Summer is drawing to a close.
(Dun dun DUUUUUUN)
Sounds real ominous, doesn’t it? And it isn’t quite true, it only being, what, the first week of August? But my siblings are going to start school petty soon and so’m I, and so it automatically feels like fall.
AND 5 Day Clubs are done. Which is relieving but also extremely sad.
Moving on too something completely unrelated, a book! A review of a book, no less! A review of Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, even!
It’s so unbelievably good.
Words, that’s what this story is about. Words and names and ideas and the importance of all of them. I don’t think I’ve ever been so in love with a book for its words. The way each sentence is crafted to convey an idea, an emotion, whatever the author wants you to get out of it, honestly it makes me squeal every time I read it. It’s like Lemony Snicket and Shakespeare blended together and then shaken up and sprinkled with deep poetry.
I don’t know if that makes sense but it’s the only way I can think to explain it because DUDE.
So here’s the premise:
A kingdom, broken by various civil wars and insurrections all happening at once. In this kingdom, words are dangerous things. The wrong words can creep into your mind like crawling spiders and whisper dangerous ideas, and you’ll never even know. The only words that can be trusted are those that have been approved by the Guilds. Everyone knows the Guilds keep them safe, keep their minds from the inflammatory words spoken by rebels or, worse, The Birdcatchers. It’s safest to leave the thinking to the Guilds and go on with your life, worshiping the Beloved.
And then there’s Mosca.
Born on the day of Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies Out of Butter Churns, born the only child of Quillam Mye (a scholar, a writer, how scandalous) and born with the unfortunate traits of black, sharp eyes that know how to read and a ferrety nose, nobody really likes twelve-year-old Mosca. And she doesn’t really like anybody. Her only friend is a homicidal goose called Saracen, and it’s more of an uneasy alliance between the generally despised than a real friendship.
Then she meets Eponymous Clent. A master of words, a spinner of ideas and emotions. Weaver of beautiful sentences, silver-tongued storyteller. And a pretty good conman. The first person Mosca has ever met that loves words as much as she does. She decides to break him out of jail (he’s not the best conman) and take off with him to the city of Mandelion.
She doesn’t really have a choice, as she’s just accidentally burnt down a mill while escaping.
And so begins the adventures of Mosca and Eponymous and Saracen.
Can you tell that I adore this book?
I just love it.
Okay, okay, here we go. Characters. I mean Mosca and Eponymous themselves are just . . . absolutely fantastic. I love them to death. But then there’s Jennifer Bessel, too, and The Cakes, and Aramai Goshawk, and Captain Blythe (heart eyes) and Mr. Pertellis, and Lady Tamarind, and the Duke, and Carmine, and Mr. Kohlrabi, and so SO many others. I love them all. They’re all so unique and human-feeling, and their voices and motivations and lives are so distinct and personal. I aspire to this kind of character-ing. I envy it.
Worldbuilding. This is perhaps one of the best books I’ve ever read as it pertains to worldbuilding. Everything . . . makes sense. And is deep and realistic. And the cULTURE!!!
The culture is my favorite.
So, the Beloved. They’re kind of like saints. Each has a day or part of a day and is in charge of different things, like marriages or sewing or flies or keeping the dead where they belong or clams or any number of things. Depending on when you were born, you get named after something related to your Beloved. Everybody’s cool with this arrangement, but then there’s people who aren’t. They’re called the Birdcatchers and they decide that it’s their job to kill everybody that follows the Beloved and have one thing called The Heart Of Consequence. This is part of why everyone’s so scared of words; the Birdcatchers were big on writing books. The conflict is loosely based on England in the 15-1600s-ish, when Catholics and Protestants would take turns taking over everything and getting rid of people who believed ‘wrong’. And then there’s the whole thing with names, which I love, and comes more into play in the sequel.
There’s also conflict because nobody is really in charge of the kingdom. Back in the Birdcatcher days the king died and nobody really knew who was the heir. A few civil wars followed, and eventually everyone sort of stopped caring and just supported the heir they liked and the Guilds took over everything. And they have wars, sneaky, silent wars, mostly between the Locksmiths and the Stationers.
Mosca and Eponymous make them very angry. Multiple times.
Meanwhile, while all these hijinks and shenanigans are going on, somebody’s got a secret printing press and is distributing dangerous leaflets speaking of revolution. The Locksmiths think it’s the Stationers, the Stationers think it’s the Locksmiths trying to frame them, and most people think it’s another Birdcatcher uprising.
There’s so much backstabbing and deception and double-dealing that for most of the story you have no idea who’s on what side doing what to whom, but then near the end things start going down and you get it.
And then your mind is BLOWN BECAUSE WOW YES THAT JUST HAPPENED
Mosca can’t trust anybody and neither can you, but then at the end you find out who you CAN trust and it hurts your heart because they weren’t the ones you thought you could.
And then Captain Blythe
Just remembering the book is sending me into babbling hysterics because that’s really all your mind can do after finishing it. It makes you think, too. The theme of the book is basically ‘Think for yourself’. Don’t follow along blindly with anything. Although the book isn’t written from a Christian perspective, it has good lessons for us. Just because you think someone knows what they’re talking about or has your best interests in mind doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t check it out for yourself. Use your brain and not your emotions to make decisions. And always
Make friends with geese.
You never know when it might save your life.
See you guys next week and CHECK OUT THE BOOK.