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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical storytelling
If you've read Shadow of the Wind, you'll know that there's not going to be a great deal of difference to the author's style and content when it comes to his earlier children's fiction, now being published in English. The Midnight Palace contains the same sense of adventure and mystery tied up in an elaborate family melodrama with literary references and a clear love of...
Published on May 5, 2011 by Keris Nine

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good
This book did have one or two good qualities, but all-in-all I really didn't like it. I liked the author's use of words, but his use of everything else left a lot to be desired.

The main characters, Ben, Sheere, Ian and the others, were all decent, but nothing more. There was nothing special in their personalities beyond the ordinary (and often stupid) behavior...
Published on June 23, 2011 by Lieder Madchen


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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical storytelling, May 5, 2011
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
If you've read Shadow of the Wind, you'll know that there's not going to be a great deal of difference to the author's style and content when it comes to his earlier children's fiction, now being published in English. The Midnight Palace contains the same sense of adventure and mystery tied up in an elaborate family melodrama with literary references and a clear love of storytelling. Although there are less adult themes, The Midnight Palace is clearly the work of the same author, and it may even be better for the restraint imposed on it being a work for younger readers, and all the more effective in sustaining its magical qualities.

The Midnight Palace is the meeting place of a group of orphans in Calcutta in 1932 who have formed a secret society where they meet and tell stories, and there's a description in the book of the place exuding an "aura of magic and dreams that rarely exists beyond the blurred memories of our early years". Carlos Ruiz Zafón's writing (which reads extremely well here in a fluid translation) exudes the same aura, finding a potent mix of exoticism, symbolism, adventure and history and tying it into the destiny of two twins separated at birth who, as they reach 16 years of age, are being threatened by a dark magician.

There are many reasons why the book works so well, the author finding an exotic setting, a wonderful group of young orphans each with their own special talents to help each other out, and a thrilling dark fantasy mystery tied up in India's desire for independence, but principally the book extols the virtues of storytelling and thereby inspires the imagination of investigative young minds. Wonderfully written, The Midnight Palace is itself a terrific example of the power of those very same qualities that will work for children and for adults wishing to rekindle that sense of wonder that exists in "the blurred memories of our early years".
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, esp for Carlos Ruiz Zafon fans, May 15, 2011
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
Reviewed by My Shelf Confessions blog

The Midnight Palace begins on a stormy night in Calcutta on May 1916; Lieutenant Peake is being chased by assassins as he carries two babies. The lieutenant is able to get them safely into the arms of a woman who he knows will protect them with her life. The woman then makes the momentous choice that in order to protect both children they will need to be separated from one another, so she abandons Ben at the doorstep of St. Patrick's Orphanage with only a letter explaining that his parents were murdered and the murderer swore to kill the child and any descendents.

The night the baby is discovered at the orphanage a strange man named Jawahal stops by unexpectedly and pries for information about the new orphan. The director of the orphanage suspects something is amiss and doesn't share any information with the stranger. Jawahal is particularly interested on what age the orphans are released into the world on their own - 16 years old - and he vows to return at that time.

Ben grows up not knowing his past but gets along well with the other orphans. He also starts a secret society with 6 other orphans, holding meetings at a local abandoned mansion they nickname The Midnight Palace. In May 1932, their lives change forever as every member turns 16 and is about to be released into the world to live their own lives, their secret society disbanded. Unfortunately, things don't go as smoothly as planned, and Ben's past steps back into his life in the form of a girl that appears on the doorstep of the orphanage as they are having a celebration to mark the special occasion. They must all work together in order to discover the mysteries of their past in the hopes they can stop a madman from stealing their future.

Confession:

I really liked The Midnight Palace; I have been a huge fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafon ever since I read The Shadow of the Wind. I loved the atmosphere and setting, it's so creepy and the suspense is palpable. The villain is mysterious and otherworldly with supernatural powers, and you're desperately trying to figure out his connection to the children and why he wants them dead. The characters are very likeable, they each have their own unique quirks and interests and they work well together as a group. The pace of the book is top notch, from the very first scene of the book you are turning pages trying to figure out where the story is going and how it will end. This is probably one of the creepiest villains I have encountered in YA so far. I liked it, I liked it A LOT!

I recommend this for all Carlos Ruiz Zafon fans, and YA fans who like mysteries and suspense.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great Novel From Zafon, April 20, 2011
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
Once again, Carlos Ruiz Zafon has created characters, atmosphere, and a story that exhibit why he is a master in the tradition of Dumas. This sequel to "The Prince of Mist" gives us a fine story as well as a glimpse into the development of an author who would later write the masterpiece "The Shadow of the Wind." The only drawback to reading this book is knowing that it will be at least another year before a new one comes out.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Mother Daughter Book Club. com, October 4, 2011
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This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
Something evil tried to kill Ben the night he was born, although he knows nothing about it. All he knows is that he was raised in an orphanage, and as his 16th birthday approaches he has to decide what he'll do when he has to leave there in a few days. He and his friends of the same age, who form a group they call the Chowbar Society, are celebrating together before they all must leave the orphanage as well. But strange events are about to change their plans.

Ben dreams of a fiery train with children trapped inside. An old woman comes to visit, bringing with her a granddaughter named Sheere. Ben learns Sheere is his twin, and they both are in grave danger from the being who killed their parents. He is called Jawahal, and he possesses extraordinary powers of destruction. Together the friends must find a way to find Jawahal and stop him before he finishes what he started 16 years before.

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is deliciously dark. Zafon has mastered the art of creating mysterious and twisted antagonists, and he excels here with Jawahal, who is a frightening monster who lets nothing get in his way. Don't read this one at bedtime, or you may find that he haunts your dreams.

I recommend The Midnight Palace for ages 14 and up.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not very good, June 23, 2011
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
This book did have one or two good qualities, but all-in-all I really didn't like it. I liked the author's use of words, but his use of everything else left a lot to be desired.

The main characters, Ben, Sheere, Ian and the others, were all decent, but nothing more. There was nothing special in their personalities beyond the ordinary (and often stupid) behavior of basically good kids in a bad situation. They were supposed to all be 16, but half the time they seemed younger and the other half they seemed older and that irritated me. You should pick an age and stick to it.

My biggest issue was with the plot. The whole thing was contrived and confusing. The actions of the villain hardly ever made any sense at all and it was difficult to understand what was going on. Everybody behaved in a highly illogical fashion which was weird since they were supposed to be intelligent. The conclusion was confusing and unsatisfying. It would take too long to list all of the strange, puzzling or downright stupid things things all of the main characters as well as the villain did.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ghostly story that does not reconcile its elements, February 1, 2012
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
The story starts in May 1916 in Calcutta with newborn twin babies being chased by a murderer and ending up being separated when their mother is murdered. The boy, Ben, is brought up in St. Patrick's Orphanage, while the girl, Sheere, is brought up by her maternal grandmother. When they turn 16, the orphans will be turned out onto the world, and Ben will find himself sent back into the waiting arms of the assassin. The twins, Ben and Sheere, are reunited when both are about to turn 16.

With touches of the climax of Harry Potter's final book wherein the soul of Jawalah seeks a human child, though the two books were contemporaneous, THE MIDNIGHT PALACE is a horror story with older teens in its sights. This is felt because it is not a happy resolution, and neither is much of the story pleasant reading - with "pleasant" referred to in the sense of giving comfort - which fare for younger readers is usually given to. The number and graphic details of murders in the book, the heaps of gore and violence, the repeated fiery, phantasmic images (of a train, bridge, a man with a set of fiery fingernails), a pool of blood from a 16-year-old corpse, the smashing of teenagers into every conceivable surface, the vicious (yet inconceivable) villain - all make for an older readership, and yet one that I feel won't be satisfied with all the implausibilities.

The latter includes: the changing rules of how phantoms behave, for example the phantom train sometimes goes through real buildings like a true ghost train and at other times smashes into and burns bridges, yet seven human beings can sit in and run through its compartments; the villain is a phantom who can disappear through objects yet can push human beings around.

Then there are the improbabilities in the plot, which seems wound up and repetitive, and could have been done and dusted in half the book's length. The villain, Jawahal, hunts down and hurts the children's grandmother and headmaster, but leaves the children intact for most of the book - strange. It is left for the last few pages for him to wreak real damage, and then to have done so seems unnecessary and pointless to the plot. The story never answers why the Firebird is so unique or special that Ben and Sheere's father, Chandra Chatterghee (shouldn't it more correctly be, Chatterjee?) gave up his ideals to join up with the homicidal English soldier, Colonel Sir Arthur Llewellyn. It was yet another plot hole.

The parts of the tale describing the desire of colonised India to free itself, and the group of orphans finding companionship in a group they call the Chowbar Society, I found heart-warming and entertaining.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Midnight Palace, June 3, 2011
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
The Midnight Palace is full of adventure, mystery, thrills, and family drama - not only the family you're born to, but the family you choose for yourself. Mr. Zafón brings us into the world of Calcutta in the 1930s. We're treated to an exotic setting, characters who come together to form a greater whole, and whispered magic and sorcery which grows to larger than life proportions. Storytelling is a large part of this book to the characters and it's done so very well. Mr. Zafón is a master storyteller and brings to life the characters and setting. I enjoyed the suspense and learning the truth behind the tale of the twins, Ben and Sheere. The fast-paced nature of The Midnight Palace keeps you reading until late in the night. I thought part of it was a bit easy to figure out, but this is a great YA book and I think it will enthrall readers of all ages.

Niebla series: The Prince of Mist (1), The Midnight Palace (2), Las Luces De Septiembre (3)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Kali's Flames, July 26, 2012
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona in 1964. His first book, "The Prince of Mist", was first published in Spain in 1994 and was aimed at the teen market. It was quickly followed by "The Midnight Palace", also a young adult title, which was first translated into English in 2011.

May 1932 was a difficult month for seven teenagers in Calcutta : now sixteen, they would be leaving St Patrick's Orphanage, the only home they'd ever known. Together, the seven had been the Chowbar Society - a sort of surrogate family - and they'd met every night in the ruins of a neighbouring mansion. (They'd christened their headquarters "The Midnight Palace", in honour of the time their meetings began).

The group's de-facto leader is Ben, who'd arrived at the orphanage only a few days old in 1916. While all the Chowbar Society's members are apprehensive about their departure, Ben is in the most trouble. Ben arrived at the Orphanage when he was no more than a few days old. A British officer called Michael Peake had rescued Ben and his twin sister from an apparently demonic killer called Jawahal, and had managed to deliver him to his grandmother, Aryami Bose. Jawahal has sworn to wipe out Ben's entire family - his mother, at this point, had already been killed. (Peake, for having protected the children, didn't last too long after leaving Aryami's house). Aryami decides to separate the children : she sends Ben to the orphanage and leaves town with his sister. Unfortunately, Jawahal is a very patient man : he's been happy to wait sixteen years and is ready to pounce. Ben, on the other hand, knows nothing of his family history and has no idea about what's waiting for him.

Gothic, spooky and very enjoyable; at times I could see the seeds of "The Shadow of the Wind" starting to peek through. Definitely recommended for a teen who likes a bit of a scare once in a while.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A long time ago on a dark and stormy night..., June 1, 2011
By 
Lawral Wornek (Philadelphia, PA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
If you are a fan of Carlos Ruiz Zafón's adult novels (which I am, go read Shadow of the Wind right now!), this may not be the book for you. It lacks some of the magic of his adult work. However, if you are the kind of reader who likes to see the evolution of a writer's work as he hones his skill (guilty again), this is most definitely the book for you. Written before his adult works but translated into English later, The Midnight Palace shows the beginning of CRZ's talent for layering stories, juggling a large cast of characters (though none are very well rounded in this one), and placing the unbelievable in the middle of a believable place and time. Unfortunately, his ability to turn a place into a character in its own right is not on display here, which is a shame because Calcutta would have been a good one. Here, it is incidental rather than integral to the story. If you're not already a fan or CRZ, really, go read Shadow of the Wind. Also, the rest of this review is for you.

The Midnight Palace is not the kind of book I usually read. It's an action/horror/paranormal-type hybrid that leans toward the scary/creepy end of things, and it is not at all character-driven. No one really grows or changes because of what happens. It has both a prologue (not my fave) and a where-are-they-now epilogue (one of my pet peeves). And yet, I really enjoyed reading it. While I was reading, I was scared and jumpy right along with the rest of Ben's gang. I was concerned for everyone's safety because they were so concerned for each other. I was nodding along with Sheere when she longed to be part of a group like theirs. It looked like fun (until it looked like a house of horrors), and I wish CRZ had let me, the reader, a bit more into the group. I never felt like I got to know any of the characters, Ben and Sheere included. Frankly, almost as soon as I finished reading, they were gone from my mind. What they went through and what they did, though, that stayed with me.

Looking back, there were holes and a few things that could have used an explanation, but I didn't notice at the time. I was too caught up in the bowels of a burnt-out train station with the rest of the gang. There was plenty going on to keep my attention. In addition to the ghost train there is a pool of blood that never dries, a grandma who operates strictly on a need-to-know basis and fails to realize that Ben and Sheere Need to Know it all, court records in vast archives, an architect's dream house, and a guy whose hand burst into flame on a disturbingly regular basis. The action is quick, the consequences are severe, and the reasons behind it all are shrouded in mystery.

In short this is a quick, fun read. It's certainly not light and fluffy summer reading, but it's the dark and stormy night equivalent.

Book source: ARC provided by the publisher.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good early work, November 4, 2012
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This review is from: The Midnight Palace (Hardcover)
Zafon is one of those few writers who is easily identifiable as the author after you read just a few pages. While this book lacks the polish of "Shadow of the Wind" or "Angels Game" it is nonetheless pure Zafon. I never can quite figure out whether I like the supernatural element in his books and whether it's too much or not enough, etc. It's a fine line which authors like Stephen King have walked for years and banked millions of dollars and I'm OK on the three Zafon books I've read. Anyway, a secret club of kids who live in an orphanage in India and who meet in an old, burned-out mansion they call the Midnight Palace. Again, it's hard for me to assess the roles played here as I am totally unfamiliar with India so I don't know if they are written up or down in age but either way they end up as adults handling a death-dealing crisis that one of their friends has suddenly thrust upon him, just at the time he'll be leaving the orphanage. And make no mistake, this work is ALL about the group of six or seven seventeen-year-olds with adults only playing the necessary fill-in roles. I enjoyed it, it's easy reading, the climax is contrived but leaves nothing hanging.
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The Midnight Palace
The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Hardcover - May 31, 2011)
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