fusenumber8 has been gushing about Fly By Night for months. She chose it as her favorite book of the year in February!
Usually when someone recommends a book so strongly, I find myself disappointed. Inevitably the book fails to measure up to my inflated expectations.
Not so with Fly By Night.
One word: wow!
Hardinge has created a fantasy world, on par with the best modern children's fantasy authors: Pullman, Lewis, DWJ. Mosca,the nine-year old protagonist, is an orphan being raised by her unloving uncle in the boondocks. She flees town in the company of a charming con man, Eponymous Clent, and a chaos-creating goose names Saracen. Through her eyes we are treated to a wonderful tour of the Fractured Realm.
For the past twenty years, Parliament has been trying to decide who should be the king. And each region, village, town and city has declared for one candidate or the other. They are held together by a web of commerce and the efforts of powerful guilds, including the Stationer's Guild, which has complete control of the press and certifies every piece of printed material.
The three travelers proceed to Mandelion, a large city which is in the grip of a power struggle between dangerous factions, in which Mosca, Clent, and even Saracen become intimately involved.
Up until about page 330 I eas enjoying myself but I wasn't tremendously impressed. The prose is wonderful, the world is fabulous, the characters are fun, but it hadn't grabbed me. Then Hardinge gave me a moment. A real honest-to-god, icy fingers on the back of my neck moment of revelation. Suddenly she had her tenterhooks in my emotions and there was no getting free.
I read the last one hundred and fifty pages straight through.
I can't recommend this one enough.