The follow-up to Frances Hardinge’s Fly by Night, finds Mosca Mye and her goose Saracen on the road once again with Eponymous Clent. At the moment, their travels are at a halt because Eponymous Clent is once again in jail. Mosca is ready to give up on him once and for all when she’s kidnapped. But that’s only the beginning. Once Mosca escapes, she and her friends end up in Toll, the only town where Clent and/or Mosca aren’t forbidden to go. And Toll might be the strangest place they’ve been yet.
In Fly By Night, I enjoyed Mosca’s sharp tongue and bad attitude, and that continued to be the case here. But this book has the added pleasure of Toll, a city unlike any I can recall encountering in fiction. Toll is actually two cities in one—a day city and a night city—and people belong to one or the other. Daytime Toll has the upper hand, as it exists in daylight and is the home of those born at times dedicated to the more auspicious of the Beloved, that is, the spirits who look after the world. People’s names are derived from the Beloved they were born under, so names mean a lot in this world. Mosca, born under Goodman Palpitattle, He Who Keeps Flies Out of Jams and Butter Churns, is viewed with suspicion. As a visitor to Toll, she’s allowed to live in the daylight city, but only for three days. After that, she’ll be forced to remain in the nighttime city, and there’s no good way out of there.
If you think that’s complicated, it’s only the beginning. Mosca and Clent’s adventures in Toll put them in the midst of conspiracies nested inside conspiracies. There’s the secret behind Mosca’s kidnapping, which she’s determined to avenge. There’s a plot to steal Toll’s “Luck,” which is the only thing keeping the city from falling from its precarious perch on a slanting cliff. There’s the political fallout from the radical takeover of Mendelion, thanks in part of Mosca and Clent in Fly by Night. An old nemesis re-emerges. And another. Plus!—Mosca trains a budding radical! Clatterhorses! Smuggled chocolates! A missing gem! Maybe the story is a wee bit too jam-packed with plot, but I loved encountering new delights around every corner.
I liked Fly by Night a lot, but I found it difficult at times to get a grip on the world Hardinge was constructing. The relationships between the guilds and the loyalties of various characters took a long time to get sorted out. In some ways, this book is even more complex, but I found it much easier to get into it. I would say that’s because I was already acclimated to this world, but Toll is almost a world unto itself. The elements of Fly by Night that make it into this book were some of the easier ones to understand.
And, of course, the most important element to carry over is Mosca herself. She’s the reason I wanted to read this book, and she continued to be the highlight. She’s peevish and sneaky and not altogether nice, but she’s good. She wants justice and right to prevail, and she’s not afraid to call out ridiculousness when she sees it. And if she can do something about it, she will.