RogerBW's Blog

Fly By Night, Frances Hardinge 21 April 2016

2005 non-historical fiction. Mosca lives in a tiny rural village, but her exiled father taught her to read and to love words. She takes her first opportunity to escape, and finds herself (and Saracen the goose) mixed up in matters that will determine the fate of a great city.

"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."

Normally as I read a book I mark various passages on my ereader, for possible quotation in the review. I had to restrain myself for this book: there are so many lovely phrases that I could easily have marked up the whole thing.

Once, in a day that some still remember, there was a king who spent a lot of time devising beautiful gardens and thinking clever thoughts about the stars. He meant very well, and ruled very badly, and in the end they cut off his head, and melted down his crown to make coins.

The Shattered Realm is something like England after the Civil War, but with many potential new kings; Parliament is deciding who shall rule, and has been for so many years that while people still support their preferred candidates with a gesture nobody really expects the kings to return. Meanwhile, the guilds have quietly taken over: nothing can be legally printed without the Stationers' stamp, and the Locksmiths are running both police and crime.

Chough could be found by straying as far as possible from anywhere comfortable or significant, and following the smell of damp.

But none of that means anything to Mosca (named for the day of her birth, which is sacred to Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns), at least at first. She's living in the tiny village where her now-dead father fled, and she escapes by releasing the itinerant con-artist Eponymous Clent from the stocks and forcing herself into his company.

On the upside, Mosca was now one of the few people in Mandelion who knew where the infamous illegal printing press was. On the downside, she rather suspected that she was in it.

She will meet highwaymen, great nobles, anarchists, mad nobles, celebrants of no-questions-asked marriages, religious fanatics, and secret agents who don and doff loyalties as easily as their cloaks. And her own principles will be tested: there's all too often a choice between an easy way that'll get her further mired in lies, and a hard way that'll cause more trouble and not really help anyone…

You shouldn't just go believin' things for no reason, pertickly if you got a sword in your hand!

This is a lovely book, and I enjoyed every moment of it.

I don't want a happy ending, I want more story.

And I'm going to get more story, too: this is followed by Twilight Robbery (vt Fly Trap).

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  1. Posted by Dr Bob at 07:01pm on 21 April 2016

    I've loved every Francis Hardinge book I've read. A Face Like Glass is my favourite so far - 2 more on the kindle To Read pile (er... To Read FILE?).

    She's lovely in person too. She was a guest at Armadacon and I'd recommend her as good value and very entertaining to any other cons.

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