The Midnight Palace

( 19 )


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 of Ben and Sheere's ...

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The Midnight Palace

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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 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Zafón (The Prince of Mist) delivers an often creepy adventure, first published in Spain in 1994, populated with some wonderful characters. In British-occupied Calcutta in 1916, a soldier saves two babies (at the cost of his own life), and the children's grandmother leaves one at an orphanage to throw off the evil person chasing them. Sixteen years later, the boy, Ben, is reunited with his sister, Sheere, after a brutal attack on the orphanage. Along with Ben's fellow orphans (including narrator Ian), the siblings take on the mysterious sorcerer Jawahal, who has fire-based powers and a connection to the twins' late father. Zafón adeptly establishes his characters (including some fun and believable teenage repartee) and makes good use of his setting. His Calcutta has many of the mystical elements that many writers associate with the city, but it also shows the political strain of a city subject to years of hostile colonization and ready to break free. Just as importantly, Zafón delivers moments of genuine horror, as well as expert plot twists that move the story along. Ages 12–up. (May)
From the Publisher
Praise for The Prince of Mist:
* "Zafón is a master storyteller...This book can be read and enjoyed by every level of reader, and teachers who are looking for a good read-aloud will keep the audience on the edge of their seats with this tale."—VOYA, starred review

Praise for The Prince of Mist:
* "A melancholy horror tale."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

Praise for The Prince of Mist:
* "Awesome."—School Library Journal, starred review

Children's Literature - Sharon Salluzzo
Seven friends at St. Patrick's orphanage in Calcutta formed the secret Chowbar Society, vowing to always help one another and share their knowledge so that they could build a better future. They held their meetings in an abandoned house they named the Midnight Palace. It is now May 1932. Since they have reached the age of sixteen, all seven of them will be leaving St. Patrick's. An old woman and a girl Ben's age arrive at the orphanage to warn Thomas Carter, head of the orphanage, that Ben is in grave danger. While waiting for the old woman, Sheere tells the members of the Chowbar Society the story of her father and is invited to become a member even though the club will be breaking up. When Ben learns that a mysterious man is searching for him and will not give up until he finds him, his friends begin to research and discover who this might be. The journey takes Ben, his twin sister Sheere, and the other members of the Chowbar Society into the burnt and abandoned railway station of Jheeter's Gate where they learn the truth of what happened to Ben's father and confront evil. Amazing characters, an intricate plot, and a quaint setting make this impossible to put down. Darkness, rain and mist, fire and explosions, labyrinthian neighborhoods, apparitions and pure evil all set the mood for this darkly compelling story set in pre-independent India. Zafon is a masterful storyteller and Graves does an excellent job of translating the story and its suspense in its first American translation. This powerful, complex tale packs a wallop for the reader. Reviewer: Sharon Salluzzo
VOYA - Lynn Evarts
The Midnight Palace is the secret place where the Chowbar Society holds their meetings. The secret society is made up of seven orphans from St. Patrick's Orphanage in Calcutta in 1932. They vow to protect one another to the death, and just as they are about to graduate the orphanage, their vow is tested by an unknown force. Suddenly, the events in Calcutta sixteen years previous loom large, and Ben and his friends must solve the puzzle and save themselves from the evil. Zafon is known for his beautiful, almost lyrical, writing style. In this book, the reader is given the opportunity to experience the oppressive heat and intense rain of Calcutta. As the events of 1916 become more important to the teenagers, the mystery of Ben's birth and his father's legacy becomes more and more complex. Zafon's ability to fascinate is not as powerful in this book as in Prince of the Mists (Little, Brown, 2009/VOYA April 2010), mainly because the characterization is less intense with more characters and the pace of the story seems to slow at unusual times, creating a rather uneven intensity. This book will need hand-selling due to its style and setting. Students who like atmosphere or puzzles and improbabilities will appreciate Zafon's skill in these areas. Reviewer: Lynn Evarts
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In 1932 Calcutta, 16-year-old Ben celebrates a last night together with the circle of friends he's dubbed the Chowbar Society, before they leave their childhood home at the orphanage and go their separate ways. The festive yet solemn occasion is brought to a halt by the arrival of Ariyami Bose and Sheere, the grandmother and twin sister Ben never knew he had. The twins were separated to protect them from Jawahal, a mysterious supernatural figure who seeks them for some diabolical purpose. As the Chowbar Society tries to find a way to protect the pair, the tragic history that ties together the twins' parents, Jawahal, and a horrific train fire comes to light. Although the characters never fully emerge as individuals, the sense of dread and mystery that pervades the story, and the themes of lost innocence and sacrifice keep readers turning the pages.—Christi Esterle, Parker Library, CO
Kirkus Reviews
Fraternal twins face a frightening destiny in this Indian melodrama set in 1932 Calcutta. Brought together by their grandmother Aryami Bose for the first time after a life spent apart, 16-year-old twins Sheere and Ben learn that a vengeful childhood friend of their father's named Jawahal murdered their parents. The evil agent tried to finish off the entire family, but Aryami saved the infants by separating and hiding them. Jawahal swore to return when the twins were 16 and complete the job. But exactly who or what is the fiery man who seems to be able to materialize at will? And what did the twins' parents do to make Jawahal so angry? The only clues the brother and sister have are their dead father's detailed journal and recurring visions of a flaming train that plunges through solid walls, destroying everything it touches. The newfound siblings will have to travel to the heart of the fabled city to discover Jawahal's real identity and the truth about their family's troubled history. Though the villain's motives and origins are muddy and the secondary characterizations thin in this sensationalistic gothic tale, the steamy atmosphere of Calcutta is palpable and the confrontations between the twins and their malevolent nemesis truly terrifying. Perfect for readers who value mood over all else. (Fantasy. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316044745
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • Publication date: 4/10/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 182,958
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is the author of six novels, including the New York Times bestseller The Prince of Mist and the international phenomena The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game. His work has been published in more than fifty countries and honored with numerous awards. He divides his time between Barcelona, Spain, and Los Angeles, California.

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Read an Excerpt

The Midnight Palace

By Zafon, Carlos Ruiz

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2011 Zafon, Carlos Ruiz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316044738

I’LL NEVER FORGET the night it snowed over Calcutta. The calendar at St. Patrick’s Orphanage was inching toward the final days of May 1932, leaving behind one of the hottest months ever recorded in the city of palaces.

With each passing day we felt sadder and more fearful of the approaching summer, when we would all turn sixteen, for this would mean our separation and the end of the Chowbar Society, the secret club of seven members that had been our refuge during our years at the orphanage. We had grown up there with no other family than ourselves, with no other memories than the stories we told in the small hours around an open fire in the courtyard of an abandoned mansion—a large, rambling ruin that stood on the corner of Cotton Street and Brabourne Road and which we’d christened the Midnight Palace. At the time, I didn’t know I would never again see the streets of my childhood, the city whose spell has haunted me to this day.

I have never returned to Calcutta, but I have always been true to the promise we all made to ourselves on the banks of the Hooghly River: the promise never to forget what we had witnessed. Time has taught me to treasure the memory of those days and to preserve the letters I received from the accursed city, for they keep the flame of my memories alive. It was through those letters that I found out our palace had been demolished and an office building erected over its ashes; and that Mr. Thomas Carter, the head of St. Patrick’s, had passed away after spending the last years of his life in darkness, following the fire that closed his eyes forever.

As the years went by, I heard about the gradual disappearance of all the sites that had formed the backdrop to our lives. The fury of a city that seemed to be devouring itself and the deceptive passage of time eventually erased all traces of the Chowbar Society and its members, at which point I began to fear that this story might be lost forever for want of a narrator.

The vagaries of fate have chosen me, the person least suited to the task, to tell the tale and unveil the secret that both bonded and separated us so many years ago in the old railway station of Jheeter’s Gate. I would have preferred someone else to have been in charge of rescuing this story, but once again life has taught me that my role is to be a witness, not the leading actor.

All these years I’ve kept the few letters sent to me by Roshan, guarding them closely because they shed light on the fate of each member of our unique society; I’ve read them over and over again, aloud, in the solitude of my study. Perhaps because I somehow felt that I had unwittingly become the repository of everything that had happened to us. Perhaps because I understood that, among that group of seven young people, I was always the most reluctant to take risks, the least daring, and therefore the most likely to survive.

In that spirit, and trusting that my memory won’t betray me, I will try to relive the mysterious and terrible events that took place during those four blazing days in May 1932.

It will not be easy, and I beg my readers to forgive my inadequate words as I attempt to salvage that dark Calcutta summer from the past. I have done my best to reconstruct the truth, to return to those troubled days that would inevitably shape our future. All that is left for me now is to take my leave and allow the facts to speak for themselves.

I’ll never forget the fear on the faces of my friends the night it snowed in Calcutta. But, as Ben used to tell me, the best place to start a story is at the beginning….


Excerpted from The Midnight Palace by Zafon, Carlos Ruiz Copyright © 2011 by Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 19 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 18, 2011

    Author's first attempt at YA fails to deliver

    The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruis Zafon is the author's first attempt at a young adult novel. A group of orphans created a club for themselves in 1930s Calcutta to help cope with the rigors of a difficult life. On the brink of their release into the world on their sixteenth birthday, the group's leader, Ben, is given some shocking information about his true identity and discovers his long-lost twin sister, Sheere. The story the twins are told is a horrifying one that left both of their parents dead, and the murderer on a quest to destroy them, so their grandmother separated them in hopes of keeping them both safe. But the dark and frightening enemy is back and determined to wreak his revenge upon Ben and Sheere's family. Zafon has made a major stumble with this suspenseful tale. The Shadow of the Wind is one of my favorite books, so I was looking forward to reading Midnight Palace, but I was disappointed. Zafon's Calcutta doesn't feel even remotely like the mystical and mysterious city of Calcutta; instead it comes across as any generic European city, most likely London. Even the main characters have English names: Ben, Ian, Seth, and Michael! The story could easily be rewritten substituting London for Calcutta and very few changes would need to be made. Midnight Palace may have been better as a trilogy. Zafon creates some fantastical settings, but fails to use them well, like Chandra's house and the train station. I would have loved for the characters to spend several chapters exploring both, but instead readers are rushed through them as Zafon pushes his characters into confrontation and rusty plot devices. The club seeks to investigate the story Sheere's grandmother tells them, not to propel the story, but only to prove her a liar. I get the impression that Zafon had a vision of this unusual group of children investigating this strange story, but instead of allowing the story to unfold, it's rushed through any kind of emotional or suspenseful breakthroughs. A major revelation is broadcast early on, and the climax is never in doubt, and I wish Zafon had handled both with more subtlety. Zafon is a fantastic author, and this book had so much potential. I almost wish he would write it again using his immeasurable talents to their limit.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2012


    Mesmerizing story. Highly recommend the audio version.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2012

    Love it!

    I think that it was a great book but it was very challanging to read it in spanish i hope once i read it in english it will be easier

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2012

    Sorry to say not as good as his previous books!

    I was disappointed with this book. Nothing like The Shadow Of The Wind. Or The Angels Game

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Great read

    I really enjoyed the story and the ending but I just wished it was longer.

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  • Posted September 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good quick book

    I enjoyed this book. It was a little bit scarier than I thought it would especially if its target audience is teens. The ending could have been better. But for teen book and for one of his first books its not bad. Definitely not as good as Shadow of the Wind.

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  • Posted August 6, 2011

    Not The Angel's Game

    I loved Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game. This book is not of the same caliber. It may actually be more aimed at young adults. It was not what I was expecting.

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good read

    As expected Carlos Ruiz Zafron's love afair with words are evident once again in Midnight Palace. I enjoyed the book but was disappointed by the same familar story lines that appeared in Angels Game and Shadow of the Wind. Carlos needs to challenge him self and his creativity

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  • Posted June 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    A long time ago on a dark and stormy night...

    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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    Posted June 11, 2012

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