The Midnight Charter by David Whitley
In the city of Agora, anything can be bought and sold. Even children are possessions until their twelfth birthday. Mark has been sold by his father, and Lily, an orphan from birth, has bartered for her life. Thrown together by chance, in the ancient tower of Count Stelli, they face an existence of poverty and servitude, unless they can find a way to break free.
But, unbeknown to Mark and Lily, they are being watched by the ruler of the city. Can they survive the traps and treachery that await them and discover the dark secret that binds them together? Their lives depend on this question: what is the Midnight Charter?
David Whitley, although still a young man, already has a fine pedigree. His first novel, written when he was only 17, was short-listed for the Kathleen Fidler Award. Three years later, at the still tender age of 20 he won the prestigious Cheshire Prize for Literature, becoming the youngest ever to do so. Whitley has talent, but he also has style and a gift for creating compelling fiction for children and young adults.
The Midnight Charter is part conspiracy theory, part fantasy, and opens with tragedy. The plague is ravaging the poorer quarters of the city of Agora and we are introduced to Mark as he nears death. The narrative here deals with the loss of a parent and also the fear of abandonment; two issues that will unsettle and fascinate younger readers in equal measure. The excerpt below is taken from the very beginning of the book and shows how Whitley instantly grabs the reader's attention and emotions.
“Being dead was colder than Mark expected.
When his mother had told them all tales of the afterlife, she had drawn him close into her woollen skirts and painted a picture of another city, one where it was always summer. A world where the river glowed clean and bright, a land where all debts were forgotten. Mark had trusted every word, until he awoke in a stone cell, shivering and wrapped in a shroud.”
The Midnight Charter: Chapter One – The Staircase
Following on from this impressive beginning, the foundations are further laid with great skill and aplomb. Mark, in light of his situation and predicament, becomes and instantly sympathetic character that the reader will really feel for. We then meet Lily. Lily's life has been no easier than Mark's; an orphan from birth, she worked as a bookbinder until her fingers became too large for the work and was forced to barter herself into a new position. The destinies of these two wonderful characters are intertwined and their relationship is the cornerstone of which the story is built.
By having the story told from two perspectives Whitley allows the reader to see the city of Agora from two very different viewpoints – Mark's life becomes that of the fortunate wealthy while Lily's work with the poor shows her an entirely different city. This allows for excellent contrast.
There are a couple of moments when the pieces don't fit together absolutely perfectly. For example - Mark is used as a pawn in a political game between two high-profile citizens of Agora; the way that this plays out requires just a little too much suspension of belief. This did detract slightly from what was otherwise a very credible novel.
The Midnight Charter is a thoroughly enjoyable book. There is an 18th century feel and the city of Agora, where money does not exist, is wonderful in its creation. Comparisons are difficult but there is a period-feel reminiscent of Marcus Sedgwick's The Book of Dead Days.
This is a book that we highly recommend and we certainly look forward to David Whitley's future works.
David Whitley was born in 1984 and graduated from the University of Oxford with a double First in English Literature and a passion for writing children's fiction. In 2005 David appeared on BBC2's University Challenge where he was a member of the winning Corpus Christi team who beat all competitors to become Series Champions. David currently lives in Cheshire and is working on his second novel.
This The Midnight Charter book review was written by Floresiensis
All reviews for: The Agora Trilogy
The Midnight Charter
The Agora Trilogy: Book 1
In the city of Agora, anything can be bought and sold. Even children are possessions until their twelfth birthday. Mark has been sold by his father, and Lily, an orphan fro...
The Children of the Lost
The Agora Trilogy: Book 2
Mark and Lily have been banished from Agora, the ancient city-state where everything is for sale – memories, emotions – even children. Lost and alone they disco...
Have you read The Midnight Charter?
We've found that while readers like to know what we think of a book they find additional reader reviews a massive help in deciding if it is the right book for them. So if you have a spare moment, please tell us your thoughts by writing a reader's review. Thank you.
The Midnight Charter reader reviews
8.5/10 from 1 reviews
There are currently no reader reviews for this book. Why not be the first?
Write a reader review
Thank you for taking the time to write a review on this book, it really makes a difference and helps readers to find their perfect book.
More recommended reading in this genre
Guy Gavriel Kay
Set in a beleaguered land caught in a web of tyranny, Tigana is the deeply moving story of a people struggling to be free. A people so cursed by the dark sorceries of the t...
A Christmas Carol
It is Christmas Eve in Victorian London, and all around the snow-covered city people are rushing home to be with their families. All except one man, that is: Ebenezer Scroo...
Sailing to Sarantium
Guy Gavriel Kay
Rumoured to be responsible for the ascension of the previous Emperor, his uncle, amid fire and blood, Valerius the Trakesian has himself now risen to the Golden Throne of t...
In the winter of his eleventh year, Little Hawk goes deep into the forest, where he must endure a three-month test of solitude and survival which will turn him into a man. ...
As they approach adulthood, Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee think they understand the society they live in and their place within it. At a select academy they study new airs...
The Moon and the Sun
Vonda N McIntyre
Louis XIV, the Sun King, rules the Western World from the Chateau at Versailles. Marie- Josèphe de la Croix looks forward to assisting her brother in the scientific ...
Come one come all to greatest city in the world. In London, all men are free, the streets are lined with gold and the naughty ladies are friendly to all. In London there ar...
Who or what is Endymion Spring? A power for good, or for evil... A legendary book that holds the secret to a world of knowledge... A young boy without a voice - whose five-...
Dreaming Of Zhou Gong
The Wu have been living in isolation for decades while the Shang Emperor and his enchantress have ruled the land. It has been a terrible time for the common people and the ...
Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next. SOM...
The Other Log of Phileas Fogg
Philip Jose Farmer
The High King of Montival
Sold into servitude in the pagan splendour of the Night Court as a child, Phedre no Delaunay is a woman who struggles for honour and duty, whose loyalty to the land she lov...
Looking for more suggestions? Try these pages:
Books of the Month
A selection of books - old and new alike - that were a joy to read.
The republic faces annihilation, despite the vigilance of Galharrow's Blackwings. When a raven tattoo rips itself from his arm to deliver a desperate message, Galharrow and a mysterious noblewoman must investigate a long dead sorcerer's legacy. But there is a conspiracy within the citadel: traitors, flesh-eaters and the ghosts of the was...
A Tale of Time City
Diana Wynne Jones
When Vivian is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to be staying in the countryside. Instead, she is whisked away to Time City – a place that exists outside ti...
The Guns of Empire
As the roar of the guns subsides and the smoke of battle clears, the country of Vordan is offered a fragile peace... After their shattering defeats at the hands of brillian...
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth....
Events are coming to a climax in the Banished Lands, as the war reaches new heights. King Nathair has taken control of the fortress at Drassil and three of the Seven Treasu...
For Kivrin Engle, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the four...
The Banished Lands are engulfed in war and chaos. The cunning Queen Rhin has conquered the west and High King Nathair has the cauldron, most powerful of the seven treasures...