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The Midnight Palace    by Carlos Ruiz Zafón order for
Midnight Palace
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2011 (1994)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Twins born in Calcutta, India, are separated at birth. Sheere, the girl, wanders about the country with her grandmother, who fears for their lives. Ben, her brother, grows up in an orphanage, where he is part of a secret society. When they meet on their sixteenth birthday a mysterious threat reenters their lives. It takes a great deal of effort to understand, seek out and stand against such terror, but in the process Ben and Sheere discover what has been kept from them all these years.

Popular Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón started his career writing books for young adults and only later turned to novels. This work was written in 1994 but was translated (by Lucia Graves) only this year. As a work for young adults it reads easily. His works always have some kind of other-worldly mystery to them, and his images are appropriately eerie and suspenseful.

The Midnight Palace cannot be compared to his later Shadow of the Wind because it lacks the beautifully etched characters and vivid immediacy of the other work. It is interesting to read both to see how the novelist has grown in skill even while keeping the same cinematic quality and mystery.

2nd Review by Ricki Marking-Camuto (Rating:3):

Before he became an international bestseller, Carlos Ruiz Zafón started his career by writing three YA horrors that are only connected by their freaky atmosphere. Now, over a decade after they were first penned, his works have finally been translated into English. The Midnight Palace is the second of the three.

In Calcutta in 1916, two twins were rescued from an evil being by a brave English officer and taken to their grandmother. Fearing that the spirit would find them if they remained together, the grandmother took the boy to St. Patrick's Orphanage where he was raised. Sixteen years later, Ben is about to graduate from the orphanage, but the evil Jawahal is waiting. It will take the work of Ben's six friends and his long lost sister Sheere to defeat the supernatural force bound to kill the twins.

Zafón sets the stage for his tale by starting The Midnight Palace with a narrative from Ben's best friend Ian. The story itself is actually a third-person flashback, but some explanation is interjected between a few chapters, which also serves to give the reader a break from a very intense story. Zafón sure knows how to set a mood, and once the action starts, it never wanes, keeping the reader flipping page after page as the long chapters fly by.

When comparing The Midnight Palace to other works that were its contemporaries, it is obvious that Zafón was in a class all his own even in the early to mid 1990s. While R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike were scaring teens in the US with intense supernatural tales, they were still basically easy beach reads. The Midnight Palace, on the other hand, is a true work of literature, not something that is easily said about YA horror novels. With his second book, Carlos Ruiz Zafón clearly showed himself as the master storyteller he is known as today.

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