The Children of the Lost - David Whitley

Title: The Children of the Lost
(2nd book in the trilogy after The Midnight Charter)

Author: David Whitley

Publisher: Puffin Books
Category: Young Adult, 11+, Fantasy
Release Date: 2010
Source: Sent for review by Puffin
Paperback : 394 pages

Summary from Amazon:
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 discover Giseth, a seemingly perfect land where everyone is equal, possessions are unknown, and Lily believes they will find the secret of their entwined destiny. But paradise comes at a price. Why are their new friends so scared? What hides deep in the forest? And who is the mysterious woman who appears in their dreams, urging them to find the Children of the Lost?


I have this theory about trilogies where no matter how good the story is, the second book is always the weakest link: it doesn't give you quite the same thrill as the first one and it doesn't provide the sense of whole and conclusion which comes with the third.
Hence, I never judge a trilogy on the second book as a rule because I feel it would be unfair, especially since the author imagined the story as an ensemble and that there needs to be a middle part. But let me tell you right now that The Children of the Lost isn't even close to this. I have loved this book even more than I loved The Midnight Charter and I feel that it has taken the entire story a step further. It is simply brilliant.

To tell you the truth, I was halfway through it when  Mockingjay came out and I was so caught up in the story that I prefered finishing The Children of the Lost before starting the third book of The Hunger Games. Yup, you heard me right.

As always, I cannot review this book without giving spoilers to the first book of the trilogy, The Midnight Charter (review here) so don't proceed if you want to discover this trilogy from the start without spoilers!

After a talk with the Director of Receipts in Agora, Lily takes the decision to turn her back on her life and her friends to fulfill her destiny as a Judge who will decide the fate of Agora. Unfortunately, she has to take the decision for Mark as well, who has been thrown into prison but has finally met his own father. As the Judges, the Protagonist and the Antagonist, they are sent out of Agora, beyond the wall of their beloved city.
They had always believed that there was nothing beyond those walls. And it feels as such when they spend days, weeks, in a frightening wood without any trace of any other human being. Lily is also outside because the Director told her she wasn't born in Agora, and she hopes to find her parents.

They are brought in a village, in the land of Giseth, where all the resources are shared and everyone is equal. The village is ruled by a Speaker which speaks the will of all villagers and a monk, Father Wolfram, of an Order. Everything looks idyllic and everyone seems genuinely happy, but are they really? What is this order that that exists in Giseth? Is it the perfect society that Lily has always in mind? The village lives also in autarky: complete auto-sufficiency and complete ban to cross the village's border for beyond it's border, in the forest, lies the Nightmare, a powerful magical entity which brings your worst emotions to the surface and make you act on them.

This new society created by David Whitley is honestly mind-blowing, especially when confronted to the one of Agora. You get a sort of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (you know, the director of The 6th Sense?) vibe in there. It is truly spooky. The fantastic aspect behind the Nightmare is awesome.
The characters, old and new ones alike (even though most of the book follows Lily and Mark in Giseth, you do get glimpses of what happens in Agora as well) are very well developed and all very interesting, with their flaws and internal conflicts.

As I couldn't explain what was The Midnight Charter in the review of the first book, I cannot explain the title of the second one without giving away major spoilers. All will be explained in the book though, with enough of a cliffhanger at the end to make you long for the third book. I really like how the story developed, this is no simple fantasy story, it is clear that there has been deep thinking on the meaning of it all.

As Agora could remind of a pure (hence extremist) form of capitalism/materialism where everything has a value and everything can be traded even human beings and emotions, Giseth reminds of a pure form (again, hence extremist) of communism/socialism where the individual is annihilated to create a stable community where everyone's needs are provided for in an equal way. Very very interesting clash of ideas. 
I don't feel there is any World War II reenactement at all over this clash of ideas though, just a very clever story entertwined with political concepts which are today predominant in our societies. Communism/Socialism may be a dirty word today, but some ideas behind the philosophy have stayed, changed name and are used today by governments. I can tell you that this is much better than any class on the subject. I am truly in awe.

I loved this book and I can't wait for the last book of the trilogy, I cannot begin to urge you to discover David Whitley's talent. He may be young, but I feel that he's here to stay! This book is suitable for younger readers (11+) as well as for older readers, boys and girls alike. I am pretty sure that fans of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials might be interested to read this trilogy.

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