cover image The Midnight Palace

The Midnight Palace

Carlos Ruiz Zaf%C3%B3n, trans. from the Spanish by Lucia Graves. Little, Brown, $17.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-316-04473-8

Zaf%C3%B3n (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%C3%B3n 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%C3%B3n delivers moments of genuine horror, as well as expert plot twists that move the story along. Ages 12%E2%80%93up. (May)