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 on 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.
I’ve been presented to Zafón’s writing with The Shadow of the Wind, a few years ago. I remember it took me a while to really get into the book, but once I did it, I couldn’t put the book down until I was done reading it. So when I saw Book it Forward had this ARC open for a tour, I quickly signed up. And I’m glad I did it, because Zafón got me hooked again!
The Midnight Palace tells us the story of the twins Ben and Sheere. They were newborns when their mother died—their father earlier—, and they were saved by Peake, a young British lieutenant who loved their mother. A man was after the twins, but Peake managed to deliver them to their grandmother, right before losing his life. Aryami Bose lost her daughter, and she couldn’t bear losing her grandchildren as well, so she made what she thought it was the best: she separated and hid them.
Ben was taken to St. Patrick’s Orphanage, where he was raised by Mr. Carter with another orphans. On the night Mr. Carter accepted Ben there, a mysteryous man came to talk to him, asking about a baby he may have accepted there—but he denied such thing. Mr. Carter followed Aryami’s instructions and didn’t tell the man there was a new baby at the orphanage. Sheere was raised by Aryami, but they never stayed too long on the same place, they were always moving and hiding.
At the orphanage, Ben had a family, the other orphans. They created what they call The Chowbar Society, kind of a club that met at The Midnight Palace—and old house—, there were seven of them, six boys, one girl. On his 16th birthday, he met Sheere and Aryami, and he quickly became friends with Sheere, although he had no idea she was his twin sister. Aryami was there to warn Mr. Carter about the danger Ben’s into, the boy must run away as soon as possible, because the mysteryous man is coming after him, sooner or later.
When Mr. Carter saw himself facing the man again, he was sure Aryami was telling the truth. He told Ben to run, to go after Aryani and Sheere, and that’s exactly what he did, but he’s not alone. The Chowbar Society went with him—they’ve sworn to protect each other. That’s when Ben learned the truth about his family and started to find out more about the man who was chasing him and Sheere.
The Midnight Palace is an emotional roller coaster. You have to fasten your seat belt and enjoy the ride, because you won’t see the clock running. Part of the story is told by one of the boy’s POV, so we get to see Ben through his best friend’s eyes. I was already aware of Zafón’s style because of The Shadow of the Wind, so I kinda saw what was behind the by mystery on this story, but he knows how to tell a story, he knows how to hook you into it. This is the second book on a trilogy, but I must confess I hadn’t read the previous book, The Prince of Mist, and this was not a problem, once apparently the books stand well by themselves.
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Genre(s): Horror, Mystery
Publisher: Edebé (Spain) / Little Brown Books for Young Readers (US)
Publication date: 1994 (Spain) / May 31, 2011 (US)
Pages: 336 (304 in the US version)
My favorite quotes on this book are bellow.
But, as Ben used to tell me, the best place to start a story is at the beginning.
He no longer had any reason, or hope, to go on living.
“I hope there is a hell reserved especially for idiots, Peake, because that’s where I’m sending you.”
“We’re getting old, Vendela,” said the headmaster.
“You’re getting old, Thomas,” she corrected him. “I’m maturing.”
“You’re a boring old man.”
“And proud of it.”
“It’s my last week in this place. I’ve spent my whole life here, and in five days’ time I’ll be alone again. Completely alone. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to spend another night like this one, among friends. You don’t know what it’s like.”
Sheere looked at him for a long while.
“I do know.”
“We deleted the word no from the dictionary in the orphanage library six months ago,” Ben declared.
“Are you threatening me?”
Jawahal laughed. “Yes,” he replied coldly. “And when I threaten someone, I mean it.”
“All right,” Ben agreed. “All for one, and one for all. Is that what you want? The Three Musketeers?”
“There was a time when I thought that nothing could be more powerful than love. And it’s true, love is powerful, but that power pales into insignificance next to the fire of hatred.”
“I don’t know where to being,” replied Ian.
“Try the worst part,” Seth suggested.
“Everything is the worst part,” said Ian.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he begged.
Isobel laughed. “I’ll do one thing you would never dare to do,” she whispered.
“It’s not adorable to be alone, as a child or as an adult. For years I’ve wondered what other children were like, whether they had the same nightmares I had, whether they felt as miserable as I did. Whoever said that childhood is the happiest time of your life is a liar, or a fool.”
“Well, you can only choose your friends,” Ben said. “Having family is a bonus.”
“As the teacher in a Bombay school once told me,” said Sheere, “the main difference between a man and a woman is that the man always puts his stomach before his heart and a woman does the opposite.”
Ben considered the theory. “Let me quote our favorite misogynist and professional bachelor, Mr. Thomas Carter. ‘The real difference is that, while men’s stomachs are much larger than their brains and their hearts, women’s hearts are so small they keep leaping out of their mouths.’”
“Is that a joke?”
“Yes,” said Michael dryly.
“Then it’s the third joke I’ve heard from you in six years,” said Roshan. “And it’s the worst.”
“Maturity is simply the process of discovering that everything you believed in when you were young is false and that all the things you refused to believe in turn out to be true.”