Words have an undeniable power. Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge depicts a world in which books are dangerous and seeing the printed word fosters a panic among society.
Mosca Mye is a 12 year old, orphaned girl who can read and is intrigued by the information that books contain, which is abnormal in the Fractured Realm where there is much censorship of printed materials. Looking for a way to escape living with her aunt and uncle, Mosca aims to leave her home for greater adventures. In freeing wordsmith and con-man Eponymous Clent, Mosca gains her opportunity to escape. Navigating the world with Clent and her goose, Sacaren, Mosca begins to learn more about the Realm, its history that has determined the current actions of those running and living in it, and the unbelievable power that words wield.
The concept was intriguing and the language was well-crafted and incredibly descriptive, but the narrative jumped around a bit too much, particularly with which characters could be trusted as their motivations were revealed layer by layer as a means to move the plot forward. While the story’s main ideas weren’t particularly groundbreaking, as the presentation of individual, critical ideas and the power of words reminded me of Fahrenheit 451, this narrative was written in a style more reminiscent of Dickens, which offered a different take the ideas presented. I found Mosca’s speech patterns to be a little odd given her bookish upbringing – she seemed to use slang and “was” in place of “is” in a seemingly uneducated manner that doesn’t fit with the knowledge she possesses and what her father would have instilled in her during her formative years.
Overall, I’d give it a 3 out of 5 stars.