publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
release date: May 31st, 2011
hardcover, 304 pages
intended audience: Young adult
source: from publisher for honest review
description: 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.
Review: 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 (see my review here).
Visit Carlos Ruiz Zafon's site here.
Purchase The Midnight Palace at: Amazon • BN.com • BookDepository • Indiebound