"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." - Oscar Wilde
What can I say? Thisreally isn't right up my alley, but my mother-in-law highly recommended it and I love that woman, so I gave it a try. I shouldn't have.
I liked parts of it - mostly the writing. Zafón has a way with words. He lets them flow, makes them run through you, paints pictures in your mind. It's a wonderful albeit scary experience. It did however make me want to read more of this author's work which makes it not a total loss.
"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."
The blurb was very promising. I can't say I'm an expert on Calcutta, but I consider it a good thing to broaden my horizon now and again. I liked the first chapters very much. Thrilling and mysterious, it was all I could ask for in a book. Bite me, I'm a sucker for mystery novels and crime solving plots. Years later, Ben and his Chowbar society were a very loveable bunch. Young teens, not quite children anymore, but also not exactly adults, are unique and wild in a sense, but always stick together. Sheere and her grandmother were different. Especially the grandmother. Her issues were her own, and yet she forced a young girl to a lifer of fear, solitude and escapism.
And the grandmother brings me to the parts I didn't like. As much as I enjoy a mystery plot, this one was all over the place. Mostly because despite the wonderful writing style, Zafrón failed to explain a lot of things. Or at least allude to them right from the start in order to make them plausible. The supernatural aspect of the story was strong, the corresponding plotline remained vague, pale and unsatisfying though. I was always torn between figuring out the origin of the supernatural or the mystery as a whole. Which led to a kind of constant distraction because time and time again, I would try to understand if one part of the story would finally give me a rational explaination for the superpowers or if the superpowers just were what they were and I should take all the other parts of the story as a piece of the mystery puzzle without thinking too hard about it. In the end, I wasn't happy with the execution of both, the supernatural and the crime solving.
Also, the story started to fizzle and fly all over the place after approximately one third of the book. So many plotlines, so many pieces of a greater puzzle I wasn't able to see until almost the very end. Dramatic high points drowned in all the changing POVs that albeit being interesting, confused me or even bored me at one point or the other. The worst was the telling. So much telling of the same tales. Well written, but still all over the place. And when I get the same story told for the umpteenth time - with some parts changed completely and others completely the same? I'm over- and underwhelmed at the same time. The only good thing about that was my growing empathy for Jawahel, the "villain". Still didn't save me the disappointment at the end, but it gave the super-bad guy some facets and layers.
All in all, I was sceptical going in because of the "horror" aspect of the story - since that is not my favorite genre. Being done with it, I can honestly say: The horror was not the problem. It wasn't the writingstyle, either. The plotlines and -holes, the lack of consistency and plausibility, the overall jumbled mess of explainations really didn't do it for me. Sadly disappointed.