Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: The Prince of Mist

The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (2010)
SBN: 9780316044776
224 pages

Genre: Young Adult, Horror

The Story: The year is 1943 and the place, although never mentioned in the book, appears to be a small town in the south of England. The Carver family moves there to escape the war and purchase a long unused but stately home. There is something very odd about both the town and the house, however. Max Carver, age thirteen, notices that the town clock runs backward. The house has fleeting cold drafts where cold drafts in August should not be, and an overgrown and locked garden is “peopled” with statues of circus characters.

Max and his sister Alicia, fifteen, meet Roland, seventeen, a likeable local boy whom they quickly befriend. Roland is in love with the sea and lives on the beach in a hut he cobbled together, just below the lighthouse his grandfather built. He proudly shows the Carvers the wreck of the freighter Orpheus in the shallow water, broken in half when it ran aground during a storm. Roland’s grandfather was the only survivor and, twenty-five years later, still mans the lighthouse every night. Is he watching for other ships, or could it be something else that keeps his eyes on the water?

Max is a curious boy, and he finds a box of old films left behind by the previous owner in a storeroom. Very strange films indeed of Jacob, a little boy who drowned, of the garden with the statues in different positions and postures, and of a diabolical entity—the Prince of Mist—who can play tricks with time even on film.

There is a sense of urgency that something evil is about to happen, and it is up to the trio of friends to stop it. Do they? That is for the reader to find out.

My Thoughts: This is the same Carlos Ruiz Zafón of the adult sensation The Angel’s Game, but The Prince of Mist was the first book he wrote in 1993 and specifically for young readers. Tied up in legalities for fifteen years, the wait was worth it; this is a spectacular book for its intended audience—as well as for me, an older adult who raced through it. The only adult who figures in the story is the grandfather, who reminded me of Boy Scout camp and listening to ghost stories around the campfire.

Zafón’s writing is not as polished as it is now and he “loses” characters for his convenience, but neither of these things bothered me. This is not classic literature, but a good read with plenty of mystery, non-graphic horror, and an unexpected ending. I give it a solid 4 out of 5 stars.

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