The Midnight Palace – Carlos Ruis Zafon

Synopsis from Goodreads.

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.


“Those places where sadness and misery abound are favoured settings for stories of ghosts and apparitions.”

I think I can sum up my disappointment in this book in a sentence:
Fantastic ideas that are described in breathtakingly beautiful prose but never explained properly.

This isn’t going to be a long review because I had the same problems with this book as I did with The Prince of Mist.
There was just not enough explanation and, it might just be me, but I couldn’t get over that. I’m trying so hard not to delve into spoilers but so many crazy things happened throughout which would have been brilliant (and were certainly unique!) had I just been given a reason as to why they were happening. Without this, I just couldn’t believe it and I wasn’t sure that I understood the majority of it.
I don’t mind suspending my disbelief and I love magical realism (it’s my favourite kind of realism!) but only when what’s happening makes sense.
And, to me anyway, parts of this story didn’t.

But anyway, enough of the negative stuff, let’s move on to the positives.
Because there were tons of things I liked about this book.
First up I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again I love love looooove how Mr RZ constructs a sentence. Seriously, his prose is just absolutely stunning.
I’ve never been to Calcutta and I don’t know what the streets look like or how the mist rolls off the Hooghly River but with passages like this:

“The further he went, the more the station made of glass and steel seemed to melt into the city- a jungle of marble mausoleums blackened by decades of neglect; naked walls once coated in ochre, blue and gold, their colours peeled away by the fury of the monsoon, leaving them blurred and faded, like watercolours dissolving in a pond.”

I am instantly transported there. Just gorgeous.
I also think that, aforementioned problems aside, Mr RZ definitely knows how to tell a thrilling story. Even though I didn’t understand a few bits, the ending was so gripping! I’ve said before that I love authors who aren’t afraid to put their characters (and readers for that matter!) through the ringer and Mr RZ is definitely not afraid to do this.
I was afraid, however, because I’m sure he has a list of all my worst nightmares and just throws them all in to spite me!

And then there are his characters. Even though I did get a bit annoyed by the fact that the adults are conveniently absent throughout this whole story, I loved that the children are the focus of the book. With such a colourful cast, it was easy to imagine yourself in that dilapidated house and I liked how his children actually act like children, too. Too often in MG/YA books, the children are impossibly ‘mature’ but in both of the books I’ve read by Mr RZ his characters are still children in the best sense: full of wonder, full of imagination, and members of secret clubs that require a password and only permit special girls to join!
My favourite character was Ben with his love for “complex puns” and his love for writing plays that are described as “a phantasmal piece of gibberish in which everyone died, including the stagehands.”

Ha!

I know I seem to have written a lot without actually saying anything, so I apologise. I enjoyed this book a lot more than I did The Prince of Mist because there seemed to be a lot more depth to the story and the setting was absolutely gorgeous.
I’d definitely recommend this book to people who don’t need to know every single thing and who can just sit back and enjoy the book for what it is.
Just because I’m not one of those people, doesn’t mean that you won’t be. Give it a try just for his prose, if anything!

I received a copy of this book as part of a book tour hosted by the wonderful UK Book Tours.

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One thought on “The Midnight Palace – Carlos Ruis Zafon

  1. Pingback: The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – Readers' High Tea

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