Cover Image: Fly By Night

Fly By Night

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I loved this book! The full review will be posted soon at! Thank you very much for this wonderful opportunity to connect books to their readers!
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I was interested in this book, but it honestly failed to captivate me and the writing was clunky. I don't have enough time for a full-blown review of a book I didn't really enjoy at all and couldn't get into!!
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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.
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I feel like this was a lot more like a middle grade than a YA novel, if I'm being honest.
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In this intriguing middle grade fantasy, twelve year old Mosca Mye leaves town with a con man she has just met and her feisty goose.  Set in the middle ages in a world where guilds rule and all writing is banned unless it is approved by the Stationers guild, Mosca had been taught to read by her now deceased father.  In her journey, she is drawn into the political and religious clashes in the kingdom.
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Unfortunately, I DNFed this book in the first 18%. It just didn't grab my attention.
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Mosca Mye burned down her uncle's mill when leaving town in the dead of night. While carrying a large, angry goose. With a man she doesn't know, who is on the run from the law, who she also set free to aid in her own escape from the drudgery of her homelife. It doesn't get much better from there for Mosca, Saracen (the goose), or Eponymous Clent (the escaped spy), but it does get highly entertaining. Fly By Night is a middle grade/early young adult novel but there is so much going on -- subtle hints, allusions, references, jokes, wordplay - that will make it readily appeal to readers of all ages and kinds.

Fly By Night is a dense and clever read; this is an author with a unique grasp on language and verbiage. In this world where books are illegal and dangerous to have, Hardinge takes pains to illustrate how that would affect a society and uses her urchin main character to subvert expectations. Granted, this version of Fahrenheit 451 runs a bit silly but it's consistently smart. The twists in the plot, the depth of the world, the dimensions of all the characters (even the villains!) all add up to create a viable, visual story. This is a good read but it does overextend itself somewhat. At almost four hundred fifty pages total, the inevitable lag in pacing is noticeable but also not wholly detrimental.

Clever, fun, detailed, Fly By Night has creativity and fun to spare.
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I don’t read a lot of fantasy, but Fly By Night got my attention when I saw it on Netgalley. A book about a young orphan with a love of words going on a journey in a time when reading is dangerous? Count me in.

This book delivered what it promised, but not exactly how I expected.

For starters, there was a level of development to the world that I was not expecting. I thought because it was a middle grade book it would have a more simplistic world, but this blew me away. There was an entire political system based on gods – “Beloved” – and guilds. Each had their own alliances, feuds, and rich history.

The Beloved were very eccentric. The main character Mosca -literally Fly in Spanish- is named after being born on the day of Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies Out of Jams and Butterchurns. There’s also Goodman Boniface, whose children are “of the Sun” (and they have such pretty names!). There are plenty more mentioned, but the silliness of these was jarring at first. The strangeness was almost a bit too much and made it hard to initially get invested in the world. Yet, even when it’s very silly, there’s hints of reality in the practices of this world that make it a little easier to digest.

Mosca is a very bold and smart girl. She’s both very childish (what can you expect from a girl of 12?) and wise beyond her years. She has a talent for danger, like arson and wars and incriminating innocent people. One of my favorite lines from the book says plenty of her.

“To Mosca’s slight disappointment, everybody seemed more interested in hauling ropes than engaging in naval warfare.”

She has a Goose named Saracen who is awfully vicious and provides a lot of comic relief. He is probably the only reason Mosca stays alive throughout several points in the book. Despite not having any speaking role, he’s a great companion and surprisingly skilled in combat.

Mosca decides to run away after hearing about Eponymous Clent, a man who loves words and is accused of swindling the whole town. He quickly becomes one of my favorite characters. Just his introduction made me laugh.

“Since there was little he could do about his situation, he seemed determined to strike as picturesque and dramatic a pose as possible. The back of one hand rested despairingly across his forehead, while his other arm was thrown wide in a flamboyant attitude… the mouth was moving, spilling out long, languorous sentences in a way which suggested that, despite his predicament, the speaker rather enjoyed the sound of his own voice.”

Something about that reminded me of Gilderoy Lockhart from Harry Potter for some reason and I loved it. Clent is what I imagine if Lockhart kept the attitude and lost half the dishonesty, an overconfident mess who relies on others more than he wants to admit.

I won’t say too much about the plot because it wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense without introducing spoilers, but it is wonderful!

The story is fast-paced and goes in all sorts of directions you wouldn’t expect. There’s the threat of war, conspiracy plots, murder, secrets. A lot of action, too, but also a lot of humor. You start to love the characters more as you go on and the world even starts to make a little bit of sense.

Once you get past the strangeness of it all, it’s really so enjoyable, but you do have to be in the right mood to get into the story.
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This is a fantastic read for the middle school market. The story is well written and the characters are fantastic. I will certainly recommend this book to my colleagues who work in school libraries servicing students in upper elementary and junior high. I love this author and did purchase The Lie Tree for my school.
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Mosca and Eponymous Clent are great characters who find themselves on the wrong side of the law and the wrong side of the powerful guilds. Mosca is a young, beaten-down girl who is pretty much alone in the world, so she attaches herself to conman Eponymous Clent. But Clent is entangled in some dangerous circumstances, and Mosca finds herself wondering who she can trust. This is the kind of fantasy I can get behind!
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Mosca Mye escapes the depressing world of her uncle and aunt’s farm with her pet goose Saracen after accidentally setting fire to the mill.

She finds a traveling partner in Eponymous Clent, a smooth-talking balladier. The two become embroiled in political intrigue as the kingdom is split into factions loyal to different royal siblings.

Hardinge sets a different tone from The Lie Tree (although something called an “honest plant” makes a cameo appearance). The world-building is superb, with patron saints of the mundane. With names like Mipsquall the Patron of High-Pitched Winds and Saint Whillmop of the Peaceful Dream, it’s hard not to chuckle at the creativity of it all. And it’s a great adventure.
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According to Goodreads, this book was first published in 2005, so I'm not really sure why it was on Netgalley with a more recent release date, but oh well. While I enjoyed this book quite a bit, it took me so long to read which made it a little less enjoyable. I think it was just written in such a way that made it hard to read quickly. The writing was great, but it didn't necessarily leave me eager to turn the page to see what happens next. Hardinge is an interesting author. I've read The Lie Tree by her, but wasn't very impressed. While it's obvious that a lot of thought goes into her books, I find that I'm mostly left feeling vaguely confused by things.

But getting into the book, the characters were great. I really liked Mosca as a protagonist. The reader roots for her even when she's making bad decisions. Even though she's kind of a prickly character, she's immensely likable as well. Saracen was probably my favorite animal sidekick of all time. He's completely selfish, but everything he does kind of ends up helping anyway. He was just a really funny character in my opinion. The rest of the characters were equally interesting and well-developed. The one thing that I absolutely loved about this book is that it's not clear until almost the very end who is "good" and who is "bad". At multiple points throughout the story anybody could be the bad guy.

The world that Hardinge has created is interesting, but not terribly well-developed. We spend most of the book in Mandelion, but I had not idea if it was the capital of this country or just a random city. It was not clear whether this city had any importance to the rest of the country and that (for some reason) made things a little confusing for me. The author has also created a really complicated political system and religion that doesn't get 100% explained. As both of these things play a large role in the overall plot, I was left confused multiple times trying to reread to see if I had missed an important detail.

Overall, I thought this book was enjoyable and I would recommend it for Middle Grade readers and up. Perhaps I just didn't have enough time to invest to understand the world and different structures within it but I do feel like younger me would have enjoyed it quite a bit. There is a sequel, Fly Trap, but I probably won't be reading it just because this first one was so difficult to get through.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: Mild

Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Having read Frances Hardinge's book The Lie Tree and finding it a dark and exciting book, I wanted to read more of her work. I requested this on NetGalley before realizing it was actually an older title that was being rereleased, but that didn't bother me. Fly By Night is the story of a headstrong girl, Mosca Mye, who shouldn't know how to read but does and becomes something of a spy in a time when the wrong book has the potential to twist your brain and her world's political system is in continual turmoil. Plus, there was the promise of a pet goose, a unique pet in literature.

Each chapter was titled with a letter of the alphabet in the vein of "A is for Arson" and "H is for High Treason". I thought this was neat and I made it as far as the end of "I is for Informer" before I realized that this book was not going to be a good experience for me. 

The first couple of chapters were interesting and the action was fairly even keeled, but things started getting out of balance quickly. The language was getting unbearable, like it was an epic fantasy meant for adults that was trying to make itself more appropriate for children. It wasn't that the material was inappropriate, it was the flowery descriptions and the making something out of nothing. I got bored very quickly and while I wanted to finish this book and gave it my very best effort, it was when I arrived at 34% that I realized I did not care about what was happening or to whom. 

I'm not sure I can say whether or not the middle grade audience would actually like this or not. It feels like it was trying too hard to be two completely different things and that it could have been great if it had settled on one. I'm not convinced it would've been a good adult fantasy, which is how the writing felt it was leaning, but a solid middle grade fantasy was a definitive possibility if it were curbed in.

I'll give this author another chance as I did enjoy another of her novels, but no more in this particular series.
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I couldn't get into the story it was a little everywhere and didnt make sense at all in the beginning . I really wish I liked it but I didn't. However I will recommend it to anyone with an interest in this type of book.
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I did not finish this book as I did not engage with this story at all.
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This was great! It took me a little longer to than her other titles but once I did I really enjoyed it. Funny, action-packed, and touching in an unexpected way. Mosca is a tough cookie and I would be thrilled to read about her future adventures.
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Definitely one of many books I have requested based on a good description and an awesome cover, but definitely not one that I would recommend.

Everybody knew that books were dangerous. Read the wrong book, it was said, and the words crawled around your brain on black legs and drove you mad, wicked mad. Mosca Mye was born at a time sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butterchurns, which is why her father insisted on naming her after the housefly. He also insisted on teaching her to read—even in a world where books are dangerous, regulated things. Eight years later, Quillam Mye died, leaving behind an orphaned daughter with an inauspicious name and an all-consuming hunger for words. Trapped for years in the care of her cruel Uncle Westerly and Aunt Briony, Mosca leaps at the opportunity for escape, though it comes in the form of sneaky swindler Eponymous Clent. As she travels the land with Clent and her pet goose, Saracen, Mosca begins to discover complicated truths about the world she inhabits and the power of words.

Fly by Night starts too far into the story. The prologue is purely expository, telling us all about the political history of the world, and ends with a few sentences wrapping up when Mosca’s father dies and how old she will be in chapter one. In chapter one, Mosca is already running away with a stolen goose. She is looking to free Eponymous Clent, a man who was recently jailed as a con man. Mosca believes Clent can help her escape. It is not until the end of the chapter that we learn she has set fire to her uncle’s barn, that she was living with her uncle, or that her uncle was cruel to her.

There is also a significant amount of justification missing from Mosca’s characterization. Her life with her uncle is among that but so is her desperation to stay with Eponymous Clent, who literally abandons her every chance he gets. It feels like the only reason she is drawn to him is to have adult supervision. I have no reason to believe that Mosca needs Clent when she is capable, not only of catching up to him, but also of finding things on her own.

There is simply not enough building before the action of the story begins and ultimately, Fly by Night suffered for it.
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Mosca is full of want. To be more than what she is forced to be. In search of words that are unspoken and travels that are unending. What she gets is all that and more. She accidentally burns down her Uncle's mill, who is just the worst, and becomes a fugitive in doing so. Saracen (her pet goose) is the only friend she has to keep her company. That is until she encounters Clent, a con of proportions who takes Mosca under his wing. Even though many tell her that he is not someone a girl should be in the company of, she ignores them all and stays near.

"Because I'd been hoarding words for years, buying them from peddlers and carving them secretly onto 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."

Although Clent aids her in being a part of all the madness, he makes everything more interesting and fills the pages with plenty of action-packed adventures. Introducing Mosca to a variety of characters. Many with their own personal agendas, others they double crossed on the way, many she never though she would ever encounter. Including the Locksmiths and Stationers who are a part of an ever growing war, in hopes of taking over Mandelion and creating their own perfect society.

And lets not forget Saracen who is a goose full of craziness. A mind of its own, with no end in sight. He lets no one tell him where to go and how to be, let alone treat him as though he is the next thing on the dinner plate. There are many laughable moments because of him and  kooky antics. Mosca adores Saracen and holds him dear to her heart. And much aware that Saracen can defend himself if need be.

"At last she raised the broad bonnet brim and gazed cautiously out into the shop. The floor was awash with the chalky shrapnel of shattered leaves and slivered ribbons. Through the debris swaggered Saracen, trailing a hessian rug like a cloak, a sprinkling of stone dust across his orange beak. Farthingale had taken refuge behind the wreckage and was cupping one hand over his bloodied nose."

For all book enthusiasts, this is a read that will genuinely be enjoyed. Knowing that even though books and reading were banned, this little girl found a way to bring all that back into her life and make the pages in her mind have meaning. With twists and turns at every corner, Fly By Night will keep you reading 'til the very last word.

***I received this copy from Amulet Paperbacks via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.***
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"He had bewitched the entire village with an urbane twinkle. That afternoon, however, Chough had fallen out of love with him just as quickly and completely. Word had spread that a visitor to the magistrate’s house had exposed Clent as a notorious trickster and cheat. Dusk had seen him shackled in the stocks and almost friendless.

Almost, but not quite. 

… His way with words had won him an unlikely rescuer."

In a realm where reading is forbidden and all manner of civil war has been happening, a twelve-year-old orphan and her fiery goose companion find themselves at the center of a revolution. The power of words, she discovers, is much greater than was even previously thought.

For me, the first chapters were such a hit that I was honestly surprised. Turns out this book has won lots of awards, so that makes sense. This, of course, being a republication of the original. Also, how beautiful is this cover? All of the editions I’ve found online are equally gorgeous.

The writing has a youthfulness to it, making it feel like it could be for any reader, particularly younger ones, but it’s wonderful! (And that’s coming from a 22-year-old!) Simply, the writing is beautiful. Sometimes it took me a moment to truly see what was meant, but in the end I was thoroughly impressed, and struggled to choose which quote I liked best for this post. Is it strange to say that a book had a British feel? Before I knew where the author was from, I got the sense that they might be from somewhere in the UK, perhaps because of saying things like “the door closed to,” which I heard a lot during my time abroad. Either way, the writing is great fun.

It starts out feeling like a fairytale, and the characters are so unexpected that it’s no wonder people have loved this book so well and it’s been so awarded. It’s one of those books that I feel like I needed to read, and is one that I’m glad has been brought to my attention.

This book comes out the day after my birthday, so I certainly won’t be forgetting to pick up a physical copy!
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