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A boy on the run. A girl determined to find him.

A city on the brink of revolution.

in the

Coming March 2020

A Wish in the Dark
All light in the city of Chattana is created by one man: the Governor, who
appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong,
who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical city lights represent freedom,
and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong
escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the
one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while
the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him
as a fugitive who can never be truly free.

Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down
and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the
alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question
the truths she has always held dear. Set in a Southeast Asian–inspired
fantasy world, Christina Soontornvat’s
twist on Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables
is a dazzling fast-paced adventure that
explores the difference between law
and justice — and asks whether one
child can shine a light in the dark.

On sale March 24, 2020

HC: 978-1-5362-0494-0
$17.99 ($23.99 CAN)
Also available as an e-book and in audio
from Candlewick on Brilliance Audio
Ages 8–12 • 384 pages
An Introduction to the World of A Wish in the Dark
Pong The City of Chattana
Namwon orphan turned monk, he pays Formerly known as the City of Wonders,
attention to things that other people don’t. He Chattana is now the City of Ashes. The Great
cannot handle unfairness and knows exactly Fire burned the city to embers, removing all
when a mango will ripen. Pong does not know magic until a strange man came out of the
how to swim. forest carrying magic powerful enough to
bring Chattana back to life.
Another Namwon orphan, Somkit is a Namwon Women’s Reform Center
technological genius with an easygoing smile. More commonly known as Namwon Prison,
There is something about him that everyone it is situated just outside of Chattana and
can’t help but love, and he makes friends filled with petty criminals and their children.
wherever he goes. He has some kind of Children born in Namwon Prison are released
asthma and tries to night fish as best he can. when their mothers’ sentences are up or when
they turn thirteen, whichever comes first.
Nok Sivapan
Reigning spire fighter champion for her age The Mud House
group, Nok is extremely intelligent and at the The Mud House is a six-story building that
top of her class at school. Her father works for houses orphans, poor families, and people
the government of Chattana, and her greatest who need a safe place to stay in Chattana.
wish is to do something so impressive that no Somkit proudly labels it “the finest burned-
one would dare speak ill of her or her family. out tenement building in the whole city.”
She excels at doing the Nothing Step to the
chagrin of her enemies. The Light Market
In need of light? Twinkling orbs of every size
and color are sold here, with levels for each
color and price. It is Pong’s dream to visit the
Light Market and walk under many, many

A small, ordinary village a fair distance from
Chattana with the temple Wat Singh, headed
by Father Cham. It also contains the Tanaburi
Village School, a craft school Father Cham
founded where the children of the village
learn how to weave cloth, carve wood, and
master other skills that will land them good,
steady work.
A Note from Christina Soontornvat

This story has been in my heart for thirty years.

When I was ten, my parents took me on one of our regular trips to

visit my dad’s family in Thailand. My mother wisely brought with her the
longest book she could find: Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. During the day,
while I played with my cousins in the shade of mango trees and feasted on
the street food of Bangkok, my mother would read her book. Every night
before I went to sleep, she would tell me what she’d read. By the end of our
trip, we had finished it.

That book went straight to my heart. It made me question the black-

and-white truths I thought I knew. The law can be wrong? A criminal
can be a good man? This was the first time I realized that stories have the
power to change your view of the world.

As a writer, I have always wanted to tackle a twist on Les Mis, but for
a long time I could not wrap my head around a version for middle-grade

Then I remembered my dad’s stories of growing up in Bangkok, back

when the city was called the Venice of the East, when he and his friends
would snatch rides on water taxis crisscrossing the Chao Phraya River. My
dad and his scrappy gang of friends are the inspiration for the characters
Pong and Somkit, boys made tough by a hard life, who would lay down
their lives for each other.

Once I decided to set my book in a fantastical Thai city, the story

poured out of me. Pong is my Jean Valjean, a boy who escapes from prison
only to realize that he will always be a fugitive from the law. He finds
salvation in a Thai temple, where a monk with magical powers protects
him. He is doggedly pursued by the prison warden’s daughter, Nok, who
is desperate to catch him and bring honor to her family. Together they go
up against a society where the rule of law has overshadowed the rules of
Photo by Sam Bond Photography
I never meant this book to be allegorical, but readers are sure to find
parallels between the injustices of Pong’s world and our own. I believe that
middle-grade readers are ready to confront those injustices, just as I was ready
at ten years old. They are ready to tackle head-on the neat, tidy version of
morality they have been fed their entire lives. They are ready to ask themselves
big, important questions:

Who gets to decide what is right and what is wrong?

Does everyone deserve compassion, or only the privileged few?

Can one person shine a light in the darkness?

My answer to that last question is yes, and I hope with all my heart that
A Wish in the Dark helps young readers shine their own light into the world.

Advance Praise
“A thrilling fantasy, set in a fresh, original world, with a vital message at its heart. A Wish
in the Dark is incandescent.” — Adam Gidwitz, Newbery Honor–winning author of The
Inquisitor’s Tale

“At once timeless and timely, Christina Soontornvat’s A Wish in the Dark is a richly
imagined portrait of the power of hope, courage, and compassion to shine a light in dark
times and the ability of small people to effect great change. Ingenious, captivating, and
utterly gorgeous.” — Anne Ursu, National Book Award nominee for The Real Boy

“Readers will be rooting for Pong and his band of revolutionary friends and inspired to
spread more light in their own communities.” — Sayantani DasGupta, New York Times
best-selling author of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series