"review" · fiction · guestblogger · juvenile lit · Lit · mystery · N · recommend · series · series

{book} fly by night

Hopefully we will be seeing more and more of guest: N to the point she will have a regular “column” with clever name and logo and everything. This would be a really good thing. It is always good to see her and it was a pleasant surprise when she sent me the file for today’s post.

It is Banned Books Week and just so happens N picks up an already read copy of Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. Okay, so it isn’t really happenstance, because if you’ve read Fly By Night you probably lack surprise that a conversation on censoring people’s reading material would bring this particular book to mind. The young heroine Mosca Mye’s father was sent into exile for writing dangerous material. Printing presses are illegal and if the printed word (no matter what the surface) does not have a seal of approval by the Stationers Guild, well, bad things can and will happen. So N doesn’t speak to this aspect of Mosca’s adventure, but offers a recommendation that should tempt you to give Fly By Night a go in celebration of Banned Books Week or any other week hereafter. ~L


Maybe if Mosca Mye had been born on the day of Goodman Boniface and had been a child of the sun instead of the flies, maybe if her eyes had not turned as black as hot pepper, maybe if her father had not been Quilliam Mye the outcast from Mandelion who wrote dangerous books, maybe she would not have met Eponymous Clent.

As luck would have it for us readers, the book certainly begins with a determined Mosca Mye, having set her uncle’s barn on fire, encountering the singular Eponymous Clent, a very eloquent man whose abilities with words get him out of trouble–and occasionally into it. This time his talents land him an unruly secretary and her dangerous goose as they escape the flooding town of Chough and head towards the city of Mandelion. While Mosca had accompanied Clent for something new, she could never have prepared for the adventure that followed. Warring cities, hidden plots, conspiracy, an illegal printing press, the destructive bird-catchers and the sinister locksmiths challenge Mosca and Eponymous to decide who they should work for and whose lies should they believe.

This is a beautifully written story that grows on you the more you read it. Frances Hardinge applies her limitless imagination through fantastic descriptions, wonderful (and sometimes dreaded) characters, captivating dialogue, and a plot that will come at you from every direction and surprise you constantly. She continuously keeps her characters and situations believable, yet new and refreshing at the same time. The time and location it is set in is unbelievable, and it is always something I admire of her when I read Frances Hardinge’s books. In this case, you emerge from a flooded city into a fanciful land of teahouse boats that are pulled along by kites, small marriage houses, chapels full of beloved idols, towers far off, and rowdy bars. Hardinge’s funky, creative style shows in this masterpiece. Even her chapter titles reflect this, starting with A is for Arson and ending with V is for Verdict.

This book is a world filled with thieves, liars, dukes, duchesses, saints, good intent, mal intent, deviousness on both sides in general, wordsmiths, conspiracies, danger, and banned literature! I think I may be drooling.

Anyone who loves mystery, suspense, action, adventure and just reading in general should gravitate to this. Being an avid reader is suggested. Suggested ages are 10 and up.

~Natalya Lawren

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge

HarperTrophy, 2008.

Tradepaper, 512 pages.

we own it.

L’s review of Fly Trap (the book following Fly By Night).

In which L makes nice comments about Fly By Night without actually “reviewing” it.

L on Hardinge’s Lost Conspiracy, a “review

N on Well Witched aka Verdigris Deep, her “review “

yeah, we’re fans.. how could you tell?

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · Lit · recommend · wondermous

another Hardinge

“Just between you and me,” Mosca whispered, “radicalism is all about walkin’ on the grass.” (Fly Trap, 337)

Reading Frances Hardinge’s books are a dangerous proposition. I recommend them to everyone aged 10 and up. In Lost Conspiracy there is colonialism, cannibalism, and genocide. In Fly By Night there is religious/political terrorism, atheism, and book burning. In Fly By Night’s sequel Fly Trap there is more oppression, at least one decapitation,  a lot of theft and lying, and the return of “the winged warzone” Saracen.

Fly Trap by Frances Hardinge

Harper (HarperCollins), 2011.

Hardcover, 584 pages.

Fly Trap begins 3 months after Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent leave Mandelion and, needless to say, they have landed themselves in a bit of trouble. Between Mosca, Clent, and the goose Saracen, they’ve exhausted most if not all of the settlements this side of the Langfeather. But in order to get to the other side of the river to fresh prospects, they have to pass through the only town that has managed to bridge the impossibly wide and wild river—and Toll charges a toll. Toll is also the site of a dangerous intrigue to which Mosca happens to be recently somewhat privy. Perhaps she and Clent can use the kidnapping plot to their advantage and earn a reward that will pay their toll out of the city and with some pocket money beside.

Mosca lives is a fiction place, but in many ways it would recall Victorian England. But then, Hardinge renames and remarks upon much that will be familiar to the reader. In Mosca’s world, as you learn in the first novel, there is a belief that reading is dangerous; that certain books will make you go mad. And the subversive sort of writing just might. In Fly Trap, Mosca would make money as one of the few who could read, and it does bring her to some harm, but the focus of book two shifts greater focus to another interesting facet of Mosca’s world (though you can still plainly see where an illiterate and highly-censored society will get you).

Her world is filled with the superstition that involves an enormous panoply of “Beloveds.” Hardinge uses them with delight, naming each chapter of Fly Trap after some of them, “Goodlady Battlemap, Recorder of Unmitigated Disasters,” “Goodman Parsley, Soother of Painful Mornings.” Each of the Beloveds are known for certain things, some helpful, some causing harm and/or chaos. There are so many Beloveds that they have to share days and nights, allotted certain hours in which each are observed. If you are born during a certain Beloved’s hours you are named accordingly. They have lists they consult. And with the name comes some of the Beloved’s attributes.

One of the conflicts in the first novel is Mosca’s move toward atheism, she chooses to no longer buy into the system of the Beloveds. Hardinge continues in Mosca’s decision in the second, questioning whether the presence of the Beloved a comfort or a hindrance, and whether there is some truth to beliefs created around the Beloved or even Luck. For one group of people, the Beloved are the source of a good name, for others, they are definitely a hindrance. And how much does being born under a particular Beloved influence you? How much does a name, and the belief behind the name influence your outcomes? How much of an ass can assumptions and generalizations make you look? And how helpful/harmful is profiling? The subjects of Identity and Superstition is of incredible importance in Fly Trap and Hardinge treats the novel’s exploration with humor, and the utmost seriousness.

“Eponymous—that’s Phangavotte,” snapped the Raspberry. “Mosca—that’s Palpitattle. Kenning—the Book of the Hours!”


“Phangavotte’s names are daylight…just about,” came the boy’s thin, chirping voice from within the book. “Committee of the Hours have considered it for endarkening six times thought. On grounds of Phagavotte being a patron of wile, guile, tall tales, and ruses. Acquitted on account of Phagavotte being a patron of inspiration, myth, and proud dreams.” The whisper of more pages. “Palpitattle—night. Children of Palpitattle judged to be villainous, verminous, and everywhere that they’re not wanted. Not plans to review this judgment” (89).

There is hardly a better place to explore the consequences of Identity and Superstition than in Hardinge’s town named Toll. Once paid entrance into Toll, a complicated system has been created to classify and direct each person, citizen or visitor. As no one could possibly lie about their name (deeply ingrained belief), everyone is recorded—and found out. Have you a night-name or a day-name? If you stay in Toll, those with a night-name live in Toll-by-Night, and day-names live in Toll-by-Day. If you’ve a night-name you can only pray for the re-classification of your Beloved, because Toll believes that night names are dangerous/disruptive/dystopic. As a visitor Mosca is able to walk around in the daylight hours, but only for three days, and under the weight of a great deal of scorn and distrust.

How Hardinge creates a town that shifts personality and form completely between night and day is fantastic!—and completely worth the read alone.

The terror of the night hours is palpable, as are the horrifying realizations Toll begins to create. The intrigue surrounding the town’s oddities and a kidnapping plot create the perfect fire to bring everything to boiling point. Hardinge keeps the turns coming and writes a remarkable plot. Having protagonists like Mosca Mye and Saracen help.

Mosca Mye is not a sweet-cheeked heroine of eleven/twelve. She is oft described as having “black eyes, black hair, and ferrety features.” She is refreshingly pragmatic, even if that means stealing to eat, or outright lying to kidnappers as to the content of a certain letter, or launching herself out windows. Mosca is bent on survival, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be moved; which is important to remember. It is also crucial to remember that her goose companion Saracen has a mind of his own and is dangerously predictable—he can annihilate anyone or thing in his path. He is one of the best written/imagined characters you will have the pleasure to encounter.

Hardinge truly has a wonderful sense of invention. Her characters are wonderfully realized, her settings are ideally rendered, and her use of the English language is magnificent. (If you love words, Hardinge’s novels are a pleasurable place to visit.) She is one writer who tirelessly creates beautifully formed sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters. Fly Trap, like other books of Hardinge’s before it, enchants the reader with its complicated plot and daring wit. Will Mosca, Clent, and Saracen escape Toll?—and if so, how could they possibly. Hardinge’s ability to sustain the reader with a careful balance of whimsy, pointed-statements, heart, and humor makes 584 pages bearable for any reader.

Just the same, if you believe books are as dangerous as the author and I do, you are likely a bit anxious about introducing her books to a young reader, even if they are 10 and up, because Fly Trap is full of dangerous ideas. Some people do exist, even if you do not want them to; the selfish and heartless take unsuspecting forms;  cultural/physical environments do have consequences and they should be considered; perhaps one should be “everywhere that they’re not wanted;” and certainly a critical thinking child should never be underestimated when the potential for a revolution is in the offing (or even when it isn’t)…

“The heart of being a radical isn’t knowing all the right books, it isn’t about kings over the sea or the parliament over in the capital. It’s…looking at the world around you and seeing the things that make you sick to the stomach with anger. The things there’s no point making a fuss about because that’s just the way the world is, and always was and always will be. And then it means getting good and angry about it anyway, and kickin’ up a hurricane. Because nothing is writ across the sky to say the world must be this way. A tree can grow tow hundred years, and look like it’ll last a thousand more—but when the lightning strikes at last, it burns.” (378)


If you have not read Fly By Night, please do, but you can read Fly Trap and get the gist of things. Hardinge does a nice job of reminding past readers of how they got to where they are and catching new readers up on the goings on. As a sequel, Fly Trap does better than “it doesn’t disappoint;” it has that rare pleasure of if not equally, but surpassing the book one.

Fly Trap is the American release title. In England, where the author lives and her books are first published, it is called Twilight Robbery (very apt, of course) and it sports a different cover.

Also, I cannot recommend The Lost Conspiracy enough, so please add that read to your “must reads.”—I think it her best and most accessible novel. (my review.)

fiction · juvenile lit · Lit · Uncategorized · young adult lit


I am currently working through two books, or three if the one with Natalya in the evenings counts (which I suppose it does).

Natalya and I are reading Frances Hardinge’s Fly By Night. This book is one of my favorites of all time. I read it a couple years ago and I have been waiting for the short one to get old enough to enjoy it. Why do I like it? I shall count all its ways at some point. I can start with a few appreciative remarks on which I was dwelling aloud last night, and, okay, one from a couple nights ago.*

Hardinge’s treatment of setting:

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. (34)

Anything can become animate at will.

Her descriptions of people. One from last night’s reading:

Mosca and Clent were led to an unsmiling little man of fifty with a gnawed, yellow look like an apple core.  The little man’s mouth was a small, bitter V shape, and seemed designed to say small, bitter things. His wig frightened Mosca: it was so lustrous and long, so glossy and brow, one could think it had sucked the life out of the little man whom it seemed to wear. (133).

Yes, this is usual to all her introductions of characters, especially characters of interest.

And her diction. The vocabulary is incredible, and, of course, the vocabulary is important to the book. I will randomly pick two pages we’ve read thus far.

page 78, where Mosca and Clent argue; words:

wincing, exotic, cant, moldering, treacherous, hoard, keyhole-stooping, depravity, aspersions, overzealously, absurd, ethically pusillanimous compromise.

page 128, Mosca and Clent at the marriage house, directly following their agreement; words:

ballad, cuttthroat, ewer, diligence, explode, gripped by fits of poetic rage, unsuited, lithe, writhe, repetition, smooth his hair as if combing his thoughts, scanning a scribbled paper like a mother looking for signs of sickness in a newborn baby.

And there are the numerous moments of alliteration that make a tired or hurried tongue twist. Frances Hardinge crafts lovely sentences.

*First Harper Trophy edition, 2008 (paperback).

Back to the other two books. Both authors’ last names, my husband noted the other evening as I set them aside into my I-am-reading-these-presently stack, begin with Z and end in K. Their names even have the same number of letters, and vowels and consonants in the same positions. One is known as a philosopher and the other philosophizes.

Slavoj Zizek, Looking Awry

Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

Once I read more of Zizek, I may form more coincidences. At present, I have perused Zizek’s text, and dipped into it a bit. I am just past half-way with Zusak’s book.

Really, I could have finished reading Zusak if not for drifting in illness induced coughs and whining. And then there is the part that the writing requires pause. When I do finish it, I will write more–though most everything has been said, as this book has gotten a lot of attention.

With Looking Awry, I have a note pad and pencil: not something I do with all my reading (unless I know I have to write an essay for it and will only be able to read it once before a professor’s deadline). I have been exposed to more Lacan than Zizek, but what I have read of Zizek I have enjoyed; and then there was that YouTube video I watched…should hunt that up.