The Midnight Palace – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

midnight palace

The Midnight Palace is a short novel about the power of revenge and madness in 1930’s Calcutta. It centers on the lives of two newborn twins and their fate at the hands of a creature more supernatural than human.
At the death of their mother they are saved by a young English soldier who hides them from the monster.

…Peake raised his eyes to Jawahal, and as he did so he noticed the man’s pupils narrowing into thin slits, his golden irises blazing. With painstaking elegance, Jawahal started to remove the glove on his right hand.
“Unfortunately you won’t live to see it,” Jawahal added. “Don’t think for a second that your heroic act has served any purpose. You’re an idiot Lieutenant Peake. You always gave me the impression, and now all you have done is confirm it. I hope there is a hell reserved especially for idiots, Peake, because that’s where I’m sending you.”…

The twins are separated to confuse the creature and upon their sixteenth birthday, find themselves thrown together again. It is then that they learn of their past and the horrible murder of their parents. It is then that they learn of the madman Jawahal and his vendetta against their father. It is then that they learn that Jawahal is something more than just a man.
Aided by young friends, a band of orphans who call themselves the Chowbar Society, they decide to strike back at the creature. To stand against Jawahal. It is then they will also learn that the truth is sometimes best left as a lie. That fate entwines itself deeply and what the darkness hides it can also bring forth.

…”There was a time when I thought that nothing could be more powerful than love. And it’s true, love is powerful, but that power pales into insignificance next to the fire of hatred.”…

Ben and Sheere (the young twins) must face a creature born of fire and revenge and nursed at the very breast of madness. A creature whose hatred is more powerful than anything that has ever stood before it. Jawahal’s history is central to this story as it intertwines with legacy of Ben and Sheere’s parents.
Jawahal is a creature unlike any other. It desires it’s sole objective and that it the death of the twins. It is human and not. It is mindless and brilliant at the same time. It’s sole existence is it’s purpose.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a Spanish author who’s prior novels, The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game are ambitious and wonderfully woven tales. The Midnight Palace is much like them only on a smaller scale. You get the feel that it is an old ghost story told among family that changes slightly as the years go by. Depending upon which family member is speaking is how the story will go.
I always worry that when I am reading a novel that was written first in another language; that subtle nuances will be lost in the translation. But Zafon’s The Midnight Palace flows. Its setting and characters reminiscent of the short stories of Kipling I read as a child.
A good and worthy read.

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