The Midnight Charter

Welcome to Agora, a secret and closed-in city where anything can be bought and sold – goods, people, thoughts, ideas and even emotions are traded in the market. A place without money, where selling is the only way of life and debt is death. The successful merchants rule, plague festers in the pitiless slums and children are possessions until their twelfth birthday.

In the ancient tower of Count Stelli, the city's greatest astrologer, two children meet, both of whom have been sold as servants. One, Mark, an emotional, imaginative boy who was sold by his father to the Count’s grandson in return for medical treatment. The other, Lily, a reserved and thoughtful orphan girl, now owned by the count. At first, threatened with being thrown out to die on the disease-ridden streets if they displease their masters, their only goal is to work and survive. But gradually, as they begin to understand that they can shape their own destiny, they each find their path – Mark within the system, trying to learn the secret of the powerful Libran Society and gain the security it brings; and Lily, rebellious, dangerous and determined to change the city forever.

How will they survive? Can their plans succeed? And why is the shadowy ruler of Agora, the all-powerful Director of Receipts, watching them from afar…?



Part conspiracy thriller, part fantasy, The Midnight Charter is a brilliant and compelling novel for 10+ readership which deals with issues of morality, corruption and power and asks important questions about today's society... [it] is a book we highly recommend and we certainly look forward to David Whitley's future works.-

In the walled city of Agora, residents literally live or die based on their worth. Everything is traded, from goods and services to lives—even emotions can be bottled and sold—all bound in contracts (“Everyone makes their way by bartering something, for there is always someone who will trade”). Just shy of his 12th birthday, Mark is sold by his father to Dr. Theophilus, who is researching a widespread plague. After recovering from the shock of being sold (and from the plague), Mark becomes fast friends with Lily, servant to the powerful astrologer Count Stelli. But the children's lives diverge quickly: when the doctor is cast out of Count Stelli's tower, Mark and Lily contract with each other to switch masters. Meanwhile, the city's most powerful citizens have plans for them, and both find their beliefs and lives pitted against forces they barely understand—and against each other. Charity, greed, freedom, fate and political scheming are all woven through debut author Whitley's richly conceived world. Readers will be buoyed by every small triumph that cannot be recorded in an account book. Ages 11–14. (Sept.) -
Publisher's Weekly

I don't think that saying this book is brilliant would be overstating things... in this book Whitley has created an intriguing other world in which everything has a price, even children... Whitley's voice is fresh and his characters compelling. The book screams out for at least one sequel, and I can only ask that the author not keep us waiting too long. -
Good Books Lately

Newcomer Whitley crafts a dystopic novel that reads like fantasy rather than science fiction, refreshing in its classic approach. The completely self-contained city of Agora (the inhabitants believe nothing exists beyond the walls) runs on commerce. For every item or service there is an exchange; even death becomes a “life-theft” in this world. Founded on the zodiac and about to hit its 144th year, Agora stands poised for success or doom according to the secret Midnight Charter. In the midst of plots and counterplots stand two teens, who may have been foretold by the Charter and whose opposing experiences take center stage chapter by chapter: fierce, wonderful Lily, who believes in good for its own sake and founds a charity, and fame-obsessed Mark, whose meteoric rise makes him the darling of a city where reputation holds so much weight. Deft world-building and crafty plotting combine for a zinger of an ending that will leave readers poised for book two. Surprisingly sophisticated upper–middle-grade fare, with enough meat to satisfy older readers as well. - Kirkus Reviews

Whitley threads together a thrilling page-turner with the two young heroes' lives intertwining in surprising and illuminating ways….. Whitley brilliantly follows Mark and Lily as two young people trying to find their own true North, losing their way at times but keeping their faith in each other and doing their best to stay the course… -
Jennifer M. Brown, on Shelf Awareness

'The Midnight Charter' is nothing less than commanding. David Whitley's debut promises all the allure which has marked Children's fiction with great appeal to adults. Realistic and engaging characters play their parts in a plot which rattles with pace and depth. Offering us a mirror into which we can perceive the trappings of everyday world 'The Midnight Charter' is a fantasy political thriller steeped in sophistication. Gripping and full of the fantastical 'The Midnight Charter' is an impressive unveiling of a new talent sure to leave an imprint on your imagination.-
John Lloyd, from

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Author photographs by Gordon Ward

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