Thursday, April 26, 2012
Almost Overlooked: Hidden Gem: The Prince of Mist
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Little Brown and Company
first published in Spanish 1993
2011 U.S. paperback edition
214 pages with Questions and Answers
I almost overlooked this little gem. Shopping at the Scholastic warehouse, I was drawn to the cover--the spooky figure coming out of the mist, the lonely lighthouse, the water beyond and the text on the cover, "A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret..." But what really made up my mind: when I saw the author was Carlos Ruiz Zafon--I was hooked. Zafon wrote my favorite book in the entire world--the mesmerizing The Shadow of the Wind--It is my #1 book of all time--so beautiful and poetic. I wish I read Spanish, so that I could enjoy his prose in his native tongue. The Shadow of the Wind is beautifully written in its English translation; it sings itself off the page; I can only imagine how beautiful it must be in Ruiz's native language.
The Prince of Mist is one of Zafon's earlier works when he was writing for children and young adults. The writing is just as beautiful as his adult prose. My favorite passage from the book is right before Roland falls asleep, he's remembering swimming with Alicia, "That night, Roland fell asleep in the arms of a vision that would stay with him for the rest of his life: Alicia, draped in moonlight, dipping her white skin into a sea of silver." Zafon, a masterful and gifted storyteller, writes prose that is poetic and enduring.
Max and his family move into a creepy old beachhouse near the shore far away from the winds of war (World War II). Mr. Carver is a watchmaker (shades of steampunk) and inventor who tinkers with anything mechanical. Max makes friends with an older boy Roland and soon Max, his older sister Alicia and Roland become beach buddies. Roland and Alicia become much more in a short time.
Weird noises and things that go bump in the night occur; Max finds a creepy, old, overgrown garden of circus statues. The ringleader is an evil grimacing clown that Max swears moves each time he looks away from it.
Roland and Max dive near the Orpheus, a wrecked ship, and Max swears he sees the clown underwater. He nearly drowns but manages to swims to shore. He tells Roland what he saw and Roland shares a secret: his grandfather is the only passenger to survive that shipwreck and now he's the lighthouse keeper.
Younger sister Irina falls down the stairs after having the fright of her life and she's rushed to the hospital by the ambulance with her parents. This leaves Max and Alicia alone in the creepy house with an evil presence.
As the mystery unfolds, the reader hears the tale of The Prince of Mist from Roland's grandfather who first met him as a boy. The evil being seems to follow his grandfather and the boys believe the Prince is about to make another appearance.
Any reader who loves a mystery, a shadowy and creepy setting, well-drawn characters, and a fabulous story will love The Prince of Mist.
Highly, highly recommended grades 7-up. No language. Only kissing.