The Midnight Palace
- Orion Publishing Co
- Publication Date:
- 26 April 2012
- Horror & ghost stories, chillers
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Orphans raised in the St. Patrick's Orphanage in Calcutta plan a party to celebrate their sixteenth "birthdays", the anniversary of their arrival at the orphanage and the eve of their release back to the streets. Strange events unfold, however, around one of them, Ben, who is stalked by a faceless menace waiting for him outside. An old woman shows up with another 16-year old girl demanding to speak to the director of the orphanage. The group invites Sheere to join their party and membership in their secret group called the Chowbar Society.I loved the setting, the sense of growing danger, the references to British rule and the atrocities thereof. The teens raised in the orphanage by a European and given a heady European education, have talents and abilities that make it hard to remember that these are Indian children rescued from the dredges of Calcutta's slums.The language of this book is outstanding, far above the dross that has flooded YA literature of late. It is a treat. I only hope that teens will find and appreciate this book.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is one of my favorite authors for a reason - he knows how to start a story out, how to give it "flavor". The beginning of The Midnight Palace has a deadly chase, a set of babies crying and the backdrop of Calcutta in the early 1900's. Mix in rain, a good dose of mystery and a smattering of horror and you have a perfect beginning to a book.Sheere and Ben are twins, but they do not know of one another due to an incredible tragedy in their background. Both are raised in different styles, Ben in an orphanage and Sheere as a sort of gypsy, but their worlds collide on their 16th birthdays.Something that Zafon does so well is create gothic settings and they were in abundance in The Midnight Palace. From the house Sheere has been searching for to the old train station, I never stopped feeling as if I needed to look over my shoulder. This isn't sweet romance-y paranormal young adult fiction, this is a bit edgy, ghost-horror stuff. And it's thrilling.While I didn't enjoy The Midnight Palace(Niebla #2) as much as I did The Prince of Mist (Niebla #1), I did enjoy it and found it difficult to put down - even at night when every little sound had me looking around the room. My only regret is that I'm unable to read the books in the language they were originally written. That said though - the translation is magnificent, as all of Zafon's books are, and there is more than one phrase that had me reading and re-reading it, enjoying the beauty of the writing.Though this is an older book in its original language, it's fresh and something new to read in the YA genre and I welcome it.
In Calcutta in the 1930's, a man fights to save newborn twins from a monster. The twins are separated and hidden, but when they turn 16, they are found. Ben knows nothing of his family history, having been raised in an orphanage, but he and his best friends are determined to solve his family's mystery and save himself and his sister.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a master of atmosphere. He sets his stories in such vividly imagined settings and has a gift for immersing the reader right into the middle of it. 1930's Calcutta came alive for me---the smell of the sea, the rustic buildings, the grand train station, the crumbling Midnight Palace, and the simple orphanage that is the only home Ben and his group, who call themselves "The Chowbar Society", have ever know.There were things that I really loved about this one. There some genuinely creepy moments---ghostly run-ins, some grueling night terrors, and the villan is as purely evil as one could be and for a long time we're left in suspense of his motives. I loved the character Ben instantly---such a charmer and with a boyish determination, Sheere was smart and witty, Ian was just a solidly likable character---but with all of the characters, I felt like we just skim the surface of really knowing them.Instead, the plot is heavily driven by backstory and political intrigue that has mostly to do with the main characters' parents, and while that was interesting at times, it left me feeling kind of disconnected from the story.The ending had a great build-up. The group's fight against evil comes to a thrilling head, but then the actual outcome of that fight was a bit of a let down. I guess for me, the answer was a little too convenient and neat.So, for me, not all good and not all bad. If you're already a fan of Zafon, definitely give this one a try and see what you think! If you've never read his YA work before, I would start with The Prince of Mists.
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