Friday, July 15, 2011

The Midnight Palace


The Midnight Palace is a YA horror novel by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

Sixteen years ago an English lieutenant raced to save newborn twins from the unthinkable danger of a mysterious and deadly man. The twins were separated for their own safety, never being told of the other, their pasts a complete secret - and now they find themselves on the cusp of their sixteenth birthday in 1930s Calcutta.

Ben has spent his life in an orphanage, surrounded by friends that he has formed a society with - he has been cared for by the kind orphanage staff and is nervous, along with his sixteen-year-old peers, to be sent out as an adult into the world. But before that event can occur, an old woman accompanied by a girl Ben's age arrives at the orphanage with a warning - to get out of Calcutta as quickly as possible.

Because the threat that followed them as newborns has never given up. And now the threat is determined to reach them. Ben's brave and loyal friends try to help him fight the terrors lurking in the shadows, but is his fate inevitable?

This is the newest offering by the author of The Prince of Mist, which I found to be excellent. One thing I feel I must make clear is that Carlos Ruiz Zafon's books are easily read by any age group. He provides such a fantastically presented tale, full of an atmospheric, adventurous, spooky feel - like a really good movie with more creepy detail and imagination, that any fan of the genre, no matter what age, would find enjoyment in The Midnight Palace.

It didn't take long before I felt like I was being told a sophisticated ghost story. Ian, one of Ben's friends at the orphanage, narrates and gives a quick but ominous overview of the first sixteen years of the life of Ben and the rest of the Chowbar Society. The sinister figure that was initially chasing the twins in the creepy opener seems to be returning again - and you definitely have the impression that this dangerous man might be more than just a man...

However, as the story continued I was surprised by how tedious the book became for me. I guessed the "big" revelations way too early on, and had to wait for the characters to catch up. And even though I didn't dislike any of the characters, I realized I didn't grow attached to any of them either. They were pretty much just names on a page. This is probably what led me to feel a bit more bored as the climax peaked. Thing is, I was pretty tired at the time and can't help but wonder how much that influenced this opinion. Because I still couldn't deny the amazing lyrical flow mixed with suspenseful horror elements. And the sometimes very, very scary moments... I wonder if I would like it better the second time around. Which just might mean you'll like a whole lot the first time around!

There were effective moments nearer the end, even with my tepid response to the novel at the time. And the end is definitely not cliche. I did see how The Midnight Palace could be an impressive book for many. So definitely check it out and form your own opinions!

*I received a review copy of The Midnight Palace from Hachette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

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