Thursday, 21 April 2011

++++Carloz Ruiz Zafon - The Midnight Palace - Book Review++++

                                       The Midnight Palace

  • Pages 281
  • Published by Orion Children's/Weidenfeld & Nicolson Adult
  • Date 9 June 2011
  • Age 12+
Lieutenant Peake pauses for breath outside the ruins of the Jheeter's Gate station knowing that he only has a few hours to live. Inside his overcoat he is sheltering two newborn babies - twins, a boy and a girl. Pursued by his would-be assassins, Peake runs at full tilt to the house of Aryami Bose, to whom he entrusts the children. In 1932 we meet the boy, Ben, and his group of friends the night before they are due to leave St Patricks orphanage. 

Their final meeting is due that evening but then Aryami Bose turns up at the orphanage with Sheere, Ben's sister, and tells them the story of the parents they never knew. Their father was an engineer and writer who died in tragic circumstances at the inauguration of Jheeter's Gate station. 

After having read Carlos Ruiz Zafon's first young adult book to be translated into English, "The Prince of Mist", I have been really looking forward to his next book. I had particularly high expectations for this book, as I had given his first book a glowing review. So far, within the author's native Spain, the four books that have been published have sold millions of copies. The next books to be published (September Lights and Marina) which I saw on a recent trip to Paris, are both expected to be published in 2012. Therefore, we have particularly nice treats ahead to read.

The book is set in the streets of Calcutta (May 1916). Seven children, who have had the fortunate advantage to be taken into care by Thomas Carter, spend time growing up in St Patrick's until they reach the age of sixteen. The group of children, who are one big family, form a secret club called 'The Chowbar Society'. This group meets each week, at midnight, in an old and ruined house which they have christened The Midnight Palace.

The story is shrouded in a secret past particularly for one of the children. As a result, this develops into a sinister and creepy ambience, which leads to an unexpected turn of events that leads them all into danger. This part of the story (told at the beginning of the book) sets the mood of the story. It develops into a riveting and intensive read from the very first page to the last. This book has an amazing blend of mystery, with some delicious bouts of terrifying scenes which will leave you feeling very emotional.

The traditional European feel, that seeps through this book, is a fantastic element that is rarely found within many books. Especially books that eventually manage to get published in the UK. However, this book has this quality, which comes from stories that have been passed down from generation to generation before finally being committed to paper. 

I really enjoyed this book. However, I did have a problem with the storyline towards the end of the book. Some of the characterisation of Jawahal, I feel, could have been enhanced by developing his role more as a 'real' character. This would have made his character stand out more and perhaps enhance the final ending. I have kept this comment slightly vague as I don't want to divulge too much of the story. Especially as I know that you will all want to read this book with fresh eyes.

Grab it, read it and even be scared by it, but love it even more. It's a literary delight for the young and old.


Carmen Wing said...

Oh it does sound good - creepy and terrifying? I'm sold!

Marie Quinton said...

Reading this book at the moment, didn't realise it is infact a childrens book. I love Shadow of the Wind and am loving this too.