2 followers
September 14, 2009
I thought that this book was great. It had an intriguing plot line, plenty of twists and turns, and each chapter was a different letter of the alphabet (A Is For Arsony, etc.). HOWEVER, I was disappointed with the ending. Rather than subtly make a point and then end the story, the author got incredibly PREACHY. I think the point could have been made succintly and then the story could have cheerfully trotted along to it's conclusion. Instead, the author went on and on. Her point wasn't bad (basically, it's wrong to force people to believe something and kill them if they won't), but she ruined the point by making it too clear. Also, the cover says "Imagine a world in which all books are BANNED!", which is fairly inaccurate. Not ALL books are banned, just the unapproved ones. Is there a big heap o' censorship going on in this story? Yes. Are ALL books banned? No.
So, good story. Disappointingly preachy, though.
Profile Image for Kaethe.
6,452 reviews473 followers
June 2, 2018
Set in an imagined place similar to England at the start of the 18th century. All the intrigue of Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, but with a manageable number of words. And a twelve-year-old heroine, and a vicious goose.

I finished up loving FLY BY NIGHT even more. It's always delightful to me to watch a character think, and Mosca puzzles out all the intrigues very well. And, she has moments of great valor. And I love all the secondary developments. And I love Mosca's final decisions so much.

Read it yourself, and recommend it to every kid from nine through twelve. It has a little something for everyone. I hope the Possum likes it, since I handed it off to her.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
22 reviews
September 22, 2007
This book was a nice surprise. A very solid and satisfying adventure that was sincerely amusing, exciting and interesting. The main character Mosca is awesome and won me over almost immediately. How could she not? Champing on a pipe with a take no shit attitude under one arm and a murderous goose under the other.
Profile Image for Mika.
24 reviews21 followers
September 23, 2008
As I sat down to write this post, I thought, “You know, the title really doesn’t make any sense. It has nothing to do with the book at all.” Oh my, I am losing it. I somehow failed to make the connection between the main character’s name, Mosca (in honor of the day she was born on - sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns), and the double meaning of the word fly. Sheesh.

The plot was extremely unique. In whatever world this takes place in (one thing I can hardly ever be bothered to pay attention to), there was originally a monarchy; several deaths lead to an argument over succession; a parliament was established, but the real force behind the realm - and the glue that held it together - was the guilds. Each has its own responsibilities and jurisdictions. Eventually it is decided that a parliamentary committee will decide on the best monarch to rule; meanwhile, the residents of the realm are free to support their favored monarch, as well as the Beloved (basically a Saint) that suits them best. There is a Beloved for each day and each night of the year, so babies are named for the Beloved on whose day or night they are born.

Mosca is a young girl who was taught to read by her father before he passed away in a remote village, where he moved when he was exiled (although we don’t learn why until later) many years before. She escapes the village and moves on to bigger, better, and more troublesome things.

The big question: did I see the plot twists coming? Heavens no, but I was really trying this time. I picked up on what clues I could, yet was completely blindsided by the sudden turn of events. The author did a great job balancing foreshadowing and real surprises. It was a quick, easy read, and as I said, the plot was fantastic. I actually grabbed the book at the library because it was thick and had a cool cover…luckily I was not disappointed this time.

Hooray for good children’s books!

Profile Image for Isabella.
438 reviews38 followers
June 3, 2022
I couldn't scroll past this book without singing Fly by Night by Rush, so I thought I might as well read it

Rating: 4 stars

I really enjoyed this book! I read the description, and thought I could potentially have a good time reading it, and though I did doubt this in the middle, I was, overall, right. There was a chance that it could fall flat as it was listed as YA, but I didn't think it felt too YA-y at all. Well, even Google can't decide what age group this book fits into: "Fly by Night is a children's or young adults' fantasy novel by Frances Hardinge" so if Google is confused it's not just me I guess.

One of the things that really made this book for me was the authorial voice of Hardinge. She had this way of writing that I can only describe as if a mischievous smirk was words. There were so many brilliantly cheeky lines, that I just had to mention here.
“In Mosca’s experience, a ‘long story’ was always a short story someone did not want to tell.”


“If wits were pins, the man would be a veritable hedgehog.”


“ 'My dear fellow,' he continued more soberly, 'If you have managed to complicate things by forming a sentimental attachment in less than a week, then I doubt there is anything I can do for you. You, sir, are a romantic, and I'm afraid the condition is incurable.' "


“So this was a nest of radicals. She thought a hotbed of sedition would involve more gunpowder and secret handshakes, and less shuffling of feet and passing the sugar.”


I just love the vibe of this book. Will most likely be continuing with the series, and probably the author too.
Profile Image for Karen Healey.
Author 21 books402 followers
July 1, 2009
A wild delight; a madcap adventure and a fascinating argument for freedom of speech and religion in a fantasy world like a torn and muddied red velvet cape. It's populated with fantastic characters and a plot so twisty and so full of swiftly-changing alliances and factions that Locke Lamora would have trouble untangling it.

Highly, highly recommended.

(Also, one of the main characters is named EPONYMOUS CLENT. I don't believe there's been a more perfectly-named character in the history of ever.)


Things I didn't like:

- I noticed no people of colour, with the possible exception of two "gypsy" girls who appear for a brief scene, and are described as darker than Mosca. The author notes that the book was based roughly on the England of the early eighteenth century, but as she also notes that she has taken "appalling liberties with historical authenticity" *and* the laws of physics, I don't consider this adequate reason for Yet Another White Fantasy World.

Things I did like:

- EVERYTHING ELSE. It's thoughtful, adventurous, compellingly written with beautiful description and... really, it reminded me most of Diana Wynne Jones, but less talky-directly-to-reader.

Lines like this are everywhere: "The waterfall spray beat the leaves with a noise like paper children applauding."

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3
Profile Image for The Captain.
1,096 reviews406 followers
November 18, 2020
Ahoy there me mateys!  I was in a mood where I wasn't sure what I wanted to read.  Then I read Matey Nicky's review of this book where she said:
I have to admit that, primed by Untitled Goose Game, I was on Saracen’s side in all of this. In any given scene, at any given stopping point, my main concern was where is Saracen???  (People who watched me live-tweeting my binge of this book can attest to that. Several tweets demanding to know where the goose was.)  Part of the reason I was on Saracen’s side is that things get a bit twisty. Who do you trust? By the last hundred pages, I only trusted Saracen.

I have enjoyed this author's work in the past and the goose was the right incentive to immediately pick up this debut work of hers.  I loved it.

This book is twisty and just so much fun.  It immediately captured me attention with the prologue where there is a discussion on what to name the new baby.  She was born on the name day of Goodman Palpitattle also known as  “He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns.”  The midwife , Celery, is clearly concerned about the timing of her birth and the importance of names given her own.  But she is overruled and the baby gets named after the housefly - Mosca.

Like always, the world building is just exquisite.  The plot follows poor Mosca as she tries to escape her horrible hamlet and just gets into more and more trouble.  Her problem?  She can read and reading is dangerous.  Whether it is the names of the gods or the lovely descriptions of the world or Mosca's opinions about what she sees, the word play in this book was delightful.  Like Eponymous Clem, the stranger that Mosca gets involved with.  Or this description of a path:
The path was a troublesome, fretful thing. It worried that it was missing a view of the opposite hills and insisted on climbing for a better look. Then it found the breeze uncommonly chill and ducked back among the trees. It suddenly thought it had forgotten something and doubled back, then realized that it hadn’t and turned about again. At last it struggled free of the pines, plumped itself down by the riverside, complained of its aching stones and refused to go any farther. A sensible, well-trodden track took over.

Just lovely.  The plot is a bit convoluted at times but I didn't care because I loved the world and the characters.  I anxiously needed to know what happened next (and where the goose was!).  This book could be read as a standalone but the author did write a sequel six years later.  I am certainly going to be picking up a copy.  Arrr!
Profile Image for Hallie.
954 reviews123 followers
February 27, 2011
This is a sort of sum of a reading (when it came out, horribly bound paperback - really badly affected readign pleasure) and a listening (audiobook much better, except that Mosca was done as much more street-child than she should have been, given her father and education). While I didn't really feel the love that much on reading, I knew how badly I'd been put off by the binding, and I did indeed really appreciate the love of language that infuses the book through being slowed down to listen. The flip side of that is that it made Mosca's unsympathetic behaviour much harder to take, in slow, painful motion as it was. Understandable that she didn't know if she could trust anyone, of course, but still hard. I'd almost forgotten that part from the reading.

I had one -- quibble, disappointment, reservation, whatever. That was that it felt as if Hardinge had made the obvious choice in making the religious system as wonderfully mixed up as the political situation, and then essentially debunking it all. Not that it's a total narrative statement, but it doesn't seem to me to leave a huge amount of room for Mosca's evaluation to be wrong. And having made it so -- goofy (technical theological term there!), it would have been so cool not to have said that the childishness of the saints' followers was indicative of their being wrong to believe at all. One of the things I thought amazing about Gullstruck Island was that Hardinge didn't take the more obvious, easier route of making the Lace the totally 'civilized', noble ones to a totally savage Cavalcaste. I was just kind of sad to see it not working that way in this.
Profile Image for Sesana.
5,332 reviews343 followers
October 31, 2011
Ok, I admit it: I basically read this book because of the Brett Helquist art on the cover. I was disappointed to discover that was all he contributed: no interior illustrations. At any rate, the book has a very interesting and unique (to me, at least) premise. It uses the English Revolution as a sort of starting point, the main divergence being that, revolution over, Parliament is given half a dozen or so contenders to become the new monarch and twenty years later, they still haven't decided. Individual cities are ruled by the trade guilds and by whatever lord holds the territory. Strict censorship is in effect: only books approved by the Stationers Guild can be read. The main character is a girl named Mosca (that's her and her stolen goose, Saracen on the cover). She finds herself mixed up in political machinations in the city of Mandelion. And that's about the best I can do with a fairly complicated plot. I'll probably read more by the author, since it was well-written. And I'll certainly be reading the book she used as reference: 1700: Scenes from London Life. You know, someday. The one issue that I had with it was that Mosca was at least somewhat irritating through most of the book. By the end, I felt like she'd redeemed herself to me, and I ended up liking her more than not. I also wasn't entirely satisfied with how the central mystery was solved. The solution, yes, but not how the characters arrived there.
Profile Image for Lara.
4,154 reviews340 followers
November 12, 2009
I really enjoyed Hardinge's most recent book, The Lost Conspiracy, and between that and all the five star reviews for Fly By Night on here, I naturally assumed I'd like this one just as much. But I was wrong. I never really connected with the main character, and then the story itself...just never really interested me (the main point also seemed REALLY heavy handed). And it's very difficult to enjoy a book when you don't care about anybody or anything in it. Another thing: part of what I loved about The Lost Conspiracy was that it seemed like EVERY detail brought up somehow came back into the story later on--the plot was so intricately constructed and there were no loose ends or descriptions that didn't matter in some way. But this one felt a lot sloppier and less well constructed. I'm left with the idea that Hardinge has improved much since she published this one, so I'll still give Well Witched a try. But now I have much less confindence in that story than I did before I read this one.
Profile Image for Nick Fagerlund.
345 reviews16 followers
October 28, 2012
Everybody read this immediately. (Ignore the cover and don't bother reading any promo copy, because the marketing department fixated on the Macguffin and got it two-thirds wrong anyway.)

Mosca, a smart, stubborn, and angry hick who totes a homicidal goose named Saracen, follows a con man named Eponymous Clent to the big city. Espionage, guild warfare, and murder ensue. They accidentally turn some poor bastard into a folk hero. There are moving coffee houses. The goose steals no fewer than two boats.

This is shelved as a kid's book, but it doesn't read young. Actually, the quality of the prose is one of the best things about it -- it’s elegant and pointy and wonderful.

But there’s so much more to like about it, too! The setting is grand, the history and the religion (no real gods, but about two hundred saints) are fantastic; the characters are solid and smudged and everyone is kind of a huge bastard. (Except The Cakes, who is a sweet-hearted and respectable girl and who only counts as a bastard in the technical sense.) Stabs of startling insight are just scattered around like tacks. Basically, it was an absolute joy to read at all times. I am now saving the rest of the author’s works for a rainy day.
Profile Image for Kseniia Okhremenko.
128 reviews11 followers
September 22, 2017
Ну во-первых, мне кажется, что это не совсем детская книга. Скорее подростковая. Просто заговоры, революции, убийства ... Не думаю, что моя 12-летняя сестра это бы читала.
Во-вторых, персонажи. Самим ярким среди всей своры героев был гусь по кличке Сарацин, который, думаю, даже братьям Кличко наваляет. А вот человеческие персонажи мне показались какими-то тусклыми и совсем не интересными (хотя стремления Мошки к новым знаниям, похвально).
В-третьих, какой бы скучной не показалась мне книга, а язык написания и перевод очень хороши. Красивые речевые обороты и читать приятнее.
И напоследок. Необычная книга. Она заслуживает все те хвалебные отзывы, которые получает и ту премию от LiveLib, но мне что-то пришлось не по душе. Знаете, бывает, что не твоя книга и всё.
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