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Fly by Night

Fly by Night

3.8 23
by Frances Hardinge

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Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye hasn't got much. Her parents are dead, her cruel uncle keeps her locked away, and her only friend is her pet goose. But she does have one small, rare thing: the ability to read. In a world where books are dangerous things, this gift will change her life—but it may also be the death of her.


Twelve-year-old Mosca Mye hasn't got much. Her parents are dead, her cruel uncle keeps her locked away, and her only friend is her pet goose. But she does have one small, rare thing: the ability to read. In a world where books are dangerous things, this gift will change her life—but it may also be the death of her.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a broken-down medieval kingdom where reading is forbidden, 12-year-old Mosca Mye is drawn to a traveling con artist who "brought phrases as vivid and strange as spices, and he smiled as he spoke, as if tasting them." Hardinge's stylish way with prose gives her sprawling debut fantasy a literate yet often silly tone that calls to mind Monty Python. Plucky Mosca rescues the con man-called Eponymous Clent-from the town stocks, accidentally burning down her uncle's mill in the process. Their journey unfolds against a wickedly complex political backdrop, a fragmented civilization largely run by guilds of locksmiths, boatmen and printers (the only ones allowed to decide which books will survive). Mosca and Clent find themselves embroiled in intrigue between the guilds, an entry point to a sly bit of allegory involving a secret printing press and "dangerous" pamphleteers ("Truth is dangerous. It topples palaces and kills kings.... And yet there is one thing that is more dangerous than Truth. Those who would silence Truth's voice are more destructive by far," a teacher reads aloud). Along with an infusion of high-camp fantasy, Hardinge firmly plants in the novel the heroine's serious love of reading, which informs nearly everything Mosca does ("I'd been hoarding words for years," she says in an introspective moment, "buying them from peddlers and carving them secretly into bits of bark so I wouldn't forget them"). And the setting is detailed and complex enough to inspire many sequels. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
There is never a dull moment as Mosca burns down the barn and escapes from her wicked aunt and uncle to become the companion of an eloquent thief named Clent. Clent has a way with words and can usually talk his way out of any situation. With her ferocious goose, the threesome travel to Mandelion. There, the Locksmith and Stationer Guilds maintain order while the Duke; his sister, Lady Tamarind; and the Birdcatchers vie for power. The Stationers control the printing presses and decide what books can be read and what is banned; but a hidden press is printing subversive material. With twists and turns and people not who they seem, Mosca is never sure who to trust and the reader is continually caught off guard. Can she trust Kolrabi, the messenger of Lady Tamarind? Or, Pertellis who teaches the local children how to read and write illegal material? Maybe Captain Blythe, the ruthless highwayman who becomes a hero of the people due to a ballad Clent wrote? Who really owns the printing press? The heretical teacher? Perhaps Lady Tamarind, so she can incite the Guilds to fight each other? From deposing a ship captain's body to hiding in the printing press and the goose wreaking havoc to crocodiles guarding Tamarind, the plot and characters are absolutely zany, but the absurd adventures keep readers wondering what will happen next. 2005, HarperCollins Publishers, and Ages 9 to 13.
—Janet L. Rose
VOYA - Ann Welton
Mosca Mye, twelve years old and ready for a change, wants to leave Chough. It may be the only home she knows, but it is perennially damp and there is no chance for education. One of the few people in the literal backwater who knows how to read-courtesy of her now-dead father-Mosca has in mind the Ragged School in Mendalion, the closest large city. When smooth-talking Eponymous Clent shows up and gets affixed to the stocks for telling lies, Mosca sees an opportunity. It is, of course, an accident that her uncle's mill catches fire, but the rest of the caper, from stealing the keys to the stocks to snatching a fearsome goose named Saracen, goes quite smoothly. Soon accompanying a grudging Clent, she is on her way to the city and more complication and adventure than she bargains for. Hardinge constructs a mesmerizing story-based on life in England circa 1700-of a kingdom fractured by religious strife and censorship and a girl with the dangerous gifts of literacy and a drive for betterment. The characterization is superb, from the verbally gifted but almost fatally obtuse Clent to the mad Duke and his preternaturally calm but scheming sister. Mosca, equal parts Nancy Drew and Becky Sharp and wholly herself, is determined, bright, and self-serving, loyal only to her dreams, her terrifying goose, and-finally-the hapless Clent. The wheels-within-wheels plot and wonderful setting, fantastic only in the most realistic way, give a propulsive movement to a tale that is at once stirring and amusing. It will provide excellent fare for upper elementary, middle, and junior high school readers who like adventure, sophisticated humor, strong female protagonists, and challenging vocabulary.
KLIATT - Deirdre Root
In a world where words are dangerous and a free press is banned, lovable rascal Mosca May is on the run, with only a traveling con man named Eponymous Clent and a cranky goose for company. Their troubles are only beginning when they reach the capitol city of Mandelion, where the plots and counterplots of the various guilds and factions catch the travelers in a dangerous web. The danger only increases when Mosca learns that her father was a famous teacher and radical, both feared and revered. It takes all her wits to untangle the knot of loyalties and betrayals to work for the preservation of the Realm. This delightful romp is bound to appeal to children and adults alike, and Mosca will be a joy to travel with in the future. Reviewer: Deirdre Root
School Library Journal
Gr 5-9-Mosca, 12, and Eponymous Clent, a traveling wordsmith of dubious repute, become immersed in the intrigues of the city of Mandelion, where rival guilds vie for power with a "pixilated" Duke and his scheming sister. Initially awed by her confusing new surroundings, Mosca gradually pieces together important truths about the realm and her place within it. Through rich, colorful language and a sure sense of plot and pacing, Hardinge has created a distinctly imaginative world full of engaging characters, robust humor, and true suspense. Readers get to know the realm and its people through the interactions between Mosca and a well-drawn cast of supporting characters. While she tries to judge right from wrong within the complex plots that ensnare her, she finds that few of the people she meets are as simple as they first seem. Vying religious beliefs also play a part in the fate of the realm, and the details develop neatly as the adventures progress. Plot twists, lively dialogue, and the antics of Mosca's fierce pet goose add plenty of humor. The conclusion addresses the value of words in a satisfying manner. This sophisticated tale is not for everyone. Some readers may struggle to keep track of the complex politics, history, and religion in Mosca's world, but those who appreciate the inventive plots of Cornelia Funke and Jonathan Stroud or Lloyd Alexander's colorful prose should thoroughly enjoy this highly original adventure.-Steven Engelfried, Beaverton City Library, OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world.”
Publishing News
“A rich and intensive tale. One to keep an eye on.”
Bookseller (London)
“A wonderful and wondrous novel. Frances Hardinge has joined the company of writers whose books I will always seek out and read.”—Garth Nix“A rollicking read to be savored.”
Seattle Times
“Incredibly well written.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (starred review)
“Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world.”
The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books
“Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world.”
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world."
Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (starred review)
“Intricate plotting, well-developed and fascinating characters, delicious humor, and exquisite worldcraft envelop readers fully into this richly imagined world.”

Product Details

Pan Macmillan
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Fly by Night

By Frances Hardinge

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Frances Hardinge
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060876271

A Is for Arson

It was often said that only divine flame could persuade anything to burn in Chough. Many joked that the villagers cooked their dinners over marsh lights.

Chough could be found by straying as far as possible from anywhere comfortable or significant, and following the smell of damp. The village had long since surrendered to a seeping, creeping rot. The buildings rotted from the bottom upward. The trees rotted from the inside out. The carrots and turnips rotted from the outside in, and were pale and pulpy when they were dug out.

Around and through the village, water seethed down the breakneck hillside in a thousand winding streamlets. They hissed and gleamed through dark miles of pine forest above the village, chafing the white rocks and learning a strange milkiness. Chough itself was more a tumble than a town, the houses scattered down the incline as if stranded there after a violent flood.

By day the villagers fought a losing battle against the damp. By night they slept and dreamed sodden, unimaginative dreams. On this particular night their dreams were a little ruffled by the unusual excitement of the day, but already the water that seeped into every soul was smoothing their minds back to placidity, like a duck's bill glossing its plumage.

One mind, however, was wakeful and nursing the black flame of rebellion. At midnight the owner of that mind could be found hiding in the local magistrate's dovecote.

This dovecote was large, and from the outside its conical roof bore a remarkable resemblance to a castle turret. At the moment, the dovecote was remarkably free of doves and remarkably full of twelve-year-old girl and oversized goose.

Mosca wore the wide-eyed look of one who is listening very carefully, and she chewed gently at the stem of her unlit pipe as she did so, feeling the splinters working their way up between her teeth. Her attention was painfully divided between the sound of approaching voices and the pear-shaped silhouette of a single dove against one of the little arched doorways above her. Trying to balance her weight on the slender perch poles with an agitated goose under one arm, Mosca was already regretting her choice of hiding place.

Each time a bird appeared at one of the openings, Saracen hissed. If the doves seemed to be hissing, this might make someone curious enough to investigate and discover Mosca hiding there at midnight with someone else's goose. Mosca had excellent reasons for not wanting to be dragged back home to face her Uncle Westerly and Aunt Briony. She had plans of her own, and none of them involved the sorts of punishments that would be waiting for her if she was caught on this night of all nights.

"We're much beholden to you, sir. If you had not chanced by and warned us, the fellow might have been fleecing our gullible housewives a month hence." It was the magistrate's voice. Mosca froze.

"It was not entirely a matter of chance." A young man was speaking, his voice gentle and reassuring, like warm milk. "When I changed horses at Swathe someone mentioned that a man named Eponymous Clent had been staying here for the last week. I knew him well by reputation as a villain and swindler, and your village was only a little out of my way."

"Well, you must delay your journey a little longer, I fear. You shall stay the night and let me thank you in broth, beef and brandy." The snap of a snuffbox opening. "Do you indulge?"

"When it is offered so hospitably, yes."

The dove stared. It could see something crouching among the tangle of perches. Something big, something dark, something breathing. Something that gave a long, low hiss like skates across ice.

Mosca kicked out, and the toe of her boot caught the dove just beneath the snow-white plum of its chest, causing it to tumble backward into flight. "Is something amiss?"

"No, I just thought for a moment . . ." Mosca held her breath.

". . . I thought I could smell smoke."

"Ah, the snuff does have a touch of brimstone in it."

"So . . ." The younger man sniffed once, twice, to clear his nose, and then spoke again in a less nasal tone. "So you will no doubt keep Mr. Clent in the stocks for a day or two, and then have him taken to Pincaster for further punishment?"

"I believe we must. Chough has a magistrate but lacks a gibbet . . ."

The voices faded, and a door clicked to. After a time, the faint orange ache of candlelight in the nearest window dulled and died.

The roof of the dovecote stealthily rose, and two sets of eyes peered out through the gap. One pair of eyes were coal beads, set between a bulging bully brow and a beak the color of pumpkin peel. The other pair were human, and as hot and black as pepper.

Mosca's eyes had earned her countless beatings, and years of suspicion. For one thing, they had a way of looking venomous even when she held her pointed tongue. For another thing, her eyes wielded a power that was beyond everyone else in Chough except the magistrate. She could read.

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. It did not help that she was daughter of Quillam Mye, who had come to Chough from Mandelion amid rumors of banishment, bringing city thoughts crackling with cleverness and dozens of dark-bound, dangerous books. Mosca might as well have been the local witch in miniature.

After her father's death, Mosca's eyes had at least earned her a roof over her head. Her uncle, the older brother of her dead mother, was glad to have someone to take care of his accounts and letters. His niece was useful but not trusted, and every night he locked her in the mill with the account book to keep her out of trouble. This evening he had turned the key upon her as usual, without knowing that he was doing so for the very last time. He was now snoring like an accordion amid sweet dreams of grist and fine grain, with no inkling that his niece was loose yet again and embarked upon a desperate mission.

Mosca wrinkled her pointed nose in a sniff. There was a faint hint of smoke on the night air. Her time was running out.

A week before, a man named Eponymous Clent had arrived in Chough and talked his way into every heart and hearth. 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. Since the burning of her father's books, Mosca had been starved of words. She had subsisted on workaday terms, snub and flavorless as potatoes. Clent had brought phrases as vivid and strange as spices, and he smiled as he spoke, as if tasting them. His way with words had won him an unlikely rescuer.

The magistrate's house had originally been built on a raised lump of land with two deep cracks cut around it on either side, providing a channel for the water. This had been all very well, until the water had enjoyed one of its wild nights, in which it pulled the hillside into new shapes and threw boulders like dice. In the morning, the magistrate had found a hill of white silt and rubble piled up against the back of his house, and the sweet spring sunlight gleaming upon the streamlets as they poured across his roof and dripped in diamonds from his thatch.

In an attempt to snatch the magistrate's vegetable garden from the domain of the. . .


Excerpted from Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge Copyright © 2006 by Frances Hardinge. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Frances Hardinge is the celebrated author of Fly By night, Well Witched, and The Lost Conspiracy. She spent her childhood in Kent, England, in a huge, isolated old house in a small, strange village, and from an early age she wrote stories filled with magic and vivid characters. Ms. Hardinge studied at Oxford University, where she was a founding member of a writers' workshop. This is her fourth novel.

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Fly by Night 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
These characters are my friends...the plot was intriguing but not too much so. The entire book was a perfect balance. ...and a perfect speed. Ms. Hardinge gently slips in the most tasty bits of metaphors and word-play. - the dust cover says ages 10 and up - I am 45. it's a joy for any reader.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I believe that too many people think of this book as a childrens book. And the author isn't aiming it that direction. Just because the main character is a child people automatically think it's a book for children. I believe where most people get confused is when the author drops back into 'history' to explain the significance of things that happen during the books timeline. So, I would recommend it for the mature reader but it is NOT a childrens book. And just because you don't understand something, because of lack of years, doesn't make something boring for the rest of us.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Fly by Night' is an uninspired story with tired overused characters. Even taken as a 'fantasy-lite' story - where the emphasis is not on challenging the reader, but rather taking them on an entertaining adventure - it fails miserably. The first problem is the prose, which is as unimaginative as it is wordy. The author seems to take great lengths to describe a scene with cumbersome detail and poorly chosen words. Every paragraph seems to drag on, and when finally finished, you don't feel as if you know any more about anything. The next problem is the dialog, which is simply poorly written and dull. Lastly, the story is so cliche that it really isn't worth getting to the end to see what happened. With the plethora of stories available in this genre, a potential reader would be best suited to go elsewhere.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So Underrated!!  I don't understand why this book isn't more well known. The writing is incredible, and while I do agree that it may be a little hard to get into at first, if you stick with it its amazing. Unlike some other reviewers, I love the fact that the author goes into so much detail. I love the whole world and felt like I was in Mandelion, going on adventures with Mosca Mye. Definitely try this book. Oh, and I don't believe it is solely a children's book at all. It can be enjoyed by all ages. :)
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Emily405920 More than 1 year ago
As a teenager i come across a great many books about high school, girl/guy drama, and other things that adults believe is all we all care about. i found this book to not only contradict such a stereotype but it also heightened my intellect and increased my vocabulary, all the while entertaining me and giving me a story with great characters that i could associate myself with... and this is not just a book for children.. nor is it a book for just adults.. when a book is just a good book then anyone of every age would enjoy reading it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
My son recommended this to me and there is indeed a lot here for adults to love! The premise is fresh, the characters splendid and the message nontrivial. I hope there is a sequel waiting in the wings....!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is incredible. That said, it is a hard book to get into, and I actually found myself wanting to give up on it a couple of times. This book has lots of things that are hard to understand at first, but if you manage to get into it, it becomes something truly great. The depth of it is amazing as the history of the Fracture Realm is really complex (in a good way though). The characters in the stroy actually feel like they are real people, and you watch and see how they all really grow and develop in ways that are believable. There is lots of dry humor in it as well. Many people gave it bad ratings, but that's simply because they didn't really get into it. Like I said, it does take a while to get into it, but once you do it becomes a true work of art.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved Hardinge's wit throughout the book. I was immediately pulled into the story. Some reviewers called the book slow. I'm 19 and an english major... maybe the younger crowd didn't catch her humor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hey there! (I really enjoy writing reviews, so I have quite a few out!) There are plenty of people who rate this book--BORING! But I don't see why they did. For one thing, I think I do know why people don't like it. IF YOU WANT TO READ THIS BOOK, READ THIS PART! This book contains large vocabulary--what I did to enjoy the book was keep track of the words I ran into that I didn't know. Each night, I would look them up in a dictionary and learn them that way. That way, things made much more sense. So, if you're looking for an easy book to understand and enjoy, this may not be the book for you. HOWEVER--this book is beauitfully written. Though confusing at some points, it has a very interesting story line that is fun to follow. I think this book has much potential and has an urbanely (learned that word from this book!) manner. If you want a challenge, this book is right for you! It's very interesting how the storyline runs. It's constantly twisting and turning and I was always caught surprised and so excited to see what would happen next. This book is great for fantasy, suspense, surprise, adventure and patient readers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If I could use but one word to describe this book, it would be: different. I'm not implying that it is so original that you have never seen one of it's kind before but it was just like a classic story with a few things that were new to me. The fact that a con man is included within the story was a example of a difference. The story on its own was a bit plain but Hardinge's words made it seem more vibrant than ever. No matter what people say, Fly By Night is a classic example of one of the better books in childrens' literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Like others, I was really surprised by the lack of quality in this book. I was quite disappointed in the book. I have read a lot of Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre and I would NOT recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was interested at first, I read the first say ten chapters, and then I couldn't bear the book a single second longer. The plot is rambling. It is hard for children to understand, as it may be enjoyable to an adult, the main character is uninteresting. A disappointment
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, but not as good as it is made up to be.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Welcome to the Fractured Realm. Here is a land, a country in many ways similar to England in the eighteenth century. The basic premise of a world where books are censored and meted out by the elite few and the everyday lives of the people are spent trying to please a vast array of minor gods (or Goodmen as is the case here) is not necessarily original. But Hardinge¿s ability to create and sustain a believable alternate world, whose reality is never made questionable, and a story that honestly perplexes and surprises is rare and welcome. We learn how the Fractured Realm came to be broken, of the battles between the Guilds, the jockeying to bring back the monarchy, and the dangerous religious wars of the followers of the Beloved and the Birdcatchers and never doubt for a moment that this is the chilling history of a real world. This beautifully crafted tale begins in the village of Chough with the naming of Mosca Mye. This little fly on the wall is destined for great, if not good, things. Raised by her father, a man of letters named Quilliam Mye whose past is shadowed in deepest black, Mosca has the distinction of being on of the few girls in the Fractured Realm who can read and write. This distinction is not one of honor as we see by the distrust with which she is treated. At age twelve, Mosca is a sharp, shrewish girl, rough spoken and bold. Her father died four years ago, his books soon following in a fiery blaze, destroyed for reasons unknown by the people of the town that had always distrusted this strangely silent man. She has since been living with her dead mother¿s sister and her husband, a mill owner. On the night we again meet Mosca Mye, she has set in action a course of events from which she cannot turn back. Along with Saracen the goose, Mosca escapes the watery wasteland of her childhood with a reluctant companion, Eponymous Clent, a wordsmith and con artist. Their journey will lead them directly into the writhing turmoil of their land centering on the town of Mandelion. As Mosca strives to identify the truth in a vast sea of new ideas, stories, and histories she often makes mistakes. She is not the anemic heroine of many modern tales, a girl of high birth raised in squalor but untouched by its filth. She is a very human girl who has suffered from the neglect she has experienced in the last few years of her short life. That neglect has tarnished but not destroyed. We see Mosca grow and learn and change nearly every moment of the book. She is real and as such is not always likable she is, however, captivating There is a fairly large cast of characters important to the outcome of the story, and each among them is given a chance to shine and develop. It is a dangerous land, this Fractured Realm watch all and trust none. This book is appropriate for its specified age range and beyond, addressing more mature issues with a discretion that parents will appreciate. The vocabulary is at times advanced you may want to keep a dictionary handy for your child (and yourself).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is a complete and total waste of time. DO NOT read this awful crappy book unless you want to suffer a very painful reading experience.