Carlos Ruiz Zafon's adult novels; The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game are two of my all-time favourite books.
was however, a little disappointed by his last young adult novel that was published a while ago; The Prince of the Mist, so I tried not to expect too much of The Midnight Palace.
The book begins with a chase through the streets of Calcutta in May 1916. Lieutenant Peake pauses for breath outside the ruins of the Jheeter's Gate station knowing that he only has a few hours to live. Inside his overcoat he is sheltering two newborn babies - twins, a boy and a girl. Peake entrusts them Aryami Bose. Sixteen years later we meet the boy, Ben, and his friends. They have formed a secret club, The Chowbar Society, which meets each week at midnight in the old ruin they have christened The Midnight Palace. Then Aryami Bose turns up with Sheere, Ben's sister, and tells them the story of the parents they never knew. Their father was an engineer and writer who died in tragic circumstances at the inauguration of Jheeter's Gate station. But as the novel unfolds, there is more to their history than meets the eye and they are lured by a shadowy figure from the past into a final showdown in the ruins.
Happily, I was not disappointed by this at all.
Set in Calcutta in the early part of the twentieth century, this is a brilliantly written mixture of adventure, magic and a little bit of horror.
Probably best for older children as it contains some quite violent and gory scenes, it really is an exciting read. The setting of Calcutta is wonderful, gothic and mysterious and full of dark corners, strange old houses, corridors and ghosts. The characters are drawn so well, from the evil Jawahal, who is so dark and menacing, to the hero of the story; Ben, the sixteen year old boy that Jawahal wants to destroy.
This is a really great adventure, with ghostly trains, strange old women and brave young heroes - a fabulous read for the young, and the not so young.