Mosca Mye was just looking for a way out when she burned down her uncle’s mill. Now she finds herself on the road with Eponymous Clent, a wordsmith with questionable motives, and Saracen, a goose that bites first and asks questions later. Mosca can’t be too picky about her companions, however, since she has her own secrets (like the fact that she can read). Unfortunately, that’s not something to be proud of as print without a Stationer’s seal is thought to be very dangerous. Soon Mosca, Clent, and Saracen find themselves in the middle of a guild-war between the Stationers and the Locksmiths. There may be some radicals involved who may or may not have a secret printing press and there’s a pretty good chance that someone’s trying to overthrow the Duke. One thing is for sure though, none of it was Mosca’s fault.
According to Goodreads, this book was first published in 2005, so I’m not really sure why it was on Netgalley with a more recent release date, but oh well. While I enjoyed this book quite a bit, it took me so long to read which made it a little less enjoyable. I think it was just written in such a way that made it hard to read quickly. The writing was great, but it didn’t necessarily leave me eager to turn the page to see what happens next. Hardinge is an interesting author. I’ve read The Lie Tree by her, but wasn’t very impressed. While it’s obvious that a lot of thought goes into her books, I find that I’m mostly left feeling vaguely confused by things.
But getting into the book, the characters were great. I really liked Mosca as a protagonist. The reader roots for her even when she’s making bad decisions. Even though she’s kind of a prickly character, she’s immensely likable as well. Saracen was probably my favorite animal sidekick of all time. He’s completely selfish, but everything he does kind of ends up helping anyway. He was just a really funny character in my opinion. The rest of the characters were equally interesting and well-developed. The one thing that I absolutely loved about this book is that it’s not clear until almost the very end who is “good” and who is “bad”. At multiple points throughout the story anybody could be the bad guy.
The world that Hardinge has created is interesting, but not terribly well-developed. We spend most of the book in Mandelion, but I had not idea if it was the capital of this country or just a random city. It was not clear whether this city had any importance to the rest of the country and that (for some reason) made things a little confusing for me. The author has also created a really complicated political system and religion that doesn’t get 100% explained. As both of these things play a large role in the overall plot, I was left confused multiple times trying to reread to see if I had missed an important detail.
Overall, I thought this book was enjoyable and I would recommend it for Middle Grade readers and up. Perhaps I just didn’t have enough time to invest to understand the world and different structures within it but I do feel like younger me would have enjoyed it quite a bit. There is a sequel, Fly Trap, but I probably won’t be reading it just because this first one was so difficult to get through.
Overall Rating: 4
Sexual Content: Mild
Note: I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.