THE MIDNIGHT CHARTER by David Whitley
â€œVery well, sir. I take it Mark will be helping you.”
“As soon as he is well enough, Lily. Heâ€™s my first full recovery,” the doctor said with a touch of pride in his voice. “Iâ€™d better be careful.”
Mark smiled. He didnâ€™t know what was happening, but whoever these people were, they were going to keep him.
“And . . . ,” Lilyâ€™s voice drifted down, “does he know yet that his father sold him?”
Review by Kirstin Merrihew (SEP 1, 2009)
In a nod to the harsh realities for children in Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the magic in the Harry Potter series, and the kind of society-building of Neal Stephenson’s Anathem and Bernard Beckett’s Genesis, David Whitley presents a superbly paced novel about two children whose brooding, plague-infested city puts a price on everything, including human life.
In The Midnight Charter, Agora is a walled metropolis that seems rooted in the eighteenth century in terms of its level of industrial development, but is simultaneously clearly outside of our known history, much as is Harry Potter’s magic school. Agora is run by the reclusive Director who commands an army of “receivers” whose job it is to collect and monitor every single contract citizens make. Barter runs the city’s economy for everything from food to feelings.
After coming down with the gray-spot plague and being sold to a doctor by his father, a boy named Mark reaches his twelfth birthday, his “title day,” and is given the coinciding right to make his own contracts. Becoming an apprentice to the city’s most famous astrologer, he decides to work inside the system to gain security and respect. Meanwhile, Lily, only a little older than Mark, has other ideas. She begins the tale as a servant of that same great astrologer, Count Stelli, and living in his dark tower — where she and Mark first meet — but, when the opportunity arises, she leaves for a less certain life out among those who barely subsist. Lily wants to prove that charity, not profit, ought to be the basis for a good and healthy society. Although she and Mark live by polar opposite world views, they maintain their connections over the next couple years as the secretive and ruthless Powers-That-Be in Agora manipulate their lives, and those of their friends, and force them to make fateful decisions. Can this young pair change dystopian Agora forever? Can they see things more clearly than their elders? And can they hope to gain the lives they want for themselves?
The Midnight Charter is supposedly meant for readers ages 11-14, but it will likely appeal to people of all ages who enjoy fantasy with finely-etched characters, a constantly moving plot, clear-eyed and focused writing, and some thought-provoking ideas about the extent to which commerce ought to dominate a society (a fitting topic for us twenty-first century folk living through some serious economic “adjustments”). This novel kicks off what will be, one assumes and hopes, a series of adventures for Mark and Lily. I’m already chompin’ at the bit for the anticipated sequel…..
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 20 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Roaring Brook Press (September 1, 2009)|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||David Whitley|
|MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION:||More fantasy, presumably for kids:|
The Agora Trilogy