Fly Trap (Fly by Night) Hardcover – May 31, 2011
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“[A] fresh, appealing tale.” (Booklist)
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.
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Drips fell from the tip of a pointed nose. Beneath a drooping bonnet with a frayed brim, hair spiked and straggled like a tempest-tossed blackbird's nest. An olive green dress two sizes too big was hitched at the waist and daubed knee-high in thick yellow mud. And behind the clinging strands of damp hair, two large black eyes glistened like coal...
In 12-year-old Mosca's life, expecting the unexpected has always been the best policy. Now she finds herself the victim of a kidnapping. Having faced much worse predicaments, she is not too worried. Still, it is surprising that it's her reading skills that bring her into the villainous hands of one Rabilan Skellow.
...that smile was the last thing Mosca saw before a muffling, stifling weight of cloth was thrown over her head, drowning her in darkness.
She begins the reluctant role of "scribe" for Skellow as she moves through the infamous auctions held by the Guild of Pawnbrokers. The Pawnbrokers are one of the most secretive, wealthy forces in the city, making huge sums of money from the misfortunes of others. Mosca, ever on the alert and using her quick wit --- her letter-writing skills and her fantastic ability to lie without a blink of the eye --- is able to escape. Did I say she lied? Actually she simply "bent the truth," shaped it, if you will, to better her situation. And why not? There was no question that the evil Skellow was going to use her and then get rid of her. As a great reader of the human psyche, Mosca knew she could not wait. Unfortunately, the villain and his nasty friends are now in hot pursuit.
As these things are transpiring, her partner, none other than the sometime poet Eponymous Clent (he knew how to make a little truth go a long way), finds himself in debtors' prison. Being in prison for one thing or another is nothing new to Mr. Clent, but this time he is personally blaming that dreadful pet goose of Moscas, Saracem. The ill-tempered goose has built a nasty reputation, and all the towns' people are in agreement that everyone would be much better off without the dreadful creature. Eponymous personally feels that the goose is responsible for his present plight. The animal is routinely called things like: "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."
Mosca ends up as the special guest of a lady known as Mistress Jennifer Bessel (well-known thief and most recently involved in a profitable auction with the Pawnbrokers) and her strange partner, a certain body-snatching Dr. Glottis. With some help from Mistress Bessel (Mosca has more or less blackmailed her into being cooperative), they are able to get Mr. Clent out of prison.
Their next venture takes them to the radical town of Toll, where, as Mosca has learned, lives a lovely princess --- Beamaabeth Marlebourne, "Sweetest creature on ten toes. Smile like a spring day." --- whose life is in danger from Skellow. Skellow, with his notorious quest for more power, is determined to take over the kingdom of Toll with more kidnapping, more killing and anything else to conquer the city. Bad things are afoot --- but not just from Skellow. There's something not right in Toll. Just maybe Mosca's keen cleverness will prevail --- can she save the princess, can she save Toll? --- but Mosca does not yet know the worst truths about the kingdom.
Frances Hardinge, a writer of extraordinary talent, is able to create colorful characters and amazing plots in an alternative world. Between the strangely named gods and the wildly diverse characters like Mistress Leap, Brand Appleton, Aramai Goshawk and the Raspberry, readers are in for a wonderful adventure led by the clever, resourceful Mosca Mye. FLY TRAP is every bit as good as FLY BY NIGHT, and hopefully we will soon be reading another set of adventures with Mosca and her eccentric friends.
--- Reviewed by Sally M. Tibbetts
Fly Trap follows the continuing adventures of Mosca Mye, an orphaned 12-year old who has the rare ability to read, her travelling companion Eponymous Clent, a well-known con-artist, and her homicidal goose, Saracen. They have recently (accidentally) helped cause a revolution in the city of Mandelion and run afoul of the powerful Guilds that control the realm. They've been trying to make a living using their conning skills and Mosca's ability to read, but winter is coming, and they're not in a comfortable spot. After they accidentally stumble upon a kidnapping plot, they head to the city of Toll hoping to notify the intended victim and earn a reward. Predictably, things don't end up turning out like they'd hoped and they become embroiled in far larger schemes.
This is another of those books that is labelled "fantasy" simply because it is set in an alternate world, even thought it does not contain any magic. The world is really interesting, though. In the previous book, we learned that every hour and day has its own patron saint or god (called "Beloved"), and a child is named in honour of the reigning deity when he or she was born. This book explores this concept even further. The city of Toll takes these names very seriously, as Mosca and Eponymous soon find out.
Just like Fly by Night, Fly Trap is a self-contained adventure, and I don't think it's necessary to read the previous book in order to enjoy this one. A few familiar faces appear, but their appearances and significance are explained.
Mosca and Eponymous are fun protagonists, and their half-antagonistic, half-affectionate relationship is very endearing. I particularly loved the scene where Mosca makes up some choice insults in order to get Eponymous out of trouble, and his reaction to it. Even though both Mosca and Eponymous would deny having a sense of right and wrong, they definitely do - especially when it comes to saving each other from trouble. Saracen was a hoot (or rather, a honk) as always, but I was a bit disappointed that he wasn't a bit more murderous.
Hardinge is a total delight to read - she loves playing with words, and her descriptions are inventive and charming. I think that she is one of the best young adult writers of today, having also read her The Lost Conspiracy. I don't think she's nearly as popular as she should be.
In the previous book, the duo had accidentally-on-purpose helped foster a rebellion in the biggest port city in the land. Fly Trap features the young girl called Mosca Mye, who is accompanying her mentor, Eponymous Clent, across the mountains to seek refuge for the winter. When Mosca and Clent attempt to cross a treacherous river in the mountains, they get stuck in the town of Toll, who has a split personality hinging on day and night.
In Toll, they encounter new friends, such as a claw handed rogue and her crush, a villainess hiding behind golden beauty, and a lucky boy; and old friends alike. They are intertwined with the fate of the town.
I give it 5 stars. One star for the entertaining and twisting plot; another for the relatable and hair-raising characters; yet another for a believable, yet unique setting; and for no glaring and disrupting plot holes, or missing information, another star. The last star is for overall presentation, and the seamless meshing of the elements to create a wonderful book for readers.