Midnight Charter by David Whitley


I have a hard time leaving a book I have started reading unfinished. Even when I hate the book, I usually still find myself wanting to know what happened. That being said, there were many times when I considered putting this book down.

The story follows Lily and Mark as they go from orphaned servants to important members of Agoran society. Lily has been an orphan her entire life and was sold by her orphange to work. She comes to work as an astrologer’s servant, where she comes to meet Mark, a boy who grew up in the slums and was sold by his father to the astrologer’s son–Dr. Theopilis when they had both contracted a plague that was sweeping the poor in the city. Agora is a city where everything is about contracts, ownership, and sales. Even emotions can be extracted from a person and sold. Events conspire to lead the pair of friends of opposite paths–Lily works to help the poor of the city while Mark becomes rich and influential. But something bigger is at stake–Lily and Mark are part of a mysterious prophecy meant to determine the future of the city itself.

It feels like we are missing steps throughout the story. We jump from point A to point D to point G, etc. So much time elapses from one chapter to the next that we are always being given summary of the time we missed. As a result, we can’t get involved in the story and just settle into it. It also makes the development of the characters and story feel forced and unrealistic because we didn’t get to see it happen.

The message of the story, about the need for charity, the importance of human life, and how money can corrupt, feels a little preachy instead of natural. I would have liked it to be slightly more subtle. (Perhaps without Lily literally spelling it out at one point…)

Ultimately, I couldn’t get into the story and have major issues with the way it ended. It simply didn’t seem to make sense logically [Spoiler]: How can they change the city if they cannot return to it?

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