A mesmerising story of a secret society and a labyrinthine railway station with a dark past.
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 to 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.
Zaf n (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. Zaf n 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, Zaf n delivers moments of genuine horror, as well as expert plot twists that move the story along. Ages 12 up.
Lost myself in this beautiful tale, Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a wonderful story teller. I can not wait for more of his book to get translated in English. His books never fail to enchant and spellbound any/all his readers.
Great storytelling, zafon is quickly becoming the champion of intelligent, soulful, well paced exciting reads with great characters. Please publishers translate some more quickly.