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on 26 May 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After reading and enjoying Carlos' last adult book 'The Angel's Game' I was looking forward to this, the second volume (translated for UK consumption anyway) he's produced for children.

The tale, in essence, seems fairly banal when given in summary form, but even well-trodden narrative elements can be made compelling in the hands of a modern master like Zafon. It features a demon who pursues orphaned twins (split apart as babies) as they approach the age of sixteen. One of the twins - Shere - was taken away by her grandmother shortly after childbirth, while the other - Ben - was left with a local orphanage. He grows up with the supportive love of a group of fellow orphaned children who form a secret society that meets regularly in a dilapidated building - the Midnight Palace that gives the book its name.

Other reviewers have contended that it is too dark and scary for younger children, and this may indeed be the case. Personally it didn't give me any sleepless nights, but then my imagination will no longer be as well-developed as that of a child's - the author's target audience. I would suggest that if you have any doubts as to its suitability, one useful test would be whether you, as a parent, would allow your child/ren to read later instalments in the Harry Potter series. If the answer to that is 'yes' then you should be okay with 'The Midnight Palace'.

The most important aspects of the book, are the sheer surface brilliance of the prose - kudos to the superb translator - and the wonderful characterisation. If you like a well told story, with a heavy sprinkling of the supernatural, then you or your child may enjoy this book. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an old-fashioned storyteller and this novel teaches the old-fashioned virtues of friends sticking together to overcome adversity. And that, in these selfish times, is a relevant lesson to be learned.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you've read Shadow of the Wind, you'll know that there's not going to be a great deal of difference to the author's style and content when it comes to his earlier children's fiction, now being published in English. The Midnight Palace contains the same sense of adventure and mystery tied up in an elaborate family melodrama with literary references and a clear love of storytelling. Although there are less adult themes, The Midnight Palace is clearly the work of the same author, and it may even be better for the restraint imposed on it being a work for younger readers, and all the more effective in sustaining its magical qualities.

The Midnight Palace is the meeting place of a group of orphans in Calcutta in 1932 who have formed a secret society where they meet and tell stories, and there's a description in the book of the place exuding an "aura of magic and dreams that rarely exists beyond the blurred memories of our early years". Carlos Ruiz Zafón's writing (which reads extremely well here in a fluid translation) exudes the same aura, finding a potent mix of exoticism, symbolism, adventure and history and tying it into the destiny of two twins separated at birth who, as they reach 16 years of age, are being threatened by a dark magician.

There are many reasons why the book works so well, the author finding an exotic setting, a wonderful group of young orphans each with their own special talents to help each other out, and a thrilling dark fantasy mystery tied up in India's desire for independence, but principally the book extols the virtues of storytelling and thereby inspires the imagination of investigative young minds. Wonderfully written, The Midnight Palace is itself a terrific example of the power of those very same qualities that will work for children and for adults wishing to rekindle that sense of wonder that exists in "the blurred memories of our early years".
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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.
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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]
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on 24 June 2011
This is not a novel for those who are looking for some deepprobing realism. This is adventure! And a good one to that. And as a spoiler for anyone who hasn't read "The Shadow of the Wind" yet, characters in "The Shadow" have their clear ancestors int "The palace" (probably not much of a spoiler). Clearly, Zafon has developed since he wrote this novel, which isn't to say that this is of poor quality. It's just plain, good, entertaining adventure. And perhaps a promise of what was to come later. Buy it, read it, enjoy it!
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on 29 July 2011
I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the works of Carlos Ruiz Zafon which have been published in English. This book whilst being written for a younger audience still proved riveting. I have found all of his books captivating from the first to the last sentence and I hope that we will find more of his work available in English in the not too distant future. Zafon is by far my favourite author.The Midnight Palace (Adult Cover)
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VINE VOICEon 14 June 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I have had mixed feelings of the work of Carlos Ruiz Zafon, having loved Shadow of the Wind, but been let down by Angel's Game. I haven't had a chance to read Prince of Mist so far, but was really excited to be given the chance to review The Midnight Palace. I'm pleased to say that this book renewed my love of Zafon's work!

The Midnight Palace tells the story of twin children, born into mysterious circumstances. It starts by tempting the reader with a few clues about their past which will not be resolved until the end of the book. It then rewinds to describe in beautiful, well-translated language the story of Ben and eventually Sheere leading them and their friends, who grew up with Ben in an orphanage, through a fantastical and often horrific journey which gripped me from the start.

As a few people have said, I would certainly say this is a book for older children, though it's characters seem a bit young for this age group. I loved the graphically described terrifying sections as I don't think I can say that I've actually been scared by any book since my days of reading horror such as Clive Barker and James Herbert when I was a teenager.

A fantastic, though easy read. Highly recommended.
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THE MIDNIGHT PALACE is a young adult book, written by Zafon. It is a story with secrets, murders, betrayal and madness at its heart. The mystery of Ben and his sister Sheere, and the entity that is hunting them is a thrilling read. The characters are well developed; the atmosphere is convincing. My only small gripe is that the ending is slightly less dramatic than I was hoping for. To me, it read slightly as though Zafon had created a foe who was so formidable, that even he as the writer struggled to envisage a way in which he would be defeated. In the end, the way he was overcome was disappointing, not living up to the same standard as the rest of the book.
As a young adult book, this is a great success. The pace is fast, the storyline is interesting and engaging with fascinating characters. For young and old, there is much to enjoy, just be prepared for a slightly underwhelming finish.
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on 25 September 2013
Like many of the reviewers I am a fan of the Shadow of the Wind series of books. Gothic mysteries full of drama, romance, comedy & suspense. The Midnight Palace was written in the 90's and some of its less accomplished parts perhaps show the author was not yet at full speed. My 14 year old son, who loved 'The Prince of Mist', gave up on this one and having read it I can see why. It is by no means a bad book but some of the fantastical events are so far-fetched that the reader is left slightly befuddled. There are probably too many characters to truly connect with in such a relatively short book and the conclusion was a little anti-climatic. Having said that there are some very evocative moments such as snow in Calcutta and ghostly trains. And the epilogue is touching. So in conclusion. Not the best from Carlos Ruiz Zafon but still worth a look if you want an easy escapist read.
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on 6 July 2011
A good read,following on from "The Prince of Mist". Having read both "The Shadow of the Wind" and "The Angel's Game". One,hopefully,looks forward to a new work rather than English translations of earlier ones that pre-date the last two. They might be scarey but addictive.
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