Book Review: FLY BY NIGHT by Frances Hardinge

Title in white against a black background with a goose above it and lots of feathers
Genre: Fantasy
Age Range: YA
Star Rating: 3 stars
Series: yes - first book of duology


Book cover for FLY BY NIGHT; a goose flies above the title, with feathers drifting around

Everyone 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 …

In a land where books are considered dangerous, Mosca Mye, an orphan with an all-consuming hunger for words, and her loyal companion (a large homicidal goose) are about to become the unlikely heroes of a revolution …

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


This is the first Frances Hardinge book that didn’t click with me, unfortunately. It’s her debut, and it does show when you read backwards through her work. The prose felt less polished and the story wobbling about a bit.

It took a while for the main plot to kick into action, and I honestly didn’t work out what the central premise or final conflict was until the three-quarters mark. There’s a lot happening and it doesn’t feel very cohesive for a lot of the book until certain facts align. This made the book feel a little aimless, and it was hard to connect with Mosca as she didn’t have a driving goal.

I was supposed to buddy read this with a friend, but I was struggling to get through it and she wasn’t so we didn’t managed to read at the same time. Part of this was because I read this just after two manic months of work, and my energy and motivation crashed right as I picked this book up.

The world is a lot of fun though. It’s inspired by 18th century England, but is set in another world unlike the other books I’ve read. The country is split between regions all vying for a different monarch, so powerful guilds have taken a lot of power – and are on the verge of a guild war. The religion is full of lots of saint-like figures, but everyone fears the sect of a singular god-like figure who had a brief, bloody rule. All of this comes together in a vibrant city with coffeehouses on boats and twisting allies for Mosca to stumble upon adventure in.

The dialects in this book are so good – a range of them depending on where characters some from. I loved the strange words that make up the slang, as they had all the bizarre magic you’d expect from a Frances Hardinge book.

I have the second book in the series, and will buddy-read it with my friend at a later point – because it’s much newer book, so hopefully I’ll like it more.

Read my reviews of other books by Frances Hardinge:

Fly By Night (this series):


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