Jun 15 2012 by Gregor White, Stirling Observer Friday
Twilight Robbery, by Frances Hardinge
Published by Macmillan, £6.99
ON a stormy day a young girl battles against the elements, trying to sell her ability to read the paper for anyone interested in finding out the news.
This fantasy novel for youngsters presumably starts off more or less where its predecessor concluded, as anyone who has read that work, Fly By Night, will already be familiar with young Mosca as well as her travelling companions, psychotic goose Saracen and smooth talking, quick thinking conman Eponymous Clent.
Previous knowledge of Mosca or her world is not really necessary, though, as even occasional references to adventures past don’t detract from current goings on.
Mosca is in a bad way, with few takers for her skills on such a filthy day, Clent locked up in debtors’ prison and Saracen nowhere to be found.
A series of events, including an uncomfortably close brush with death at the hands of a band of robbers for Mosca, sees her and Clent eventually make their way to the city of Toll-By-Day where they then become trapped.
A toll must be paid to enter the fortified town, but also to exit it, and that’s where their luck runs out - at least until they become embroiled in a kidnap plot that promises riches in return for their help.
There is no doubt that this a hugely inventive piece of work.
Every aspect of life in this fantasy world has clearly been thought about and laboured over: in the post-Harry Potter world perhaps nothing else will do for young readers.
Most intriguing of all the world of Toll-By-Day is forever shadowed by darker counterpart Toll-By-Night, a sort of hell behind the placid facade that nobody ever wants to go to but that you always know Mosca is going to have face eventually.
On the whole, though, I found the level of invention weighed the whole thing down.
Having mentioned Harry Potter I think Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in that series, suffered badly from too much attention being paid to the detail of the boy wizard’s life at Hogwarts and too little to the actual story.
Similarly there are constant detailings of life, from beaureaucracies to religious beliefs, here.
It certainly had me struggling at some points to keep up and to keep interested.
Things do pick up in the second half, though, once the scene setting is finally out of the way, and a section detailing a night time chase through the streets by three Halloween-esque horses is both thrilling and creepy.