Title: Twilight Robbery/Fly Trap
Author: Frances Hardinge
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Publisher: Harper Collins US / Macmillan UK
Publication date: March/May 2011
Hardcover: 544 pages
Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent are in trouble again. Escaping disaster by the skin of their teeth, they find refuge in Toll, the strange gateway town where visitors may neither enter nor leave without paying a price. By day, the city is well-mannered and orderly; by night, it’s the haunt of rogues and villains. Wherever there’s a plot, there’s sure to be treachery, and wherever there’s treachery, there’s sure to be trouble – and where there’s trouble, Clent, Mosca and the web-footed apocalypse Saracen can’t be far behind. But as past deeds catch up with them and old enemies appear, it looks as if this time there’s no way out …
Stand alone or series: Book two in the Fly By Night series.
How did I get this book: Bought
Why did I read this book: Last week I read, reviewed and LOVED Fly By Night and I just had to read the sequel straight away!
A few months after leaving Mandelion, Mosca Mye and Eponymous Clent (as well as the murderous Goose Saracen) are on the run again. Unfortunately for the three amigos, Clent’s past shenanigans (lies!cons!theft!) prevent them from going anywhere near any of the towns nearby. Their chosen destination for the time being is a place called Toll – not only because this is a place strategically situated this side of a river they need to cross but also because they come by a Dastardly Plot that might involve some of its most Prominent Citizens. And where Prominent Citizens are involved, a Reward must surely follow.
Visitors may neither enter nor leave Toll without paying a price and whilst Mosca and Clent manage to get money for their entry toll, they still need to find a way to pay for their way out. Unfortunately for them, Toll has many rules and they are given only three days to hustle the money – if they can’t find money to leave at the end of those three days, Mosca will be sent to the mysteriously dangerous Toll-by-Night.
Because you see, Toll is a town divided. By day, the city is a paradise of well-behaved citizens who cease to exist at dusk, when the villainous citizens of Toll-by-Night start their existence. The citizens of Toll do not cease to exist at dusk or dawn. Not at all. They are in fact hiding in abject fear behind locked doors – they do exist but they are not allowed to. Just how this has reached this point in Toll is one of the main storylines and Mosca is at the centre of it all.
More than that, in Frances Hardinge’s world, words are dangerous and names have power. And this is all the more true in Toll: what separate its citizens are their names. This world’s main religious system is constructed around the worshipping of the Beloveds (kinda like Saints), each Beloved is known for its attributes and is allocated a certain number of hours each day. If you are born under a certain Beloved’s hours, you are named after that Beloved. In this world, your name is what defines you and even shapes your life. You can never lie about your name because that’s who you are. Mosca was born under Palpitattle, “He Who Keeps Flies out of Jams and Butter Churns” and according to Toll’s Books of the Hours, children born under this Beloved are “judged to be villainous, verminous, and everywhere that they’re not wanted”. This is why Mosca will be sent to Toll-By-Night after her three days are up: because that’s where she is meant to be. This is obviously nothing but simplistic arbitrary profiling and Mosca’s arc is to think about what this means, if this is true or not and if not, how does one fight to subvert these ideas.
“‘Just between you and me,’ Mosca whispered, ‘radicalism is all about walkin’ on the grass.'”
Because subversion is what Mosca does best (within the story but also in term of subtext). I absolutely LOVE Mosca. This is a complex female character that is allowed to be a budding atheist, a growing radical revolutionary, someone who will do absolutely everything to survive, and who often feels envy and anger but also compassion and empathy.
“Revenge is a luxury reserved for the powerful, rich or unusually vicious.” He broke into her thoughts. “We cannot afford it, Mosca, be grateful that you have escaped this adventure with your skin.”
But I don’t want to be grateful, I’m tired of being kicked about like a pebble, and told that I have to be happy that it’s no worse. I’ve had enough. It’s time the pebble kicked back.
Just like in Fly By Night, the writing of Twilight Robbery/Fly Trap is extraordinary. Frances Harding has a way with words that for me, is at present, unparalleled:
Revenge is a dish best served unexpectedly and from a distance – like a thrown trifle.
Desperation is a millstone…It wears away at the very soul, grinding away pity, kindness, humanity and courage. But sometimes it whets the mind to a sharpened point and creates moments of true brilliance.
Beyond all that, there are many different subplots, including one involving Toll’s Luck (the one thing that makes Toll such a wonderful – that was irony by the way – place to live) which was SUPERBLY constructed. Sure, it does require a certain suspension of disbelief that the divide within Toll would be upheld for so long and basically all it took was a little girl with a plan to question it. On the other hand, one can certainly argue that fear is a powerful motivation – which is one of the points made in the story.
TO CONCLUDE: Twilight Robbery/Fly Trap is amazing. Brilliant. Funny. Fun. Poignant. Just like its predecessor, it is one of the best books I’ve read this year.
It has also sent me into a state of CREATIVE PANIC (TM Mosca Mye): I am bolting at high speed to buy ALL THE BOOKS by Frances Harding and proceeding with great alacrity to read them AS SOON AS HUMANLY POSSIBLE.
Notable Quotes/ Parts:
“I generally find,’ Clent murmured after a pause, ‘that it is best to treat borrowed time the same way as borrowed money. Spend it with panache, and try to be somewhere else when it runs out.’
‘And when we get found, Mr. Clent, when the creditors and bailiffs come after us and it’s payment time…’
‘…then we borrow more, madam, at a higher interest. We embark on a wilder gamble, make a bigger promise, tell a braver story, devise a more intricate lie, sell the hides of imaginary dragons to desperate men, climb to even higher and more precarious ground…and later, of course, our fall and catastrophe will be all the worse, but later will be our watchword, Mosca. We have nothing else – but we can at least make later later.”
Rating: 8 – Excellent
Reading Next: The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Buy the Book:
Ebook available for kindle UK