47 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Carlos Ruiz Zafon's adult novels; The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game are two of my all-time favourite books. I was a little disappointed by his last Young Adult novel that was published here; The Prince of The Mist, so I tried not to expect too much of The Midnight Palace.
Happily, I was not disappointed by this read at all. Set in Calcutta in the early part of the twentieth century, this is a brilliantly written mixture of adventure, magic and a little bit of horror. Probably best for older children as it contains some quite violent and gory scenes, it really is an exciting read. The setting of Calcutta is wonderful, gothic and mysterious and full of dark corners, strange old houses, corridors and ghosts. The characters are drawn so well, from the evil Jawahal who is so dark and menacing to the hero of the story Ben, the sixteen year old boy that Jawahal wants to destroy.
This is a great adventure, with ghostly trains, strange old women and brave young heroes - a great read for the young and also for the not so young!
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Like many, I found Carlos Ruiz Zafon through The Shadow Of The Wind, which remains to this day my favourite piece of fiction writing. I loved The Angel's Game, and The Prince Of Mists, which although it is written for a young adult readership, is a thrilling read that any adult can, and should enjoy.
Anyway... to The Midnight Palace. One of the delights of any book by CRZ is the characterisation. The heroes and heroines become your friends very quickly, and you genuinely care what happens to them. As I say, this is a trait of Zafon, and it makes even his most convoluted plots very engaging.
Another great talent of Zafon's is to create & build great mood and atmosphere, and give a real sense of place. I feel like I "know" Calcutta from this book, despite having never been there, just as I could traverse Barcelona, as I have done many times in my mind, reading his adult books.
Something I feel gives Zafons' books a consistency is his ongoing relationship with Lucia Graves, as translator. Despite being a fluent English speaker, Zafon has used her services to give a more coloquial touch to the language of all his books so far, and retaining the true feel of his original Spanish prose. I have discussed the books with a Spanish friend, and our understanding of the texts seems very close, so much credit to Ms Graves.
I realise I haven't haven't touched on plot, and I won't, because that is a great part of the joy in reading any book, but suffice to say, readers will not be disappointed in the twists & turns of The Midnight Palace, and a rattling good read will be had. It is a page turner, and if you start in the morning, you'll be finished at bedtime, even if you take breaks for meals and the toilet!
Enjoy. Then pre-order The September Lights!
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Like so many others, I've loved Carlos Ruiz Zafon's adult books - Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game would be in my all-time top ten. Prince of the Mist? Different target audience, but I liked it. But this one wasn't to my taste at all. As always, it's well written, well translated, atmospheric with strong characterisation - but the tale of magic, evil and mayhem with characters like the Secret Seven at its centre morphing into Deal or No Deal left me rather cold. I do think Disney would make a wonderful film out of it though. But it took me far longer to read than it should have, and didn't grip me at any stage. Just not one for me perhaps - I'm certainly not its intended audience, but I'm not sure what that was.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 18 July 2011
I have to say that I was a bit disapointed in this book. I was so looking forward to reading it and saved it to read when on holiday. My expectations were high as I loved In The Shadow of the Wind and the Angels Game. I didn't find myself drawn to any of the characters like I did in the others. It wasn't a bad book by any means, but to me it didn't follow suit with the other 2 books. Overall an interesting read, and a very easy read I found and finished it in about 3 days.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I was looking forward to reading this as I had thoroughly enjoyed Zafon's magical 'The Shadow of the Wind'. Although it is a children's book, the genre is very similar and the style and level of writing was just as I had expected. Zafon's beautiful, ethereal prose shines through in what is a chilling and sad story. He captures an enchanting yet sinister image of 1930s Calcutta in a story which does not disappoint.
However, I am not convinced about how well this book works at a children's level. I think it could actually be quite scary for children as such, and would probably appeal more to an older, say young teen, audience. Because of its target audience, the book did not go far enough for me in exploring issues or telling the story on a deeper level. All loose ends are tied up nicely and explanations provided in an almost 'ABC' style. As this is a book for children, it probably serves its purpose, but ultimately was somewhat lacking for me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 April 2012
I have read most of Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books to date and have enjoyed them immensely. Although very well written with an excellent flow (the translator must take some praise for this); I have only one criticism what is it supposed to be?
It doesn't appear to be a ghost story, there is an element of the paranormal about it; but something about the central protagonist just doesn't strike the right note. I must say one thing though, the way i imagine the scenes within the book, I believe that visually this book, out of all of CRZ's books to date, lends itself most to the big screen and hopefully when it does get made my main query may be answered.
Enjoy, and I hope it makes sense to you.
First Sentence: Shortly after midnight, a boat emerged out of the mist that rose like a fetid curse from the surface of the Hooghly River.
An infant, Ben, is brought to an orphanage whereupon the head if the orphanage has been told someone will try to kill the boy when he turns 16. Ben forms a secret society with five other orphans due to disband on that fateful birthday. And on that day, an old woman and a girl, Sheree, come to visit. Rather than disbanding, the group allows Sheree to join them on their final, and frightening, adventure at the Midnight Palace.
Zafon's first book "The Shadow of the Wind" was, and is, one of my all time favorites, and I saw definite shades of what attracted me to that book in this one. This is quite different, however, particularly as it was written for the young adult audience. Even so, I was completely captivated by the story and never considered putting it down.
It is an ensemble cast with the story mostly told in retrospect by one of the members of the secret society. The descriptions are powerful ..."In the hazy light of that humid, scorching day the reliefs and gargoyles on the façade of the Chowbar Society's secret hideout resembled wax figures melting into the walls." ...and the dialogue quite wonderful..."I don't know where to begin," replied Ian. "Try the worst part," Seth suggested. "Everything is the worst part," said Ian.
If one approaches this as an adult novel, the story can seem over the top. However, it is good to remember it is a young adult book, and is set in India with all the sense of mysticism that location provides.
"The Midnight Palace" was a book I found absorbing and very much enjoyed. It is a battle of good against evil, with a wonderful atmosphere of suspense and menace from something you don't know whether is real or supernatural. No matter what it is, it all adds up to one very good read.
THE MIDNIGHT PALACE (YA/Hist/Susp/Para-Ensamble-Calcutta-1930s) - VG
Zafon, Carlos Ruiz - Standalone
Little, Brown - ©1994
on 11 August 2012
Like countless Carlos Ruiz Zafón's fans, I can't wait for the author to release the sequel to the incredible The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. The former could well be my favorite novel ever, so you can understand my enthusiasm.
Although I always steer clear from YA material, my curiosity was piqued in such a way that I elected to give Zafón's The Prince of Mist a shot a few weeks back. Surprisingly, I found the novel to be a light yet rewarding read, and thus decided to read The Midnight Palace, a second work by the author translated into English and aimed at the young adult market.
Here's the blurb:
In the heart of Calcutta lurks a dark mystery. . .
Set in Calcutta in the 1930s, The Midnight Palace begins on a dark night when an English lieutenant fights to save newborn twins Ben and Sheere from an unthinkable threat. Despite monsoon-force rains and terrible danger lurking around every street corner, the young lieutenant manages to get them to safety, but not without losing his own life. . .
Years later, on the eve of Ben and Sheere's sixteenth birthday, the mysterious threat reenters their lives. This time, it may be impossible to escape. With the help of their brave friends, the twins will have to take a stand against the terror that watches them in the shadows of the night--and face the most frightening creature in the history of the City of Palaces.
While The Prince of Mist could work equally well with the young and the young at heart, I'm afraid that The Midnight Palace is YA through and through. Which means that I was never able to get into the story the way I did with its predecessor. Indeed, The Prince of Mist was a lighter read meant for a younger public, yet one could see the genesis and echoes of a number of storylines that would make Carlos Ruiz Zafón's future novels such wonderful reading experiences.
As is normally the case, the author's evocative prose brings the city of Calcutta to life quite vividly. Few authors can create such an imagery, and even early in his writing career Zafón had a knack for it.
The characterization leaves a lot to be desired, however. I've said it before and I'll say it again. By some unfathomable means, Carlos Ruiz Zafón can, in a paragraph or three, introduce you to an endearing character that echoes with depth. With little room to maoeuver, as this is a relatively short book, I feel that the cast was comprised of too many protagonists for Zafón to work his habitual magic. And without the author's usual superior characterization, The Midnight Palace never truly takes off. Though Ben and Sheere are more well-defined, the rest of the Chowbar Society are never fleshed out in a satisfactory way. A teenager would likely enjoy the book regardless of that flaw, but I simply couldn't get into it.
Overall, Carlos Ruiz Zafón's writing style and tone make for a pleasant narrative. Still, many of the plotlines are more than a little predictable. And even if, true to himself, Zafón has a few unanticipated surprises in store for us, this time it's not nearly enough to make this a memorable read.
A younger public will in all likelihood enjoy The Midnight Palace. But if you want to give Zafón's earlier novels a shot while you wait for his next worldwide bestseller, unless you usually enjoy YA material I'd pass on this one.
on 7 June 2012
A ghost story Stephen King would be happy to lend his name to; a setting - Calcutta - that Salman Rushdie might have used; writing as fluid and luminous as the best of Isabel Allende: THE MIDNIGHT PALACE boasts a fine pedigree. Originally published in Spain in 1994 and only now issued in a mass-market English translation, this is one hell of a good book. It's supposedly written for Young Adults but, like a lot of YA fiction, it appeals to "grown-up" readers as well. I haven't read J.K. Rowling or the TWILIGHT tales or THE HUNGER GAMES: surely none of them can be as good as this?
Beginning in 1916, the story mostly takes place over 4 days and nights in 1932. 16-year-old Ben is about to leave the orphanage he was given to under mysterious circumstances in infancy. Reunited with a twin sister he didn't know he had, he - and six other teenagers - confront the demonic creature from whom Ben and Sheere barely escaped as babies. The demon rides a ghostly train full of dead children out of a burnt-out railway station that was built by the twins' father.
THE MIDNIGHT PALACE has a thundering plot, well-developed characters and - this really sets it apart - a prose style that is nothing less than exquisite. Like most English readers I came to Zafon through THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, which I rate among the most perfect novels written in my lifetime. In THE MIDNIGHT PALACE it is possible to see themes and ideas developing that will find full 'fruition' in SHADOW.
This is a near-flawless gem of a book. Anyone who reads this - young or old - will be exposed to story-telling of the very highest calibre.
[Reviewer is the author of SHAIKH-DOWN]
Calcutta May 1916, a British officer runs through the streets seeking refuge not for him but for the newborn babies he carries with them. Their parents have been killed and their mortal enemy, Jawahal is after them. He manages to find their maternal grandmother but warns her that they need to be separated. She keeps the girl and takes the boy to an orphanage.
Flash forward 16 years and the boy, Ben, is about to leave the orphanage. He has bonded with several other orphans and together they form a secret society. Unknown to him however is the fact that Jawahal is once again seeking him and his sister. His grandmother comes to the orphanage with his sister, Sheere, to warn him. Ben's friends rally round him and they help him fight his enemy.
The beginning of this novel is very promising. The chase through Calcutta is exciting and I was genuinely interested to know what Peake (the British officer) told the twins' grandmother. We don't find this out until some way into the novel and unfortunately when we do, it all seems rather ludicrous. Not only that but further on in the novel we find out that it's not true and that Jawahal is not who he first seemed to be. There are echoes of The Shadow of the Wind in this book but only very faint ones. I didn't find that it held my attention in the same way and I thought that there were too many long passages telling us the story rather than showing us what happened.
I'm not a great aficianado of supernatural tales but I find that the ones that work best have their own internal logic. In these stories (e.g. The Turning of the Screw) ghosts stay ghosts for example and they don't necessarily have physical powers. Jawahal is more of a superhero turned bad than scary phantom and I didn't find The Midnight Palace at all frightening, just rather gruesome in places.
There were several things that were unexplained that I found a little irritating. At the beginning of the book it is implied that the twins' rescuer had had some relationship with their mother; this wasn't developed or explained further. I'm still not sure why Jawahal had to wait sixteen years to get at the twins. The phantom train that appears several times was sometimes a phantom but at other times was solid and real. And why did some of the young (Indian) people have typically British names like Ben and Isobel?
I can see that some readers will love this book. I wasn't one of them. It was ok.