I recently read Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge. It did not capture my attention as grippingly as other books I have liked, but I liked the imaginative writing style and the philosophical conclusions.
It is like a fantasy novel without any swords, magic, or dragons, and with royalty only as secondary characters. I think I like it better that way. I think I like fantasy novels for their characters and ideas, and I see the swords, magic, dragons, and princes and princesses as unnecessary. I liked the Tamora Pierce books about Aly and about Beka, both of whom mostly rely on their brains, better than the ones about Alanna and Kel, who are warriors, or Daine, who is a magician. I do like the books about Sandry, Daja, Briar, and Tris best of all. They do use magic, but it's a naturalistic sort of magic which to me is about finding spirituality in everyday tasks.
You can see Hardinge's imaginative writing style on the first page, where she writes, "Her eyes were pale, soft and moist, like skinned grapes, but at the moment they were stubborn, resolute grapes," and in character names such as Eponymous, Kohlrabi, and Caveat.
It's about shifting alliances, figuring who to trust and which side to be on, figuring out which stories are lies and which are truth. It's about freedom of information and thought. In this story, words have the power to transform a person's destiny.
In the end, Mosca decides that she believes in neither the dominant religion of the Beloved, nor the underground religion of the Heart of Consequences. Clent says, "I foresee frightful things when you are old enough to work your will on the world. Cathedrals torn down, mention of both the Consequence and the Beloved banned from the common speech, and children brought up to believe in an empty, soulless heaven." When she says that is not what she would do, Clent asks, "Not even in the service of truth?" and Mosca replies, "That's not serving truth!....if I told people what to believe, they'd stop thinking. And then they'd be easier to lie to. And...what if I was wrong?" When Clent asks her who should decide what is true, Mosca replies, "Nobody. Everybody....Everybody able to stand up and shout what they think, all at once. An' not just the men of letters, an' the lords in their full-bottomed wigs, but the street sellers, an' the porters, an' the bakers. An' not just the clever men, but the muddle-headed, an' the madmen, an' the criminals, an' the children in their infant gowns, an' the really, really stupid. All of 'em. Even the wicked..."
Clent says that would be chaos, and Mosca thinks, "Words were dangerous when loosed. They were more powerful than cannon and more unpredictable than storms. They could turn men's heads inside out and warp their destinies. They could pick up kingdoms and shake them until they rattled. And this was a good thing, a wonderful thing."
It's a lesson that we need to be reminded of often. Even in a country where freedom of expression is a fundamental value, people often seek to suppress views which they consider dangerous.