Authors: Frances Hardinge
Frances Hardinge’s first book,
Fly By Night
, won the Branford Boase Award for outstanding debut novel. Both
Fly By Night
and her second novel,
, have been shortlisted for several other awards, including the Guardian Fiction Prize, and are now published in several languages around the world.
Frances spent her childhood in a huge, isolated old house on a hilltop in Kent that ‘wuthered’ when the wind blew and inspired her to write strange, magical stories from an early age. Now she lives in Oxford and London with her boyfriend.
Praise for Frances Hardinge’s books
‘A wonderful and wondrous novel’ Garth Nix
‘Mad, exuberant, hilarious . . . as original and joyous a literary adventure as I’ve encountered in aeons. I wish I’d written it, but even better, I know I couldn’t have’ Meg Rosoff
‘Like delving into a box of sweets with a huge array of flavours’
‘Spellbindingly gorgeous . . . dramatic . . . Hardinge’s prose shimmers and glints with breathtakingly apt imagery’
Also by Frances Hardinge
FLY BY NIGHT
Winner of the Branford Boase Award
Longlisted for the Carnegie Medal
MACMILLAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS
First published 2009 by Macmillan Children’s Books
This electronic edition published 2009 by Macmillan Children’s Books
a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited
20 New Wharf Rd, London N1 9RR
Basingstoke and Oxford
Associated companies throughout the world
ISBN 978-0-230-73949-9 PDF
ISBN 978-0-230-73948-2 EPUB
Text copyright © Frances Hardinge 2009
Illustrations copyright © Tomislav Tomic 2009
The right of Frances Hardinge and Tomislav Tomic to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by them in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
You may not copy, store, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
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To my sister Sophie, a truer traveller than
I shall ever be, who saved lives when others
were seeing sights, and who brought back
tropical diseases and broken bones instead
of photos and souvenir hats
It was a burnished, cloudless day with a tug-of-war wind, a fine day for flying. And so Raglan Skein left his body neatly laid out on his bed, its breath as slow as sea swell, and took to the sky.
He took only his sight and hearing with him. There was no point in bringing those senses that would make him feel the chill of the sapphire-bright upper air or the giddiness of his rapid rise.
Like all Lost, he had been born with his senses loosely tethered to his body, like a hook on a fishing line. He could let them out, then reel them in and remember all the places his mind had visited meanwhile. Most Lost could move their senses independently, like snails’ eyes on stalks. Indeed, a gifted Lost might be feeling the grass under their knees, tasting the peach in your hand, overhearing a conversation in the next village and smelling cooking in the next town, all while watching barracudas dapple and brisk around a shipwreck ten miles out to sea.
Raglan Skein, however, was doing nothing so whimsical. He had to take his body on a difficult and possibly perilous journey the next day, and he was spying out the land. It was a relief to see the world plummet away from him so that everything became smaller. More manageable. Less dangerous.
Scattered around the isolated island of Gullstruck dozens of other minds would be adrift. Lost minds, occupied with the business of the island, keeping it functioning. Scrying for bandits in the jungles, tracing missing children on the rises, spotting sharks in the deeps, reading important trade notices and messages long distance. In fact, there might even be other Lost minds floating near him now, indiscernible to him as he was to them.
He veered towards the mountain ridge that ran along the western coast, seeing the individual peaks emerge from the fleece of clouds. One such peak stood a little proud of the rest, its coloration paler. It was Sorrow, the white volcano, sweet, pure and treacherous as snow. Skein gave her a wide berth and instead veered towards her husband, the King of Fans, the tallest middlemost mountain of the ridge, his cratered head forever lost in clouds. For now the King was docile and hazy with the heat, but he too was a volcano and of uncertain temper. The shimmering air above his slopes was flecked with the circling forms of eagles large enough to carry a child off in each claw. Villages on this coast expected to lose a couple of their number to the eagles each year.
But these eagles would have no interest in the little towns that sprawled below. As far as the great birds were concerned, the towns were just more animals, too vast and sluggish for them to bother with, scaled with slate and furred with palm thatch. The muddy roads were the veins, and bronze bells in white towers told out their slow, cold heartbeats.
For a moment Skein wished that he did not know that every town was really a thriving hive of bitter, biting two-legged animals, full of schemes and resentment and hidden treachery. Yet again the fear of betrayal gnawed at his mind.
We will talk to these people
, the Lost Council had announced.
We are too powerful for them to ignore us. Everything can be settled peacefully.
Skein did not believe it. Three days more, and he would know if his shadowy suspicions had flesh to them.