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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Midnight Palace

I have been a fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon ever since I read his The Prince of Mist. Marketed for young adults, something that I was not aware of when I picked up the book at my local library, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I finished the book in one day; I read into the wee hours of the morning. And after I finished it, I was too scared to sleep. So I waited for the sun to rise, checked the bottom of my bed for any lurking monsters, and then went to sleep. 

Till date I have read three of Zafon’s works, and each one of them gave me the same eerie, uncanny feeling of being watched or of a presence in my room, when there were none. My latest Carlos Zafon was The Midnight Palace, again marked as a young adult book. However I agree with Zafon in his introduction when he says that the book is for all those who are all “young at heart.” I guess when it comes to Zafon I will always be young at heart.

The Midnight Palace is set in Calcutta of the 1930s. Yes, that’s right C-A-L-C-U-T-T-A! The story revolves around the twins Ben and Sheere, who were separated at birth by their grandmother to protect them after the untimely death of their parents. While Sheere was brought up by her grandmother, Ben was left at St. Patrick’s orphanage, in the charge of Mr. Carter to be raised with other orphans. According to the rule of the orphanage, the charges are expected to leave the orphanage and pave their way in the world once they turn sixteen. On his sixteenth birthday, as Ben and his friends, who form the secret Chowbar Society are celebrating, Ben’s grandmother Aryami Bose comes to the orphanage with Sheere to warn Mr. Carter that the dangerous past of the twins was catching up to them. This is the very first time that the twins meet and like all other young adult adventure series, the twins and their friends decide to confront the past rather than run from it. With a dark, mysterious villain with supernatural powers, The Midnight Palace comfortably fits the bill of the horror supernatural genre.

Zafon builds the tension marvelously with his plot but falls miserably short at its dénouement. Even his majestic and hypnotic descriptions of the dazzling city of Calcutta in the 1930’s under the Colonial rule could not soothe the disappointment I felt with the tame ending. That is the sad part of most of Zafon’s books. I had to strain myself to finish both Midnight and his adult novel The Angel’s Game. However he more than makes up for it with his ability to invoke visually captivating imageries through his writing.

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