Fly by Night

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Fly by Night Book Poster Image
Clever but confusing story needs editing.

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 4 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The main character lies, accidentally sets fire to a mill, and is tempted to falsely accuse someone.


Fighting, shooting, stabbing, murder, torture all mentioned, though no graphic descriptions.


Mention of bigamists and illegitimate children.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Snuff, pipe smoking, children and adults drink beer and gin.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's some violence, though not terribly graphic. For much of the book, the main character's ethics are questionable at best, though she does shape up toward the end.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byweasly May 16, 2010

supposd to be confusing

awsome!! I loved it finally a writer who writes not for the masses!
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byahcim3 October 1, 2009
loved it, this book is fast paced and well worded, to understand it fully it might be best to read it twice
as i did and enjoyed it both times. not the most tho... Continue reading
Written byAnonymous September 28, 2017
Teen, 17 years old Written bydarkess winter April 5, 2011

FlyByNight, amazing

i loved this book. it is unlike anything else i have read. it creates a whole new world for the reader.

there is excitement, adventure, and mystery.

What's the story?

In an alternative version of 18th-century England, Mendelion is ruled in name by a mad Duke, in reality by a group of competing Guilds, and in aspiration by a variety of royal pretenders. Since the Realm was shattered, the king deposed, and the parliamentarians and monarchists locked in struggle, with the Guilds in between, there has never been real peace, and open warfare is just a wrong move away.

\ \ Into this tinderbox comes Mosca Mye, an orphan who has taken up with a smooth-talking con man, both because she loves words, and because she accidentally set her mean uncle's mill on fire. Together they get involved in the power intrigues of the city. But Mosca, though very bright and literate (a rarity in this world), understands a lot less than she thinks she does.

Is it any good?

Frances Hardringe's fertile imagination fills this book with an abundance of complex, deeply thought-out, and at times just plain weird events and characters. Word-loving children will find much here to tickle their fancies.

But Hardringe falls prey to that familiar bugaboo of novice writers -- she tries to pack all her ideas into her first book, and apparently she didn't have an editor who told her to scale it back. The result is a mishmash that will lose many, if not most, young readers early on to boredom, confusion, or incomprehension. But there's tremendous talent here, shown in many real gems of originality and felicitous language. Let's hope that Hardringe gets an editor who will rein her in more sharply next time.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the complex plot. What are all the different guilds, and why are they fighting? Were the Birdcatchers good or bad? What about Eponymous Clent? Mr. Kohlrabi? What does Mosca guess wrong and what does she get right?

Book details

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate