Friday 16 July 2010

Book review : The Midnight Charter - David Whitley

*** You can currently win a copy of this book and the sequel, The Children of The Lost, in my giveaway - click here ***

I came to this book not really expecting to like it. Having never heard of it, I read the information online and discovered it's billed as "high-concept fantasy" - not really my favourite genre - and that, according to the back of the book, its target audience is 11+. Hmm. Not off to a great start. I did however love the shiny, almost holographic cover (my 5-year-old loves tipping it from left to right to make the rainbows appear !) so I decided, as always, to give it a fair go and turned to the first page.

The reader is immediately spirited away to the strange, sinister land of Agora, totally sucked in to the whirlwind of sights, sounds and smells that David Whitley's highly atmospheric writing evokes. In this dangerous world, everyone seems either good or evil, everything is black or white - except for the grey plague working its way mercilessly through the foul-smelling slums. Agora is based on a seemingly simple concept - everything is for sale or trade. Literally everything, including children, up to the age of thirteen, and even human emotions, callously extracted from those who no longer have anything else left to trade and distilled into bottles for sale.

We are introduced to two wise-beyond-their-years servant children, Mark and Lily, whose destinies seem intrinsically intertwined. When Lily decides to introduce the dangerous, anarchic, new concept of charity into Agora, those in power who love the basic principles on which their city is founded will seemingly go to any lengths to maintain the balance. This is a journey of self-discovery but Lily and Mark will also uncover secrets deemed so dangerous they can make people go mad or disappear forever.

Despite my reticence, I actually really enjoyed reading this book. It is quite a complex, challenging read for children - teen-readers of fantasy will love it but 11+ seems a bit unrealistic. The ending is so abrupt that it will annoy you if you're reading this as a stand-alone novel but it will otherwise inspire you to jump straight into the sequel, The Children of the Lost, which will be released on 5th August 2010. I could see Tim Burton making this into a great film !

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £6.99

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Puffin (6 Aug 2009)
ISBN-10: 014132371X
ISBN-13: 978-0141323718

Other reviews you might be interested in :

Chosen - Jerry Ibbotson

Book Review - Waking Beauty by Julie Parrish

Book review : Hiding Edith - Kathy Kacer

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