I can't tell you how much I love this woman's writing. I simply can't. Ever since I read Fly By Night, I've been a fan. I can't tell you much about what reading this book was like - I was in a daze for most of it - but if I said I was reduced to a creature that fervently kept turning the pages, marveling at how she makes words bend to her will, laughing really loudly every once in a while, staring wide-eyed at the book every time something unexpected happened (which, towards the end, was every ten minutes or so), all the while silently promising to go out and pick up every single book she has ever written and yell about how amazing she is to anybody willing to listen - I'd come somewhat close.
You need convincing?
#1: This is the sequel to Fly By Night. If you've read that? Just that sentence should be enough to get you running to the library/bookstore. If you haven't read that - you'll want to. Trust me.
#2: I'm going to give you little snippets from the book, okay? When I say this woman has a way with words, I'm not kidding.
Lost: one bonnet, two clogs. Kept in spite of the odds: two thumbs, one life.
"I generally find," Clent murmured after a pause, "that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out."
Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance - like a thrown trifle.
#3: I'd love to keep quoting from the book all day, but I'm afraid I'd be throwing spoilers at you in the process. Instead, I present to you, Exhibit A:
I keep an emergency stash of bookmarks on my bedside table because, well, I'm lazy, okay? I hate having to look for one every time I need to put the book down. But then, as I settled in to start reading, I remembered that this was a Frances Hardinge book I was reading and that there were going to be LOTS of passages that I'd want to mark - far more than the seven bookmarks could cover. So I just tore up a sheet of paper I didn't need and there you have it. Keep in mind that we're not counting the ones in the parts of the book where I just gave up keeping track of them and concerned myself only with what came next. I definitely need to re-read this again, and soon.
#4: Every time, e-v-e-r-y blooming time I thought I had this book figured out, it just slapped me across the face and turned everything upside down. Now, I'd like to think I'm a fairly sharp reader and usually, I can figure out the general direction a book is going in. But Hardinge is able to wreak more havoc in ten pages than more most authors I've read do in a hundred.
#5: It's got a homicidal goose. Yep. You heard me.
Since that time Saracen had been making a name for himself. That name was not ‘Saracen’. Indeed the name was more along the lines of ‘that hell-fowl’, ‘did-you-see-what-it-did-to-my-leg’, ‘kill-it-kill-it-there-it-goes’ or ‘what’s-that-chirfugging-goose-done-now’.
Look. You could wave your hand dismissively and say, "Oh, but it's a book for children." And you'd be right. It is. But you know what? It doesn't read like that at all. From the very beginning you're sucked into the world Hardinge creates - growing attached to the characters without noticing, puzzling things out as you go along, living the book. She makes your brain jog, she does, and if I'd been lucky enough to read this growing up, I'd be a LOT smarter than I am today. Without a doubt.
And the themes in this book? They're beautifully handled. I had to write about the trends/taboos in YA and Children's Literature for college last year, and my main complaint? A lot of parents and teachers ban books that give children "dangerous" ideas - somehow, they're under the illusion that if things don't get talked about, then they cease to exist in the child's world. And I personally think that it's the worst way to go about it. It's the sensitive issues that need talking about. And that's why authors that don't talk down to children deserve to be applauded. Frances Hardinge is one such author. Between the two books, you have books being banned and burned because “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.” She brings in atheism - the quiet questioning of whether upholding superstition would do more good than simply being quick-witted, political injustice, coping with desperation, rebellion and the need for equality in society. All this without you even noticing. All this while you're swiftly turning pages, silently cheering little Mosca Mye on.
As far as characters go - Mosca is a breath of fresh air. Armed with her "winged warzone", Saracen, and accompanied by Eponymous Clent (poet and Manipulator of Words), Mosca sees the world in a way I haven't heard described before. You cannot help but fall in love with her - she's smart, and hot-headed, and if she doesn't like what's going on, she'll say exactly what's on her mind, thankyouverymuch. She's small and scared and brave and resourceful and a very strong contender for my favourite book character of all time.
In conclusion? World-building? Amazing. Characters? Extremely well-rounded. Intelligent content? And then some. Writing? I can't even come up with a good enough adjective.
Fly By Night and Twilight Robbery are books about the power of words. The power to create, destroy, manipulate, protect - the power of words to shape ideas in minds, to offer comfort, to overthrow oppressive regimes. The power to think.
Also, I really want a pet goose.
Psst! Have you checked out her website? It's ridiculous. While you're at it, read her About page.
For people in the US, you'll find Twilight Robbery listed as Fly Trap. As far as I know, this only applies to the US.