Fly by Night

Fly by Night

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060876302
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 02/19/2008
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 512
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 1.02(d)
Age Range: 8 - 12 Years

About 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.

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.

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Fly by Night 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 35 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.
phoebesmum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is why I keep on reading; for all the sludge you find yourself wading through, every so often you turn up a genuine diamond. 'Fly By Night' is set in a world something like 18th century England, dominated by myriad household gods but still haunted by a religious reformation that¿s been overturned but whose influence still casts a shadow. Our heroine is Mosca Mye, a plucky young orphan who escapes from her evil uncle by the simple expedient of setting fire to his barn, picks up an itinerant wordsmith by way of adult guidance and, with no other companion than her evil-tempered gander Saracen, sets out to find her way in the world, cheerfully creating havoc wherever she goes and ending up embroiled in a revolution that involves, amongst other things, a ragged school, an illegal printing press, warring trade guilds, a mad Duke and his sinister sister, floating coffee houses, and a highwayman who finds his destiny changed by the power of the printed word. Exciting, engaging, literate, and wholly wonderful.
thatwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Odd. Much like an Edge Chronicle book
nzf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fly by Night, a well written Fantasy book, is geared towards Middle School students. The plot is complicated with enough characters and twist to keep readers engaged. Students who enjoy the Fatansy genre will appreciate the plot and array of characters. On the other hand, reluctant readers would struggle to understand the plot and lose track of the characters that drift in and out of the story. They would also struggle with the language of the book, which is written in Old English.I would recommend this book to the middle school fans of the Fantasy genre who are strong readers.
Marared9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Mosca Mye, a young girl in big trouble, finds herself on the run when she joins up with Eponymous Clent, a wanted criminal. Mosca and Clent's adventures will keep the reader guessing in this tale of censorship and political intrigue set in a medieval-style imagined land. In a kingdom where reading is forbidden and words are potentially treasonous, Mosca quickly becomes entangled with a secret printing press and a forbidden school. Unsure of who she can trust, Mosca needs to use her head to survive. I found this one to be particularly delightful to read because of the authors clever turns of phrase and colorful details. I loved the floating cafes, haunts of writers and other miscreants. Overall a great read.
morganwright on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The girl was kinda dumb to believe that a criminal would be kind to her, and not try to con her out of anything, but other than that, i thought it was good.
extrajoker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
first line (of the prelude): "'But names are important!' the nursemaid protested."first line (of the "A" chapter): "It was often said that only divine flame could persuade anything to burn in Chough."This is the first book by Frances Hardinge, whose Verdigris Deep (published in the U.S. as Well Witched) I greatly enjoyed. Fly by Night is a children's historical adventure with wonderful writing, appealing characters, and a tight, interesting plot. I really liked it and think I'd like to have Ms. Hardinge's babies...or, barring that, at least read her latest, Gullstruck Island.
jcsoblonde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Amazing. Astounding. Breath-taking. WOW! To be honest with you, I didn't have high expectations about this book. When I read the cover it sounded so-so. But it was a hard cover, brand-new, and $6.99 at chapters. The first couple chapters really didn't seem that great, but then I started to get into it. The next day, I didn't get any housework done because I was reading it all day. I couldn't put it down! It is a fresh, wonderful story. Highly recommended!
CornerDemon on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My biggest beef with this book actually has little to do with the book. It has to do with the way the book was "sold" to me. I'll warn future readers: The inside flap LIED. The book has little to do with Mosca's love for words. Not all books have been banned, only books that haven't been printed by a certain group. The story has less to do with books and Mosca's pursuit of words than it has to do with POLITICS.When my husband asked me to tell him what the book WAS about, I was hard-pressed to tell him. The plot changes quickly from moment to moment and Mosca goes from a plum-dumb country girl to a city-savvy spy quickly. What changes even faster is who she is spying for. It's engaging and fast-paced, if a little confusing.Mosca herself is hard to describe. She's quick-witted and able, but sometimes the character seems out-of-sync for how we are told she has been raised. You'd expect the unloved child to be a little more suspicious and less trusting, but instead she embraces everyone who shows her a small act of kindness. I also disliked the way her much-touted "love for words" is cast aside, although that could be because I felt I was "sold" a different story. If politics and spy novels are up your alley, and you'd like to read a different version of those thrillers, than I suggest "Fly by Night". If you're looking for a Farenheit 451 for teens, with a great setting thrown in, look elsewhere.
allreb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is fantastic. It is, in fact, probably the best YA fantasy novel I've ever read. It's a book lover's book: it's about the love of, um, books. It does deal with religious topics, but unlike a lot of fantasy novels that do similarly, makes it clear that the reader should make up his or her own mind about the issues presented. It's got an awesome main character, who is dynamic and strong but still flawed -- the fact that she's young shows through her inexperience, for example. It's a story about growing up, learning who to trust, and the importance of a) thinking for yourself and b) reading. I can not recommend this book highly enough.
nramos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The idea is interesting, but the main character rarely had her own thought until more than halfway through. While it serves to show that she was controlled most of her life, it served up a mostly dull book. About 3/4's the way, that changed, but not enough to redeem this.
sarahchic on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was so fantastic! I honestly read it just because the cover was so quirky, but it turned out to be a very enjoyable read. The whole thing was really quite delightful- a homicidal goose, floating coffee houses, and unconvincing eyebrows?!
Crowyhead on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I picked this up mainly because it sounded interesting and because Garth Nix (a favorite YA author) praised it in such glowing terms in his cover blurb. Cover blurbs are a dangerous way to pick books, but in this case I picked a winner. Desperate to get out of town (and find some stories in the process), 12-year-old Mosca Mye throws in her lot with a con man named Eponymous Clent and takes off cross-country with Saracen the homicidal goose in tow. Mosca is unusual because her father taught her to read -- an unusual and potentially dangerous skill for anyone, let alone a girl. What follows is a fascinating adventure with loads of political intrigue that also manages to be laugh-out-loud funny. Harding has a way with words, and the names alone in this novel are enough to make me shout with glee. There are very few authors who even come close to filling Joan Aiken's shoes, but Mosca Mye is a heroine to rival Dido Twite.
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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