Mosca Mye, Saracen and Eponymous Clent

When I saw this book on a bookstore shelf, I was instantly intrigued by the description at the back of the book: “Frances Hardinge’s breathtaking debut novel has at its heart an inspiring truth — that the power of books can change the world.”

I instantly added it to my BookMooch wishlist, waited several months for a copy to turn up, and finally mooched one from the UK. I was quite eager to read this book, but it didn’t turn out to be how I expected…

Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge (book #58 of 2009) is set in a world called “The Fractured Realm,” an alternative 18th-century world that is “shattered” by the loss of a ruling monarch.

Mosca Mye is the twelve-year old heroine, an orphan who runs away from her oppressive aunt and uncle, taking with her a snow-white goose named Saracen. Mosca applies for employment under the shady and notorious Eponymous Clent, and as they make their way on a perilous journey, Mosca finds herself at the heart of a dark plot looming over the capital city.

Mosca and Saracen make quite a team — Mosca is spunky and headstrong with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, and Saracen can be quite fearsome, known to single-handedly (single-web-footedly?) capture sailing vessels and bring grown men to their knees.

Hardinge’s prose is rich and musical, a cacophony of sounds and textures that roll off your tongue and are a pleasure to savor:

“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.”

I think, though, that the nvel was weighed down by too many plot components that made it difficult to understand. I found that there was so much political conflict (and too many pages) revolving around characters that were of no concern to the reader, and the novel suffered whenever the focus was taken away from its heroine, because it became difficult to follow. I couldn’t tell you the details of the political uprising in a way you can understand, because even I didn’t get it… Perhaps a bit more exposition on the setting, and an insight on the other characters and their significance to the story would have elicited more sympathy towards the political cause.

Obviously, I was also looking forward to the part about the power of books, and I was sorely disappointed that it was only vaguely covered (read: huh???) throughout the book.

If the language wasn’t well crafted I would probably have thought less of the book; it was an okay read, although it had the potential to be so much more.

my copy: trade paperback, mooched from the UK

my rating: 3/5 stars

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