I have a new author hero: Frances Hardinge. Her first novel, Fly by Night is so fantastic I'm having trouble wrapping my brain around all the facets of wonderfulness (when I get blown away by someone else's writing, my own writing deteriorates to utter blather. And don't even ask me to talk about the admiration I feel: I once inflicted Ron Hansen, who wrote the excellent novel Mariette in Ecstasy, with my idiotic enthusiasm after he gave a reading and after politely signing my book, the man backed away in fear of the manic reader in front of him.)
I discovered this book through A Fuse #8 Production's review and her designation of this title as her favorite book of the year. It is categorized as both youth fiction and fantasy by my library, but it rises above any attempts at categorization. Yes, there is a young heroine central character and yes, it takes place in an alternate world that resembles 18th C England. But there is so much subtle word play and intelligent discussion of politics, power and religion, that the book appeals to readers of all ages--sort of like the way kids and parents can watch The Simpsons together and laugh at things for different reasons.
Fly by Night also is a wonderful affirmation for anyone who actively hungers for words--I get really squirrelly and restless when I don't have a good book to read. Brian sometimes comes home and finds me pacing the house waiting to dump the kids on him so I can head to the library or bookshop to get some relief! Well, the main character feels the same way. When contemplating her own life and future she decides "I don't want a happy ending, I want more story" which is a sentiment that I have felt at the end of many books. The last page of this book has a simply beautiful description of the seduction of a good story.
I really don't think I can control my blather at this point so I heartily suggest that you head over and read her much more coherent review. And after that you should go buy the book.