The Midnight Charter
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?

'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.' - fantasybookreview.co.uk
Adam, from University College School London

The book is about two children called Mark and Lily who are brought together in the tower of Count Stelli, an astrologist, and become friends before being torn apart. Their friendship suffers when Mark does not want to support Lily with her opinion that charity is the way forward. The leader of the city (the director) is watching the two children, seeing if they are the fabled Antagonist and Protagonist that would judge the city of Agora in the days to come.

 

The two main characters are called Mark and Lily who meet in Count Stelli`s tower -  Lily having worked there for years, and Mark having been brought in to be studied by Doctor Theophilus (the Count’s grandson) because he was the only survivor of a plague that was affecting the city of Aragon. However other important characters are called Count Stelli, who is an astrologist as well as at first Lily’s master; and then later Mark’s master, Doctor Theophilus, who is Count Stelli`s grandson and later in the book Lily’s master; Lord Ruthven who is the lord chief justice (second most powerful man in the city, the first being the director); Snutworth who is Mark’s servant nearer the end; and Laud, Gloria and Benidictia who are all brothers and sisters.

 

Lily is given a hard choice at the end and does not know what to do. However she eventually decides [on her choice] …

 

I think that this book is interesting and really sucks you into the pages, especially about the question, what is the ‘midnight charter’? This makes you feel part of it for most of the book but it is slightly boring at first. It is for someone aged ten to fourteen and looks like it will be a very good starter to a sequel. 

Aleksey, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a good book written by David Whitley. It’s set in a world between the Roman ages and a magical world. Mark is very shy as he talks a lot about his dead mother who used to tell stories; he tells a lot of them to Lily while he’s sitting and she’s knitting. This part of the book made it obvious that Mark was a very shy boy and that he missed his family. 

 

There was another part in the book where I was scared that Lily would get caught after running away from her master as she did some thing he told her not to. She had been running for quite a while and I could understand that she was about to fall any second. But she was saved by a girl/boy called Ben. Ben seemed like a very nice person as she didn’t make Lily cough up the money when she caught her listening to priceless music that kings would give all of their belongings to listen to. Ben was probably one of those strange people you’d meet in the street that’s strangely very nice. But what Lily and Mark don’t know is that they are being watched and were being watched by the ruler of the city the whole time, which gives the story a great finish as you expect something good from the book as you do in all books. It certainly gives the book a great overall finish.   

Alexander, from University College School London

Mark was a poor fisher boy who lived with his dad in a shack, until he was sold by his father to Dr. Theophilus. The doctor lived with his granddad, Count Stelli, who was a famous astrologer, but the Count had no idea that Mark existed, or that his grandson had bought him. The doctor cured Mark of the many illnesses that he had picked up, but then made him his servant, because he could do nothing else with him. Count Stelli had his own servant, a girl named Lily. Mark and Lily developed a strong relationship, and spent lots of their time together, until the Count found out about Mark. He was furious because he didn’t believe his son’s promise that Mark was now well, and cast his grandson out into the night. Mark was supposed to go with him, but at the last minute, Mark and Lily made a swap, so that Lily went with the doctor, and Mark stayed with the Count. Lily was the one that came up with this idea, because she had been a servant her whole life and she had always wanted to get out. Lily and Dr.Theophilus scratched a living, and just about survived, curing who they could and renting a small place from a woman called Miss Devine. Mark had been forced by Count Stelli into becoming an apprentice astrologer, although he thought that it was pointless. He thought that he could never be an astrologer, and that he was wasting his time. But he also had no idea that he would be famous before he turned thirteen. 

 

Two months later: Mark and Lily wrote to each other, but they were slowly drifting apart. Mark was a famous astrologer now. He had made a live prediction, and it had come true. Now he owned Count Stelli’s tower and had an army of servants. With all this power and responsibility, Mark had little time for Lily. He thought that one day soon, they would drift apart, and lose contact with each other. They were living separate lives now. Mark was famous, and Lily was the opposite. Mark began to think of himself as immortal. He was rich, he was powerful, and he was young. But then he gets arrested, and the world gets turned upside down.

 

This was one of the best books I have ever read. I thought it was very well written, the plot was gripping, it was easy to understand and it was a real page turner. It makes you think that you know what is about to happen, then it goes the other way. When I like a book, I can normally read 360 pages in about a week. The Midnight Charter took me closer to two days to finish! I would definitely recommend this book to my friends, and I can’t wait until the sequel comes out in April 2010! 

 

Andrew, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is about two kids, Mark and Lily; Mark was a peasant, who used to have the plague. His father sold him to a doctor, Doctor Theophilius, who was very interested in Mark because he had recovered from the plague. Lily is a slave to the Count Stelli (the doctor’s grandfather). When the count learned that Mark had the plague he threw the doctor out of his tower.  Since Mark was the doctor’s apprentice he had to leave. But Mark didn’t want to leave the tower; he was a peasant and didn’t want to leave. But Lily had been an orphan for all of her life so she never got to see the outside world. Mark and Lily swapped jobs, so Lily left the tower with Doctor Theophilius. Mark started to get used to Lily’s old job when the count made Mark his apprentice. Count Stelli planned to ruin Mark’s life by making his prediction wrong in front of the whole city of Agora. But when he gets his prediction right Count Stelli runs away.  Then Mark became the new count.

 

Mark was very popular and he went to quite a few parties. Lily starts to neglect Mark after he decides not to donate money to rebuild an important building. After a while Mark goes to jail for (killing) one of Lily’s good friends. Lily then talks to the Director. Lily asks if Mark could get out of jail. The Director gives Lily two options: to leave things as they are or get Mark out of jail but leave Agora and never come back...

 

I would recommend this book because: this book is a very good first book for David Whitley. It is very action-packed and adventure-packed. The book is kind of a fantasy book mixed with a thirteenth-century city. If you like fantasy books then this book is definitely a book for you.

Ben, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is set in the city of Agora, where everything from food to children to feelings can be bought and sold.

 

The book begins with one of the main characters, Mark, being sold to Doctor Theophilus by his father after catching the ‘gray-spot’ plague from which his mother and sister have both died. The Doctor saves him.

 

He becomes an apprentice to the city’s most famous astrologer – Count Stelli. When Mark discovers his master is plotting to betray him he successfully predicts events that result in his master – the Count being banished and outcast. Mark inherits all the Count’s belongings. Working within Agora law he successfully builds up his standing, wealth and respect in society.

 

Lily who at the start of the book is Count Stelli’s servant, who teaches Mark to read and write, decides to leave the Dark Tower with the Doctor who saved Mark’s life, to prove that charity, not profit, ought to be the basis for a good and healthy society. She establishes an Almshouse, which helps all the poor people of Agora who have nothing left to trade.

 

The death of Lily’s close friend, Gloria, leads her to discover the existence of the Midnight Charter. She becomes aware that a man known only as the Director is watching them all and sets out on a dangerous journey to find out what the Midnight Charter is.

 

Mark’s father, an old fisherman called Pete, is arrested for ‘The steal of life’ (murder) of Gloria. He is proved innocent [but] they discover the actual murderer …

 

Mark’s servant, Mr Snutworth, betrays his master, which results in Mark’s arrest for illegal dealings. Whilst in Jail, Mark is reunited with his father and Lily meets the Director who explains what the Midnight Charter is.

 

The book ends with Lily having to make a decision as to whether or not to save Mark.

The ending sets up the next instalment in the trilogy.

 

My favourite character was Lily. She was an orphan and had an extremely tough life. She is fiery and resilient who struggled to support herself because she was so intent on helping others. She is a generous, brave and kind person who saved many people including the innocent Pete. She has very strong morals and principles.

 

I enjoyed the book but found it very slow at the start. When Lily left the Dark Tower with the Doctor it became more interesting. I felt as though the book was set in the 17th century – the plague that killed many people in the city and the poverty gave me this impression.

 

The society of Agora is dark and dangerous and certainly not somewhere I would like to live.  It deals with the strong issues of morality, corruption and power.

 

I thought the ending was very strange until I discovered that The Midnight Charter was the first instalment in a trilogy with the next book, ‘Children Of The Lost’, due out this year.

 

The book in my opinion would appeal to children aged between 11 and 14 and in particular to those that enjoyed the Harry Potter series or enjoy reading adventure and mystery books.

   

Ben, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a story of how a boy called Mark and a girl called Lilith (or Lily) survive in a city named Agora without becoming debtors, and also how they are linked together.

 

I think that it is quite a good book. David Whitley must have a great imagination to invent something this big, including my favourite, bottled emotions! The city is so realistic, it’s like a mix of forty years in the past and forty years in the future. It must have taken him at least a few years to write.

 

My favourite character in the book is Snutworth, Mark’s servant. At the beginning, he seems quite helpful. Then, you see that he is just a normal businessman like any other, who just cares about whether or not he and Mark make the right choices (for themselves, not others). Then you realise that he is the meanest character in the book as he tricks Mark into signing an illegal contract.

 

But there are also a few downs in this book too. First, the title should not be ‘The Midnight Carter’ because you only understand what it is in the last few pages. This is why I think that it should have the title ‘Agora’ (the name of the city) or maybe ‘Lily and Mark’. The other problem is that some descriptions are too long and too detailed.

 

On an overall scale, I think this is a very good book which kids between 11 and 13 years of age would enjoy, especially if you like a very realistic book which is not far off from the world we live in because there are orphanages, streets, plazas, hospitals, astronomers, astrologers, fishermen, the grey plague, humans, crystals and many other things; but it is also different from our world, for example there are bottled emotions, title days (when you are twelve, you have your title day. You also earn your signet ring which allows you to sign contracts. In other words you own yourself. If you don’t have one yet, your parents own you), debtors (people who owe money and are thrown on the street) and, most importantly, contracts (in this world, contracts are everything. You can’t just buy something, you need to make a contract and you must sign it with your signet ring and so must the person you are doing a deal with. This works for everything. You can even sell yourself. If the contract is illegal, you go to jail. If it makes you lose all your money, you become a debtor. And if it works out, well let’s just say you’re lucky). So there is less room for compassion and friendship between people.

 

C, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a gripping story of two people, Mark and Lily, whose destinies are entwined by “The Midnight Charter”.

 

Mark was illegally sold by his farther to a man called Dr Theophilus, who treats Mark of a terrible plaque, that is sweeping over the city of Agora killing hundreds everyday. Mark manages to rise to power with the help of his friend Snutworth ...

 

Lily is an orphan who used to work at Count Stelli’s astrology tower but one day ... Lily takes his place and is thrown out with Dr Theophilus. Lily decides to create an almshouse to help the poor and the needy but Lily’s thirst to know who she really is forces her to meet with this strange man known as the director.

 

What I like about The Midnight Charter is that it is a great book and is always making you want to see what’s going to happen next. I particularly like how when a person dies they call it ‘life theft’ not murder and I think this a great way to show that even your life is sellable in the city of Agora. I also like how it (describes) Mark’s and Lily’s lives in different chapters from different vantage points, but near the end they start to join together.

 

I would say this is a 12-16 book because of its vocabulary and drama. I think this is a   5-star book.      

Daniel, from University College School London

Agora is a world where anything can be traded: people, goods and even emotions. Children are bought and sold right until their twelfth birthday. There is no form of money and if you’re in debt, you’re as good as dead. The story is about two children who meet as slaves for the great astrologer, Count Stelli. Mark was sold to a doctor in exchange for medical treatment and Lily was a former orphan bought by the Count. It seems as if their destinies are linked right from the beginning and throughout the story we see that point made brilliantly by the author.

 

I’m not someone who has much patience when it comes to reading and that’s why I very much liked that this book made you want to read page after page after page. David Whitley had a good idea and he told it even better. I loved the way that it was set in an imaginary city where things are so different from the way thy really are and I was fascinated by the idea of such vigorous trading. We are extremely lucky that we don’t live in such an unforgiving world where someone in debt is seen as a criminal. As you can see, this book really unlocks the feelings inside you and is well worth a read!

 

David, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter takes place in Agora, a city in which everything is bought and sold: goods, children, ideas, emotions, time, everything. There is no such thing as charity or selfless acts. When people don’t have anything to exchange, or have squandered what possessions they once had, they become ‘debtors’ or ‘damaged goods,’ unworthy of any support, as Agoran society has no concept of supporting the poor and destitute since they cannot provide anything in return.

 

Mark was born in the slums of Agora. He lived with his mother, father, brother and sister. His mum used to tell him stories that Mark enjoyed listening to. They were usually mythical and about demons.

 

Unfortunately for Mark his mother, brother and sister all died from the plague. Due to this, Mark was left to live with his father.

 

Unfortunately his father caught the plague too. As a result, Mark was sold to Dr Theophilus, in return for some medicine. There, Mark met Lily, an orphan from birth.

 

Mark lived in a tower with Doctor Theophilus. Dr Theophilus was a reasonable man; he had his own little hospital outside of the tower. Count Stelli, the count of the tower, was an evil person, corrupted by materialism. Mark also lived with Lily, the count’s slave. When Mark and Lily got the chance, they switched roles. So Mark began working for the count and Lily for the doctor.

 

The evil Count Stelli was an astrologer. All astrologers in the beginning of the New Year had to give predictions for the coming year. Mark also had to give predictions, as he was the astrologer’s slave. He got two out of his three predictions correct. As a result, Mark became rich and famous. While Mark started making a fortune, Lily created the first Almshouse for the poor.

 

Nevertheless, Mark and Lily’s lives remained entwined, seemingly by destiny. However, when Lily discovered the Midnight Charter - started by Agora’s founder- she realized that her city and its elite have some very serious secrets. She and Mark were forced to make dangerous decisions, some of which may alter the very future of Agora.

 

I enjoyed reading this book. I highly recommend it for people who like a bit of mystery and secrets in their stories and also for readers who love Philip Pullman. The book had an 18th-century feel, which was also very nice. The book had some suspense inside it. I would recommend this book for ages 10-14.

 

Although I liked reading this book I felt that some of the characters were inconsistent and that some parts of the story were also very inconsistent.

 

Dharrshan, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter was an extremely gripping tale. I had my eyes glued to the pages as I was reading it. I think that the author was clever to build up the story gradually instead of just rushing to an important scene. This meant that I got to know the characters and also small details which I could link to later in the story. The whole story was a bit of a mystery as I did not know who Mark’s father was until he gets interviewed by the police. At that point I had forgotten all about Mark’s father and it came as a big surprise to me.

 

Another thing is that I did not know what the ‘midnight charter’ was until the last 100 pages. At this stage I had forgotten about the title name. I desperately wanted to know what was inside the box when Gloria entered the room. [When it was revealed] I was surprised as I thought it would be something else... I had a thousand questions ringing in my head. They were all answered in good time.

 

The good thing about this book is that all of the questions I had were answered. In most other books the questions are not answered fully. I was amazed by the fact that the author turned to the view of one character, and after that chapter he went to the view of the other character. I did not think that Snutworth was a good man from the start, but I was surprised at what he did at the end...

 

...Also the setting was very clever as the author created a new world or country and named it Agora. He added laws to make it realistic. People like the Librans and the Director were made up interesting hiding their secrets. Then there were the ‘receivers’ who were like the policemen. It was an amazing story because of the imagination the author used.

Overall the story was phenomenal.

 

The end was a special part of the story as I could imagine the director and at last know the truth ...The way David Whitely described every detail was just mesmerising. He made every character have personality and definitely a mystery to them. The thing about the story is that the title gives nothing away: the midnight charter could be anything or anyone ...

 

 

 

Douglas, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is about a boy named Mark whose family have all died of the plague; every time a member of his family dies the reaper comes. When Mark finally catches the plague he passes out and wakes up in a cold dark chamber. He sees a flight of stairs: he remembered the story his mother told him about the man who climbed to heaven, so he began to climb. When he is half way up he heard footsteps: he thought it was the reaper. When he reached the top he opened the door. He wasn’t actually dead, he had been saved by a man who had cured him from the plague. The Midnight Charter is about Mark's journey through time.

 

I would recommend The Midnight Charter to people over 11 because it is a very complicated book. The author is David Whitley who has written a sequel to it that is named ‘The Children of the Lost’. When David was17 he entered his first novel for the Kathleen Fidler Award and was thrilled to be shortlisted. Encouraged, he submitted a children's story for the Cheshire Prize for Literature and, at 20, became their youngest ever winner. I enjoyed this book but sometimes it got boring.

 


Ellen, from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

The Midnight Charter is a story which takes place in the city of Agora. Agora is a fantasy land where anything can be sold or bought. There are two main characters in the book - Mark and Lily. Mark has been sold by his father and Lily is an orphan. They met each other by chance in the ancient tower of Count Stelli; if they stay at the tower their life will be full of poverty and servitude , unless they can find a way to break free.

 

I have really enjoyed the book; my favourite character so far is Lily because she is loving and caring. I liked the illustrations and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys adventure stories.

 

Gabriel, from University College School London

In the fantasy city of Agora, at a time far in the past, life is cheap.  There is no money, so everything has to be bartered for.  Even children are possessions until they are twelve.  It is a place where if you have nothing you can always trade your emotions.

 

It’s a cold, cruel, plague-infested world in which our two main characters, Mark and Lily, have to survive. Mark lives in the Piscean slums of Agora and manages to survive the deadly plague when his father sells him to Dr Theophilus. He is taken to the tower of Count Stelli, a famous astrologer, where he meets Lily, an orphan who has traded herself to be the servant of the Count Stelli. They form a strong bond and Lily teaches Mark to read and write.

 

Soon Mark and Lily get the chance to switch lives. Lily leaves the tower and goes to be the servant of the Doctor and Mark becomes the servant of the mysterious Count Stelli. As Mark moves up in the world, Lily works with the poor; this gives us the chance to see the world of Agora from two different viewpoints.

 

Count Stelli teaches Mark to become an astrologer and soon he will face the task of making a prediction (as all famous astrologers do) on Agora Day. In the background Count Stelli has been plotting that he should fail.  But Mark succeeds and becomes famous. Through his failure the Count runs away, leaving Mark with the Count’s astrology tower. Meanwhile Lily and Doctor Theophilus build the first Almshouse for the poor but the leaders of the city strongly disagree with treating people for free and that soon leads to deaths.

 

Later in the book Lily discovers the secret of the Midnight Charter and they realise that the director of Agora has been watching them closely all along.  A secret awaits Mark and Lily that will change their lives forever…

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly the way it is set out devoting a chapter to Mark and a chapter to Lily and so on, except at the beginning and end where their stories entwine. The author used very descriptive language and I could clearly imagine the emotions and expressions on Mark and Lily’s faces. This use of language made the characters very believable.

 

I could clearly picture the city with its well planned out areas, each named after a star sign.  Agora seemed to be a mysterious place, quite earth-like but with unusual but interesting aspects. Such as the mood vials, which people could drink to change their feelings according to the name of the mood on the vial.

 

I felt that the book had a strong message which was that greed could ultimately lead to your downfall. This was illustrated when we saw that when Mark had a richer life as the astrologer, it changed him and he forgot who he was; whereas Lily, who worked with the poor, had remained unchanged. In conclusion I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. Reading it was like having a very great meal, I felt contented after it. And just as a great meal can have many different flavours, this book has many different feelings.

Gabriel, from University College School London

David Whitley’s The Midnight Charter is an amazing book. It touched me and I loved reading it. Quite a complicated story, but nonetheless a great one. In the story, two children called Mark and Lily struggle through poverty and heart-breaking betrayal, meeting friends and making new enemies. Lily is an orphan who was brought up in an orphanage. She is desperately trying to contact her family. In the book Lily is trying everything she can to stop the servitude that young children have to go through. The other child, Mark, was sold by his father in exchange for medicine. His mother is dead and he never wants to see his father again. In the story Mark starts as a frightened child who cannot read only to make a great prediction and good fortune comes to him fast and he even gets a wife but Mark and Lily are being watched closely.

 

What I loved about the story is that throughout the book you always keep looking for clues that might tell you the ultimate question: ‘What is the Midnight Charter?’ There is a lot of mystery in this book. It is almost like a teenage Agatha Christie novel.

 

It had so many emotions crammed into the book. I was emotional when Lily was saying the troubles she went through. I was tensely excited when Lily was running away with a contract and had a bittersweet feeling in the chapter where you find out why Mark’s dad sold him. In the interludes I was puzzled.

 

I loved the characterization variation. You got some helpless characters like Theo’s grandfather, some good characters like Lily and Mark and Theo, and evil characters like Pauldron.

 

When I was reading this book I read it at every chance I had. This book is almost addictive.

 

What I didn’t like about the book was that it didn’t have one joke or a lighthearted chapter. I understand that it’s a serious book but some parts were just a bit too serious.

 

Recommended for children who want a great challenging book about crime and secrecy. I think this book is for the 11 to 14 age range.

 

Gabriel, from University College School London

In the fantasy city of Agora, at a time far in the past, life is cheap.  There is no money, so everything has to be bartered for.  Even children are possessions until they are twelve.  It is a place where if you have nothing you can always trade your emotions.

 

It’s a cold, cruel, plague-infested world in which our two main characters, Mark and Lily, have to survive. Mark lives in the Piscean slums of Agora and manages to survive the deadly plague when his father sells him to Dr Theophilus. He is taken to the tower of Count Stelli, a famous astrologer, where he meets Lily, an orphan who has traded herself to be the servant of the Count Stelli. They form a strong bond and Lily teaches Mark to read and write.

 

Soon Mark and Lily get the chance to switch lives. Lily leaves the tower and goes to be the servant of the Doctor and Mark becomes the servant of the mysterious Count Stelli. As Mark moves up in the world, Lily works with the poor; this gives us the chance to see the world of Agora from two different viewpoints.

 

Count Stelli teaches Mark to become an astrologer and soon he will face the task of making a prediction (as all famous astrologers do) on Agora Day. In the background Count Stelli has been plotting that he should fail.  But Mark succeeds and becomes famous. Through his failure the Count runs away, leaving Mark with the Count’s astrology tower.

 

Meanwhile Lily and Doctor Theophilus build the first Almshouse for the poor but the leaders of the city strongly disagree with treating people for free and that soon leads to deaths.

 

Later in the book Lily discovers the secret of the ‘Midnight Charter’ and they realise that the director of Agora has been watching them closely all along.  A secret awaits Mark and Lily that will change their lives forever…

 

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, particularly the way the book is set out devoting a chapter to Mark and a chapter to Lily and so on, except at the beginning and end where their stories entwine.

 

The author used very descriptive language and I could clearly imagine the emotions and expressions on Mark and Lily’s faces. This use of language made the characters very believable. I could clearly picture the city with its well planned out areas, each named after a star sign.  Agora seemed to be a mysterious place, quite earth-like but with unusual but interesting aspects (such as the mood vials, which people could drink to change their feelings according to the name of the mood on the vial).

 

I felt that the book had a strong message which was that greed could ultimately lead to your downfall. This was illustrated when we saw that when Mark had a richer life as the astrologer, it changed him and he forgot who he was; Whereas Lily, who worked with the poor, had remained unchanged.

 

In conclusion I would recommend this book wholeheartedly. Reading it was like having a very great meal, I felt contented after it. And just as a great meal can have many different flavours, this book has many different feelings.

 

Hugo, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a fictional story set in a city called Agora. People who live in this town don’t get their independence until they are 12 years old. The town has not really heard of money, and pretty much anything can be bought and sold - even children, which was experienced by a boy called Mark who at a couple of weeks to his 12th birthday was sold by his father to a Doctor who works in a Tower owned by his grandfather (an astrologer called Count Stelli).

 

When Mark arrives at this town he finds a girl about the same age as him working for the Count called Lily. Lily helps Mark adjust to a new life after not being brought up very well by his father, Lily makes Mark be very happy in the tower.  However Mark’s status in the tower is damaged when his Doctor leaves so he must go with him. But at the last minute Lily had an idea for him to swap jobs with Mark so Mark was the slave of his Grandfather. Mark does well to move from a basic servant to Count’s apprentice. Life starts to go very well for Mark and he starts to make a life as an Astrologer, and is soon to be a famous young Astrologer in Agora. Luckily for Mark the city gets involved with Astrology a lot (for example each sector of the city is named after a different star); because of this Mark becomes familiar to fame and fortune. But Lily and the doctor struggle to help themselves whilst trying to support other people, while trying to provide services for people in the city who cannot afford daily necessaries. How will Mark and Lily cope with each of their new lives and face the challenges ahead for each other? Find out and read the book!

 

I believe this book will be enjoyed the most by people aged from 9 to13 but I believe other age groups would like The Midnight Charter as well. One of the things I personally didn’t like about this book was that, in between each chapter, a lot of things happen and it takes the reader a while to get to know what has happened in the break of chapters. On the other hand I like the setting of this story, as in it is in a fictional town/city where there are minor changes between real life and the fictional city (Agora). I think the reader will really know how the characters feel and what their emotions are like. I really liked the first line of the book (‘Being dead was colder than Mark had expected’); I think it really sets the mood of the book which is very well written. I found that it was hard to get into the story and understand what was going on but if you were to carry on reading, it becomes much more obvious what is happening. 3/5

 

Hope you enjoy the book!

Jack, from University College School London

Mark lives in the city of Agora where anything can be bought or sold. There is no such thing as ‘charity’. You can’t even get directions without trading. Mark is an unfortunate boy: his whole family apart from his dad have perished and his dad (a fisherman) can’t afford to keep him so he sells Mark to Dr Theophilis. Mark, now working for Dr Theophilis, is thrown into the tower of Count Stelli where he meats Lily who is working for Count Stelli. Mark and lily switch apprentices. Lily starts to go downhill as her medicine isn’t going great, however Mark leaves Count Stelli and makes alliances with the slave Snutworth. This becomes very successful because Mark predicts the future and Snutworth makes it happen. Lily is given the key to Agora and is allowed to escape the town but she must take Mark with her.

 

The Midnight Charter is an extremely enjoyable read and keeps you gripped through the whole book.    

Jacob, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter was written by David Whitley and is about a boy whose family have all passed away due to the plague. Every time a member of his family dies the reaper comes. Mark has only heard the reaper’s voice but never managed to see it. Eventually Mark catches the plague and blacks out. When he awakes, he finds himself in a gloomy dark chamber!

 

The rest of the story is highly exhilarating and leaves you excited. I found it very compelling at most points in the story and loved every moment of it.

 

I really liked David Whitley's style of writing and I would like to read another one of his books in the future. I would give this book an age rating of 11+ because younger children may find it frightening. If my other friends hadn't read it, I would highly recommend it to them.

James, from University College School London

 

The Midnight Charter is a fascinating, thrilling and glorious fantasy novel. It all starts with this intriguing character called Mark who finds himself in a tower, not sure if he is alive or dead. Mark then finds himself to be alive but not entirely to his satisfaction, but little does he know that he has been sold by his father.


Soon though he has been taken on as the apprentice to the count - a mean, cruel and deceptive man who is using Mark as a tool to make his rival look like a fool. This is a complete failure though, and Mark becomes a hero. Mark goes up and down in society - hero to being completely forgotten. He is still though living a luxurious life which is angering his friend called Lily who has set up a free-care centre for those who are ill and have no money.


David Whitley was at a young age recognised to be a talented writer, when he was shortlisted for the Kathleen Fidler prize for literature when he was 17. He also may be known for his participation in ‘University Challenge’ which his College won in 2005, just four years before he wrote The Midnight Charter, his first book.


I think that this book was fascinating, intriguing and a truly great fantasy novel. 

 

 

James, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a book about a boy and girl who are sold into slavery. The boy (Mark) had a mysterious plague called the grey plague so his father sells him to a doctor, who cures him. The girl (Lily) was an orphan from birth and so was permanently enslaved. But as they grow older, Mark begins to thrive in the city and accumulates a large amount of wealth and power through astrology. Meanwhile Lily is running a charity for the debtors - the people who have nothing and make nothing. But they soon find out that they are part of something much bigger, called the ‘midnight charter’.

 

I enjoyed this book because it kept a nagging feeling inside me as I knew that something was going to happen and something was going to be revealed but you have no idea what it could be. The other reason I liked the book was it showed you how vicious life could be and that a perfect city could never work as there are people that wouldn’t be happy with what they got and would want more.

 

The best bit of the book for me was the part when ... [Mark’s father was revealed]. My other favourite bit was at the party, as you realized how insensitive Mark really was and that Lily and he could never be friends.

Jamie, from University College School London

This book is a fiction adventure story set in a fantasy world. The story centres around two children who have been sold in to slavery (Mark sold by his father and Lily who was an orphan from birth who begged for her life).  ‘In the city of Agora, anything can be bought and sold. Even children are possessions until their twelfth birthday.’

 

The children meet whilst in the employment of Count Stelli, the city’s greatest astrologer. Thrown together by chance, they faced an existence of poverty and being lifeless, unless they could find a way to break free.

 

Unbeknown to them all their actions are being watched by the ruler of the city. Can they survive the traps that await them and discover the dark secret that bind them together? Their lives depend on this question: what is the ‘Midnight Charter’?

 

This was a great novel and a spellbinding adventure story that kept me reading until the very end.

 

Jasper, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is an exiting and gripping book, so much that at times it is like a shark’s jaw; but I have to say, at others it was quite slippery and I found myself putting it down for a while. Even so it is a good story with mystery and suspense.

 

There are secrets that are revealed after every page turn but always one that is hidden. There is danger around every corner, nowhere is safe in the city of Agora. Even children can be sold, but the deepest secrets are guarded well. You can’t steal them, and some times they are worth a life.

 

For two children, their destinies are entwined to be completely opposite in what they do but are so alike nonetheless. Nothing could have prepared them for their destiny or what happened when a secret was revealed to them.

 

It is a story like no other in the sense that it is mysterious yet dangerous and secretive, as well as stressing the true meaning of a bond of friendship, even between the rich not so rich. The book shows just as well how charitable people can be, and how selfish. Just an iron ring in wax to sign a contract can deter many upbringings and destinies, it can tear your friendship apart.

 

I was confused at the end though - I wasn’t sure whether it was a dream or he was opening his eyes to the splendour.

 

So just remember if seeking the truth that the truth is not always what you thought you sought.

Jeronee , from Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School, Barnet

The Midnight Charter is a fabulous book by David Whitley. It is a book which is set in the magical city of Agora where children are sold as possessions until their 12th birthday. The main character, Mark, is sold by his father; and Lily is a servant girl/orphan. They are thrown together in the ancient town of Count Stelli (a man with a violent temper). The two characters face poverty, unless they find a way to break free.

 

I particularly like the way the author packs detail and description into the book. I think that this book is a very interesting book (which makes you want to read on) and is one that you should definitely read!

Min Kyoo, from University College School London

I found The Midnight Charter an interesting, and intriguing book but it was a little dull compared to the best-selling books such as Harry Potter or Alex Rider, and I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I hoped.

 

One of the biggest reasons for the fact I didn’t enjoy this book is because the book is set in a completely abstract world, which is fine, but the problem is that David Whitley does not describe this world clearly so I became lost and confused halfway through the book. I also think that this book is overcomplicated and is unclear at sometimes, and the story has so many plots in it, with Lily’s pursuit of Lord Ruthven and Mark’s life being an astronomer with fame and it was hard to keep track of everything that happens. I think another reason why I didn’t like this book is because it has no real action and in this book there are few moments of exhilaration but nothing that breathtaking, and most of the books I read and like are books that have lots of action and thrill but for me, I think that The Midnight Charter lacks in both.

 

Despite the fact that I have lots of negative points about The Midnight Charter, I think this is still quite a decent book, as I am very picky when it comes to books, and unfortunately The Midnight Charter failed to catch my attention, whereas books like The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown kept me up at night turning page by page until I could no longer keep my eyes open.

 

I think the idea is really good and for the fact that The Midnight Charter has been set in an entirely abstract and wonderfully imagined setting, I believe this book deserves respect.

 

Oliver, from University College School London

This book follows the friendship of abandoned Mark and orphan Lily, two children in the city of Agora. They meet as slaves in a famous astrologer’s house. This story shows two friends battling against betrayal, imprisonment, starvation and loneliness. Eventually they meet again and start a new life free of the walls of Agora.

 

Agora is a word from the ancient Greeks which means ‘meeting place for freed slaves’. The word Agora later developed into the word agoraphobia, a fear of open spaces. Throughout the book there is a sense of agoraphobia and fear of the city. This is first shown when Mark does not want to go with the doctor because he is frightened of going into the outside world. ‘Don’t let them send me out there, Lily. I’ll die … I cant’. The fear of the city is also shown when Lily has to go out and look for people. Also Lily wants to change Agora from the frightening dirty disease-ridden place it  is: ‘And stop letting Agora be the sort of city where six-year-olds can be taken away in the middle of the night, all alone.’

 

The sense of loss and betrayal is explored throughout the book. When Mark recovers from the plague, he realises he has lost his mother, brothers and sisters. He can’t bring himself to think that his father has sold him, the ultimate betrayal. ‘He would protect his family… and keep them close to him. Everyone of them, that’s what a good father would do.’ We later find out that his father sold him for medicine for himself.

 

Lily also has a sense of loss when she finds out that she never had a family. Lily feels betrayed when she thinks that Mark killed one of her best friends.  Loyalty and friendship also come up when Lily teaches Mark to read, also at the end of the book when Lily comes back for Mark.

 

In the book, after the age of twelve you are free but you still have to have the education and skills to survive in the outside world, which is just the same as today.

 

The genre of this book is mythical, a tale set in an unknown time where the myths of astrology are considered the laws of the land. It also deals with very real themes of growing up, friendship, loyalty, independence and freedom.

 

This book has quite a good ending because it just stops, so it makes you want to get the next book if it comes out, to find out if Mark and Lily have any further adventures together. I think there would have to be slightly more action then the last book for it to be any better.

 

I do not think that it is as exciting as an adventure book by Antony Horowitz. But it still made me want to read on to find out how the characters developed. This book is interesting in its own way because you follow two lives throughout their lives.

Oliver, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is set in the city of Agora in which there is a quite poor population and only the richest people of the city can afford to live in houses... Agora appears to be a really peculiar and disturbing world.

 

 

The two main characters are a boy called Mark, who is kind and caring and whose main desire is to be free from slavery and be able to leave Agora forever. The other main character is called Lily, who is jolly, kind and more optimistic than Mark.

 

 

The story is about Mark and Lily trying to survive and fulfil their dream of being free from slavery and leaving Agora for ever never to return. During their time in Agora both characters face many disappointments and difficulties. Mark endures the disappointment of being lied to...  He has to live with the fact that his own father has sold him into slavery. Lily goes through the trauma of realising that she will never find her real parents. She also has to withstand the death of [a friend].

 

 

In the end Mark and Lily are allowed to leave Agora but under one [difficult] condition ...

 

 

I did not enjoy this book because I found it depressing. I found the presence of the slave trade very upsetting especially the fact that Mark was sold by his own father. It made me sad to think of the hopelessness of the situation for the people in the slums and all the illness that they had to endure. I also did not enjoy this book because it is too slow-moving and it had too much description in it which made for a slow storyline.


Rohan, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter starts quite differently to other books, it starts (as it would seem to the reader) at the end. It begins with Mark, the main character, ... and [the start of a friendship] that determines the future of Agora (the city it is set in). The book is set in what would seem like the 1800s with all of the industry going on, but many features, e.g. the grey plague, are unfamiliar in any human history. Agora the city is supposedly the only place to be, the rest of the world barren and lifeless, but many dream about what the outside world would contain. The city is split into districts, Gemini district, Scorpio district et cetera. and each district has its own character.

 

Anyway, Mark eventually finds out that Lily is just a servant to Count Stelli, a great astrologer and the owner of the tower and himself, a servant to the Count’s grandson, Dr. Theophilus, a doctor trying to find a cure to the plague. Theophilus saved Mark from the plague but the cure only works on some. Mark has to go to the slums regularly to study the ill, but he hates it because it reminds him of his previous ‘life’ and also of his father who sold him.

 

As life goes on, Lily teaches Mark to read and their friendship grows, until one day the Count has an argument with Dr. Theophilus and as a result the doctor is disowned and thrown out. In a quick move, Lily, who wants to see the city, and Mark, who doesn’t, sign a contract to swap places. This means that Lily leaves to aid Dr. Theophilus and Mark is left with the Count.

 

For a while, Mark and the Count live peacefully and Mark only has to hear the Count’s voice when bringing him his food, but one day, the Count has visitors.  This is when Mark meets Snutworth, another servant whom Mark takes a liking to. That meeting is followed by many more and soon Mark finds out that he is to be the next budding astrologer.

 

It is then when Mark meets the Count for the first time face to face and he is trained for months by the elderly Count. The Count times the training perfectly and Mark’s first prediction is to be made on Agora day.

 

One day in the build-up to Mark’s prediction that will determine whether he is named a prodigy or thrown onto the streets as ‘unwanted goods’, he overhears a conversation the Count is having with his guests and finds out [the startling truth about the prediction]...

Sam, from University College School London

I didn’t really like the book. I thought that there was no huge climax. There were a few climaxes but not big ones. I thought the story line was ok. I didn’t like the beginning and I found it confusing. I wouldn’t recommend this book to most people. I didn’t find it a gripping read. It wasn’t one of those books where you get lost in reading it. My overall rating is 2/5 stars! Not my favourite book in the world.

 

In The Midnight Charter, Agora is a walled city that is based in the eighteenth century in the time where the plague was spreading. It isn’t a well-known book. Agora is run by the Director who commands an army of ‘receivers’ whose job it is to collect and check every single contract citizens make. Trade runs the city’s economy for everything from food to feelings. Almost anything can be bought or sold including children. People own themselves when their title day comes when it is their 12th birthday.

 

After coming down with the gray-spot plague and being sold to a doctor by his father (a fisherman), 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 exist. Lily wants to prove that charity, not profit, ought to be the basis for a good and healthy society and she sets up an Almshouse for the so-called debtors, with the help of Laud, Gloria, Benedicta and the Sozinhos. Although she and Mark live by opposite views of the world, they maintain their connections over the next couple years as the secretive and ruthless Powers that be in Agora control 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? At the end Lily is given the key to leave Agora by the Director. She gets Mark out of prison and leaves with him.

 

The Midnight Charter is supposedly meant for readers aged 11 to 14, but it might 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 level to which business ought to dominate a society. This novel kicks off what will be, one assumes and hopes, a series of adventures for Mark and Lily.

Sam, from University College School London

The Midnight Charter is a famous book about a boy called Mark and a girl called Lily. They live in a world of trading, Agora, where children are usually sold to rich workers and are eventually free when they reach the age of twelve.

 

 

Mark’s family were poor so his father sold him to a doctor because he had a weak form of the plague and Lily, who was an orphan, happened to be working with that doctor. On Mark's twelfth birthday he was free and swapped jobs with Lily to be a servant for a famous astrologer, Count Stelli, who lived in a large tower.

 

 

Having done the swap, they both constantly meet and spend time together. They want to break free from their gruelling, horrible work except they just don’t know how to or when to. Eventually a time comes when they do get away.

 

 

But, what they don’t know is that a man who happened to be the ruler of Agora was watching them. Their lives are in danger and they need to find the secrets of the city...

 

 

This book is a fantastic fantasy-thriller of one kind. I think it is based on true reality situations because there are some poor places with disease, slums, orphans and child slavery in the world. I think this could happen in some poor areas of Asia, except it wouldn’t be quite the same story. I would definitely recommend this novel to  9 to 13 yr-old people who like complex, strange books, which you have to think about a lot.

Sean, from University College School London

Agora was a city beyond imagination. Everyone and everything is sold for money and bought. Even the poor would sell anything for something to eat. This was the world where Lilith and Mark met and became friends.

 

Through unseen circumstances Mark became a famous and wealthy astrologer and Lilith became Dr Theophilus’ assistant in the almshouse. The plot thickens ... [and] the novel becomes a crime and detective book... Will Mark’s friends Benedicta, Laud and Lily support him or turn against him?

 

This is a fantastic and a page-turner book; once you start you will not be able to put the book down. I would recommend it to children at the age of 10 and older. I rate it so high that I know even adults will find it thoroughly entertaining. I rate it 5 out of 5.

 

 

Sohan, from University College School London

This story is based in the city of Agora, where anything can be bought and sold, including children until their twelfth birthday. A boy named Mark gets sold by his father and a girl named Lily who was born an orphan meet in the tower of Count Stelli, just by chance. They both face poverty in the tower until they find their way out and make new friends to help them and guide them through life in Agora. Lily becomes a doctor who helps the poor and treats the sick even when she’s sick, and Mark just by luck becomes a famous young astrologer. That’s not it; after a while Lily and Mark find out that they were being watched and seek an answer about who and why they are being watched, and to do so Lily goes to meet the person who controls the whole of Agora, the director.

 

This book is part fantasy, conspiracy and tragedy. We get introduced to Mark when nearly all the people in the slums including him suffered from a terrible disease. Agora is a city where anything can be bought and sold. Mark and Lily were both being watched.

 

I like this book because I think it a cleverly constructed storyline that brings you into a totally different world. It also shows you how people in the slums might cope with their life and how much different diseases can affect people’s lives. I also like how it shows you that people may not be what you think they are, you may think they are your best friend and they think the best for you, but they really think the worst for you.

 

What I don’t like about this book is that is starts off to be a very dull book and only after a few chapters does it start to get a little bit interesting.

 

Overall this book is a great read, which although is a bit boring in the beginning makes up for it by making it very mysterious and exciting to read.

 

My favourite character is Lily, because she devotes her life towards treating and feeding the sick so they can live a happy life. I also like that she can make friends really easily and is very forgiving and that she knows the difference between good and bad. She is also really nice and would do almost anything to make sure her friends are safe and sound.

 

The character I least like is Count Stelli as he tried to ruin Mark’s life by acting as if he was trying to make Mark the best astrologer ever to live, when he was really trying to make him the worst astrologer ever to live.

 

I think this book is for kids aged eight and above, as this book can be quite hard to understand. I would rate this book 3 out of 5.

Sophie, from St James Catholic High School

This book is about a boy called Michael who is walking up a set of spiral staircases and is being followed by the reaper and an angel who want to have a chat with him. This part was by far the best part of the book because you see two sides, good and bad; in other words the devil and the angel.

 

I enjoyed this book so much that I could not put it down. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a book to fall in love with as soon as you pick it up.

 

I would give this book a 10/10 because I enjoyed it so much and I could not put it down.

Steffy, from St James Catholic High School

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.

I loved this book as it has mystery with a mix of horror, and the only improvement would be names that I could actually pronounce.

 

Overall, I think this book is brilliant and that it is suitable for 11-13 year olds. I would rate this book 4.5 out of 5.0!