Fly by Night, by Frances Hardinge, tells the story of Mosca Mye, a 12-year-old girl who runs away from a life with her aunt and uncle to discover a whole new life of adventure. I found the fantastical characters not unlike those used by Lemony Snicket in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Each one peeled back a layer of the unusual times in which Mosca lives.
Hardinge is kind enough to capture the backstory for readers in the prologue. Quilliam Mye, Mosca's father, recounts how the world in which they live is a Fractured one. You see, the Parliment was supposed to choose a leader for the people to follow. There was, however, one small problem.
No leader was chosen, so townspeople decide for themselves who to follow based on a complicated system. When someone is born, for example, they are named according to which Beloved god the infant is born under.
Groups, known as guilds, have formed. These are alliances of working men who share in common the same trade. One guild could be all farmers. Another is all electricians, etc. However, some guilds are critical.
The Locksmiths have been formed out of those who make keys and locks. There is not a lock which can be made that they cannot open. This quality gives them a special type of power.
The Stationers are printmakers and bookbinders. They alone decide what the people are allowed to read. If a document does not bear their seal, it is considered to be heresy. Therefore, it must be burned.
As readers follow Mosca and her new friend, Eponymous Clent, a magical adventure awaits on every page. In a clever move, the chapters go by letters of the alphabet from a to v. Villians are mixed in with the heroes, who find out that people are not always who they claim to be at first.
This may be Hardinge's first novel, but I liked it a lot. The story itself was a page-turner, even if it took a while to read. For those who would like to know more about the elusive author, check out her website. You can also find a blog about her book tour at
Fly By Night, Blog By Day.