Title: The Midnight Palace
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Series: Mist Trilogy #2
Format I Read/Publisher: Paperback, Mondadori
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 of 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 am extremely conflicted about this book. On one hand, I found the story really original and unique, blessed with a great setting and Ruiz Zafón’s usual breathtaking prose. On the other hand, however, I just could not shake the feeling that the whole thing was just a bit too rushed to satisfy me.
The suspense and mystery were constructed very well, with enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the end. The way it was delivered, however, really disappointed me, mainly because the solution to every enigma came from very long scenes of character speech rather than action. To me, this just seemed a bit too convenient and really not as engaging as it could have been. For the rest, I had the same problem with this novel as with The Prince of Mist: sometimes, I just could not understand why certain things were happening, and I was left slightly confused and wondering just what the characters’ reasoning behind some of their choices was.
As for the characters, I really liked the kids. The members of the Chowbar Society were everything I would expect from children of their age, each with their own set of talents and peculiarities that made them unique. The only thing is I would have liked to see them more developed, both as individual characters and in relation to each other as a group. The adults in this book, instead, were markedly absent, coming in only to provide the explanations necessary to keep the story going, which would really bother me if this weren’t a YA novel where children are typically the main focus of the story. As for the villain, he was creepy in all the right moments and, although he too lacked some depth and the story of his origin left me with more questions than it answered, he performed his role incredibly well.
Overall, this was a rather enjoyable read. It’s a good story, with enough mystery and suspense to keep you going until the end. If, unlike me, you’re not too bothered by the fact that not everything is explained, you’ll probably love it. If not, I think it’s still worth reading, if only for the author’s beautiful writing style.