Book reviews

Posts tagged ‘Carlos Ruiz Zafon’

The Midnight Palace by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I’d already read The Shadow of the Wind and loved it enormously, so was very happy to find The Midnight Palace in the latest big bag of books that Aunty G shared with me.

The Midnight Palace had a children’s adventure story-feel about it. The story followed a group of teenage orphans living in Calcutta in 1932, one of whom appeared to be in danger of being killed by a supernatural, evil being called Jawahel.

The story began with an English soldier rescuing new-born twins, a boy and a girl from Jawahel after the death of their mother. The soldier took the twins to their grandmother who sent the boy, Ben, to an orphanage while keeping the girl, Sheere with her in an attempt to hide their identities. Growing up, Sheere lived a transient life with her grandmother as they hid from Jawahel.

Eventually Ben and Sheere met in Calcutta and discovered they were twins. With the help of Ben’s friends from the orphanage, who called themselves the members of the Chowbar Society, they sought to learn why Jawahel wanted to kill Ben or Sheere, or both.

I was very disappointed in this story and found myself skimming through the second half of the book. The writing was beautiful, as you would expect from the author of The Shadow of the Wind but the fantastical elements of the story didn’t make sense to me and a lot of the plot just seemed silly. I believe The Midnight Palace is the second book in a trilogy, but I don’t expect to read either of the other books in this series in future. If a stand-alone book for adults by this author comes my way in future though, I’ll gladly read it.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon


The Shadow of the Wind by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon had me hooked from the very first sentence. Listen to this. “I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”

See what I mean? I really, really want to go to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books too, and since I know I can’t, (because it doesn’t exist, except in the pages of this book), I had to keep reading.

The Shadow of the Wind was written in Spanish, and translated into English by Lucia Graves. The language and story was so beautiful that I wish I read Spanish to be able to read the story as it was intended.

The story is set in Barcelona in 1945, when the behaviour of those in authority was very dangerous for other residents of the city. The main character, Daniel was 14 when his father, who owns a second-hand bookshop, took him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books to choose a book of his own, to learn and care for and protect. Daniel chose a book called The Shadow of the Wind by Julian Carax.

Daniel loved the story and over the next few years tried to find more books by Julian Carax, only to find that someone had been destroying every copy of every book written by Carax, which also put Daniel’s copy of The Shadow of the Wind in danger. Owning the book also became dangerous for Daniel, particularly when he began trying to find Carax.

The story is a mystery, with mysteries inside mysteries, inside mysteries. Every character in the novel has a story, every story has an intriguing detour and each word has enticing descriptions to accompany it. The language is glorious, full and descriptive and wonderful.

Old crones in black rags, priests, loving mothers and homeless men, young men and women in love, thuggish policemen, poor writers and rich businessmen, all of these characters have a story of their own within the story, which somehow come together to make a whole story. The story got complicated at times, but always unravelled itself.

The following wisdoms were  spoken by my favourite character in the novel, a fast-talking, fool-hardy, fellow called Fermin. Each time he spoke, Fermin left me with something to think about.

“Few things are more deceptive than memories.”

“People who have no life always have to stick their noses in the life of others.”

“What destiny does not do is home visits. You have to go for it.”

“Fools talk, cowards are silent, wise men listen.”

“It’s a mathematical certainty.”

I’m using examples from The Shadow of the Wind to try and sell this book to others, because I feel as if my own words are falling short of expressing just how pleasurable this was to read. I truly can not get my hands on more stories by Carlos Ruiz Zafon quickly enough. Happily, the last chapter of The Shadow of the Wind hints at another story by the mysterious Julian Carax, and after checking it out on Google, I can see there another two books to come in this series. Hurra!


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