Thursday, December 29, 2011

3. Fly Trap

By Frances Haringe
$16.99, ages 10 and up, 592 pages

Orphan Mosca Mye once more uses her fly-like cunning to evade ruffians, but this time will this little pebble of a girl be able to exact revenge?

In this delicious followup to Hardinge's Fly by Night, 12-year-old Mye again finds herself in a sticky mess that only a mistrustful mind could scheme a way out of.

Having barely escaped with their lives from the rebel city of Mandelion, Mye and her traveling companions, Eponymous Clent and her ornery goose Soren, are now on the run to Toll, a peculiar city split in two.

Toll, as they see it, is their only chance to start anew, as it give access across a gorge that belongs to the River Langfeather and to "fairer counties."

The three agree that they cannot return to places they've been before, as they've left behind a path of thefts, frauds, and "goose-related blasphemies."

The last to-do was in Mandelion, where they accidentally fired up a revolution and in doing so, thwarted plans by a band of Locksmiths to take over the city.

Locksmith agent Aramai Goshawk warned the three never to return to Mandelion. So they fled to the little sheep-farming town of Grabely -- only to get into another mess of trouble.

While offering to read for pennies on the streets (for she and Clent were the only people in Grabely who knew how to read), Mye is tricked into being a scribe for a brigand.

As it turns out, the evil fellow, Rabilian Skellow, is scheming to kidnap the daughter of Toll's mayor, and now Mye has been forced to write a letter to a would-be accomplice.

Soon, Mye knows too much, and is locked away by Skellow in a cellar and left to die. But luckily, Skellow underestimates Mye's cunning and she sneak away.

A narrow escape, and an opportune run-in with an old foe, Mistress Bissel, and Mye slips back to Grabely and to Clent, who's been locked in debtor's prison.

Knowing Skellow will be after her once more, Mye finagles a way to free Clent so they can flee the city together, a tricky scheme involving a bit of fowl play.

With luck again on their side, Mye and Clent are soon on the run once more, now with Soren in toe, and quickly set their sights for Toll.

But first they must pay the city's two tolls, a hefty sum, and unfortunately for now, they only have enough money to enter the city, not leave it.

With Clent's head for scams, the two concoct another scheme to pay the toll out of town, though it will require them to outwit a coterie of cutthroats, no easy task.

Luckily, Mye has just the tip they need to earn a plum reward to pay the tolls: her knowledge of Skellow's kidnapping plan.

So the three head to the mayor and offer their services to rescue his fair daughter Beamabeth -- services that surely will win them a reward.

But Toll is not an easy town to navigate through, and in fact it is not a single city at all. Grim dangers lurk there, far greater than either of them know.

The city is a paradigm, shifting between cities that don't recognize the other's existence:

Toll-by-Day, which is run by the mayor and exists only during daylight, and Toll-by-Night, a ruthless frightening place ruled by Locksmiths.

At night, the citizens of Toll-by-Day lock up their shutters and pretend they aren't there, as the city walls fold out into the sinister Toll-by-Night.

As bugle calls mark the shift from the daylight city to the nighttime one, a band of Jinglers patrol the streets, threatening to steal any daylight citizen who dares to be seen.

(The Jinglers are chilling, much like the child catcher in the paddy wagon in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.)

Only the citizens of Toll-by-Night are allowed out, each having been banished to this dreadful city because they were born on the wrong day, a day named for a god with a bad reputation.

As such, nightlings are also branded with a bitter-tasting name, not unlike Mye's, which translates to fly child.

Although Mye is granted to pass into Toll-by-Day, it is with much reluctance by the guards of Toll, and thus is only temporarily.

Mye was born under Goodman Papitattle, the emperor of houseflies, and has long been shunned for it. As Clent puts it, she's been "fed all her life on mistrust."

Though a curse, the name has also given Mye "the devil's own wits" and made her adept at getting out of scrapes.

But will it be enough to tangle with a bone horse, outwit a viper and the sinister Locksmiths, and catch Beamabeth's kidnapper?

And there's also the matter of rescuing the city's treasure, the Luck of Toll. It seems it's been snatched too.

Hardinge's writing is exquisite and her imagination, it seems, limitless. Once you read one her books, you'll read anything with her name on the cover.

For more about the first book, the 2005 gem Fly by Night, click here.

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