“Those who are born in darkness always return.”
A Wish in the Dark meshes fantasy and adventure, set in a place similar to Thailand. The journey begins for Pong, an orphan who was born in Namwon Prison, when he makes his escape when he’s 12-years- old. The next four years Pong lives in a temple with monks, which is in a village outside the city of Chattana. Father Cham becomes his father figure and mentor. He teaches Pong about trusting himself and how to navigate his new freedom.
The Governor of Chattana powers the city with magic orbs that give light, heat, and power. Who gets these orbs? According to the Governor, “light shines on the worthy” and he determines who is worthy.
After the four years at the temple, Pong heads back to Chattana. Back to the city where he was a prisoner. He reconnects with an old friend and fellow-prisoner, Somkit. Meanwhile, the prison warden’s daughter, Nok, spotted Pong in the village just before he took off. She is determined to find him, and intends to turn him in for his escape from Namwon. When Pong and Nok meet, they discover they have more in common than they thought possible. Nok sees how different things are on the other side of town. There is more darkness, as the people can’t afford the Governor’s orbs. How can they go against the Governor and make things right/fair?
I really enjoyed the way Pong and Nok’s stories came together. They both appear very self-aware, which gives them the confidence to stand up for what’s right. The strong character development is inspired by Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. A Wish in the Dark has a list of memorable characters- Pong, Nok, Father Cham, Somkit, Ampai, and the Governor. Some get more time on the pages, but that doesn’t lessen their impact on the story. The storyline is fast-paced and full of action.
Read-alike recommendations: The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz and Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman