Book review

The Midnight Folk by John Masefield (1927)

Here's a story about a treasure hunt. But it's a special kind of hunt because it can only happen at night when Kay Harker is dreaming in his bed. Or, sometimes, the magic is very strong during the day as well!

Kay is searching for the long-lost family treasure. Actually, the treasure belongs to the churches of Santa Barbara. Many years ago, when revolution broke out in Santa Barbara, the Archbishop asked Kay's great-grandfather to take care of the treasure in his ship, the Plunderer, to keep it from the rebels. Unfortunately, Captain Harker lost the treasure. The crew mutinied and stole the treasure, leaving Captain Harker alone on a remote shore. And the treasure passed from hand to hand as accident and treachery played a part. What happened to the treasure, Captain Harker never discovered. But there were plenty in the village who believed that Kay's great-grandfather had brought the treasure home with him and hidden it away secretly somewhere.

Kay doesn't really mean to set off on a treasure hunt. It's just that his rather pompous guardian asks him about it, and then his rather mean governess sends him to bed without any supper, and then in the night, his old black cat Nibbins appears. Nibbins takes him through a door that never used to be there, through a secret passage to a place where they can spy on the dining room:

There were seven old witches in tall black hats and long scarlet cloaks sitting round the table at a very good supper: the cold goose and chine which had been hot at middle-day dinner, and the plum cake which had been new for tea. They were very piggy in their eating (picking the bones with their fingers, etc.) and they had almost finished the Marsala.

Now, how did witches get into the house, and why? It isn't long before Kay realizes that they are looking for the Harker treasure, and they aren't the only ones either. It seems that anyone who ever had anything to do with the treasure all those years ago, now has a descendant carrying on the search.

Luckily for Kay, he has some helpers on his side! All his beloved toys who were locked away with the arrival of his miserable governess are following up a clue to the Harker treasure.

Well, if you want to know how Kay turns up the treasure, you will have to read the book. But what brilliant magic there is here! Kay rides on a magic broomstick, visits the fox in his lair, flies with the bat, swims with the otter, visits his great-grandfather inside his own portrait, and generally enjoys sneaking up on all the wild creatures after a swig of Invisible Potion!

What can I read next?

If you enjoy witchcraft and magic, there's plenty of it in this book. Slightly harder to read than Harry Potter, but if you do get into it, there is a sequel:

  • The Box of Delights

You might enjoy any of the books by E Nesbit:

Or the series about little people by Mary Norton:

And there is this more modern book about talking animals which might interest you, by Robert C O'Brien:

Finally, you could look at anything by Stephen Elboz:

Also, the Bookchooser has found these books with a similar profile:

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