02 April 2011

Book Review: The Midnight Palace

Title: The Midnight Palace
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Publisher/Year: Hachette / 2011
Date Finished: 1 April 2011
Source/Format: NetGalley / ebook

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

The Short and Sweet of It
Twins separated at birth, Ben and Sheere finally meet at that fateful month when they turn 16. They have been protected, but now that they are adults, the dark force which hunts them is coming. With the help of their friends, who call themselves the Chowbar Society, Ben and Sheere must come to terms with their past while protecting their future.

A Bit of a Ramble
This is a different sort of gothic. Calcutta in the early 1900s. Orphanages. Twins separated at birth and hunted by a darkness. Fiery trains with souls trapped inside. Mansions with word locks, reliefs of Kali, and miniature cities. Ghosts and grandmas and saviors and friends forming secret societies. I loved it.

I have a confession to make. This is my first Zafon. I know, I know, that's practically sacrilege right? A friend of mine has suggested his novels and has even given me one, and yet I continually passed by his books for others. I regret this now. Zafon's writing is inspired. Calcutta felt alive, the characters authentic, and the story haunting. What really got me though is the spine-tingling, skin-chilling backstory, and the way that story unravels throughout the novel. I was almost more enamored of the past than I was the present.

Typically, I would give a bit more plot synopsis, discuss or analyze what happens or who's doing what, but for this book, I firmly believe you should go in as ignorant as possible. I knew very little about the story, practically nothing, before reading, and I am very glad for that. Being surprised and sucked in blindly really increased the enjoyment for me as reading was like discovering. And what I was discovering was irresistible.

When I was anal retentively filling out my book stats spreadsheet, I found myself stuck at the genre section. I felt I should put the check under fantasy, as it is a ghost story, but I really wanted to put the check under realistic fiction. The fantasy elements felt so secondary compared to what I am used to. Typically my fantasy books comprise a plethora of the fantastical - mythical worlds and creatures, a supernatural or paranormal cast of characters, magic and witchcraft and the such not. The fantasy elements in this story feel secondary; the world is real, the characters are real, there is only one piece of the puzzles which is paranormal and even that feels real. I believe it a testament to Zafon's writing that I stressed over the classification.

On a different note, I cannot believe that this is the second in a series. I had no clue, and now I'm getting a bit twitchy over the idea that I read book 2 before book 1; that goes against my very soul people!?!? I am trying to console myself with the fact that my experience reading was in no way affected by the fact that this is part of a series. I had absolutely no idea while reading. Of course, now I wonder: should I go back and read the first?

Question: Which Zafon should I read next?


  1. You should read The Shadow of the Wind next. Because it has the Cemetery of Forgotten Books.

  2. The only Zafon I've read is Shadow of the Wind and I loved it.

  3. Wow! Never heard of Zafon, but this book sounds fascinating! I'm glad you put him on my map.

  4. I had NO idea this was set in Calcutta, but you've made me very excited because that means it qualifies for the South Asian Challenge!

    I enjoyed the first one in this series, but I didn't love it. This one sounds like it's better.

    I hope it's okay if I add a link to your review to the South Asian Review Database.

  5. Jill - That's one my friend gave me, so I will definitely pick it up.

    Stacy - That's two votes for Shadow of the Wind. :)

    Vicky - I really enjoyed it!

    Swapna - Absolutely fine if you link my review!

  6. Im embarrassed to I've not read this author yet.

  7. I've read both "The Shadow of the Winds" and "The Angel's Game" and, though I would recommend them both, I think I preferred the latter. It sounds similarly atmospheric and dark and equally hard to categorise. This one isn't out in the UK yet but I'm looking forward to it being released!

  8. Oh,oh,oh! I had no idea this was even out there! I love Zafon and loved The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. Like Brit, I enjoyed The Angel's Game much more than Shadow, but both were highly intense and evocative reads. I must get my hands on this soon! Thanks for sharing this wonderful review!

  9. is the midnight palace translated into english yet?


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