I expected big things from this book by one of my favourite authors Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind and Angel’s Game. I am mesmerised from the very first page.
Book translations to English aren’t always good, but with CRZ he’s got a really great translator (Lucia Graves) who has taken his original Spanish and understands the words on the page as well as their poetic prose and greater meaning.
The book has a foreword letter from Zafon, thanking readers & fans of his popular Shadow of the Wind novel (15 million copies sold) and gives the background for his writing of The Prince of Mist, which was actually his first novel back in 1992 and was aimed at young adults, but can transcend age groups and be enjoyed by all readers.
Max Carver is the story’s protagonist. He is 13 and has moved from Barcelona to a small picturesque beach town with his family (eccentric watchmaker and inventor Dad, gentle caring Mum, animal loving younger sister and sultry older sister) at the beginning of WWII. Max and his sisters soon start to experience strange happenings, seemingly related to their new house’s previous owners whose 8 yo son mysteriously drowned some years before; Strange dreams, creepy life-sized statues in their overgrown garden and whispers from the walls. Max and his older sister Alicia befriend a local boy and the three of them set off on a course to explain the mysterious and supernatural happenings.
At times I am frightened, but I am utterly immersed in this story and the characters. The writing is beautiful; well structured with an etherial, mesmerizing and at times eerie feel.
“He loved the sound of the rain and the water rushing down the guttering along the edge of the roof. Whenever it poured like this, Max felt as it time was pausing. It was like a ceasefire during which you could stop whatever you were doing and just stand by a window for hours, watching the performance, an endless curtain of tears falling from heaven.”
“Looking back, he felt as if every one of those years was like a heavy stone, weighing him down…The phantoms of the past had awoken from a sleep of many years, and were once again haunting the corridors of his mind.”
Most young adult fiction I’ve read is middle-of-the-road pleasing but generically dull – all about teen angst and romance, something you read to pass the time. But with The Prince of Mist Zafon assumes more of a teenage young adult reader. At the core of the story there are themes of Evil & Retribution, Friendship and the Illusion of Time. Greek mythology is also hinted (and I love Greek Mythology!).
You won’t have to invest a great deal of time in it, at 202 pages, it didn’t take long to read – I finished it in a few quiet hours. I definitely recommend it!
“…the memory…of that summer in which they had discovered magic together would stay with them, uniting them forever.”