Fly By Night / Twilight Robbery / Gullstruck Island. Book Reviews

Fly-by-NightFLY BY NIGHT

Macmillan Children’s Books, p/b, £7.99

TWILIGHT ROBBERY

Macmillan Children’s Books, p/b, £6.99

GULLSTRUCK ISLAND

Macmillan Children’s Books, p/b, £6.99

All by Frances Hardinge

Reviewed by Rebekah Lunt

I was sent these books after I cheekily said in my review of A Face like Glass (AFLG) that I would love to read the previous books that Hardinge had written. I cannot tell you how excited I was when I received them – AFLG had been such a good read and so I expected much the same from these.

9781405055390Reader, I was not disappointed! Hardinge has a genuine gift and I can’t speak (write!) highly enough of her work. She is the kind of writer of whom aspiring authors will be rightly and happily jealous. Like Terry Pratchett, she weaves political, historical, sociological and anthropological threads through her stories with consummate ease. This type of ‘light’ and enjoyable reading may well be the most enlightening of all as you are learning things about yourself and humanity with every perfectly turned scene. Where I feel Hardinge may even exceed Pratchett (gasp!) is the seeming ease she creates different worlds – of the four books I’ve read there are 3 completely discrete worlds with their own depth and folklore, traditions and laws. Each one is utterly convincing and drawn in words to such detail that, if so inclined, one could probably make a good go at painting scenes from them.

However, although there are no wobbly set walls apparent, this doesn’t mean that the prose becomes overloaded and dry; to the contrary, Hardinge has such a beautiful turn of phrase that everything flows at exactly the right tempo.

Fly by Night and Twilight Robbery centre on Mosca Mye and her not-quite-sidekick, not-quite-guardian Eponymous Clent. The story is set in a culture where words and their meanings are of ultimate worth and your name (according to which saint you are born under) defines who you are and can be.

n282490Gullstruck Island is the story of Lady Arilou a Lost, and her sister Hathin who is also Arilou’s keeper. The story centres on the tension between tribes and castes of their island, and the enigma of the Lost – people who can send out their senses far away from their physical bodies and on whom the entire island people’s economy, trade and way of life is dependent. The story develops when suddenly it becomes urgently necessary that Arilou is the Lost that she is supposed to be.

The absolute jewel in the crown of Hardinge’s writing is that she writes some of the best female characters I’ve ever read. It is so heartening to read genuine, engaging, sometimes villainous, and always complex characters that are not male, and I love that these kinds of characters are around to push back against the seemingly endless tide of insipid, dull-brained submissive handmaids so prevalent in much teen and adult fiction. (Just because you can do a roundhouse kick does not mean you are kick-ass!)

I think my favourite of all these books has to be Gullstruck Island. It has a brilliant cast of complex and interesting characters, a beautiful interweaving of folklore and ultimately human threads to create the convincing and engrossing backgrounds, and above all I absolutely adored Hathin – she stayed with me long after the last page.

The best and truest thing I can say about all Hardinge’s books is that they returned me to the best aspect of my childhood: not just fresh worlds to which I could escape; but friends to cherish. I hope Hardinge is busily writing more for me as I’ve only got Verdigris Deep to read now!

About Phil Lunt (885 Articles)
Hailing from the rain-sodden, North Western wastelands of England, Phil has dabbled in many an arcane vocation. From rock-star to conveyor-belt scraper at a bread factory, 'Dairy Logistics Technician' to world's worst waiter. He's currently a freelance designer, actor, sometime writer/editor and Chair of the British Fantasy Society. He is on the Global Frequency and is still considering becoming an astronaut when he grows up.