The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

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The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: A brilliant old-time ghost story for an audience probably new to such dazzling characterisation and spookiness. Over a generation old and new to English - ridiculously late.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
ISBN: 978-0297856429

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During World War Two, Max's father decides to move the whole family to a seaside retreat he knows of - a wooden house far away from the city he's grown his family up in. Nobody seems too keen on the idea, neither of Max's sisters, his mother, nor he - and Max is gifted a pocket watch by his loving, talented mechanic cum engineer cum watchmaker of a father, enscribed as "Max's Time Machine". But the house they move to, and its surroundings, are full of more successful time machines - a stash of early home videos, a public clock that runs backwards, a sunken shipwreck, a yard full of statues of a stone circus... And let's not forget the mysterious, spider-eating cat that joins in with proceedings.

I've often said how much I enjoy it when authors of adult fiction start branching out into books for younger readers. So often I find the results more satisfactory than their "proper" output. I can't say the same here, however, for this was Senor Ruiz Zafon's first book, which came to be a huge hit in Europe long before The Shadow of the Wind. And besides that, this is so far beyond being satisfactory. I will come out and publically state this is his best book in English by far.

It's obvious from these starting pages that Zafon was a master of the written word early on. There is a speech from an elderly character directed to Max, about ageing, that one does not expect to read from a 26-year old debutante. The lead character of Max is so perfectly realised, it almost feels like we're cheating - or being cheated - when we break away from him to look into other character's minds, such as his younger sister, or the old man, to see what is haunting them (in all the senses that word carries).

Apart from the characterisation and brilliant internalisation seen in many places, the attention to plotting and genre detail are also supreme. Some might scoff at elements as being hokum, and supernatural nonsense, but there remains an overarching sense of mood and drama to counter any such quibbles. You might feel some things border on the illogical, or perhaps the underexplored, but I think they only add a tiny layer to the already densely wrought mood of the dreadfully unsettling. I have to declare this to be the scariest book I have ever flagged up as for a "confident reader".

This is a first-time published author in complete control of his story. I didn't read this book - instead I swept over the incredibly visual film it mentally played in my head for three absorbing hours. It's a breathless rush of spookiness, with a firm punch to pack, as it evokes a dangerous, ethereal world, and does so almost perfectly.

It won't be for all adult readers of Ruiz Zafon, for as I say some will find the fantasy to be too much for them to swallow. And for the more suggestible under-twelves, I can say the same, but for a slightly different reason.

This gets five stars for me - and might end up being my year's favourite. The twelve months between every book in this series of four being released to the British market are going to be long ones...

I must thank Orion Children's Books for my review copy. There will be a tie-in adult formatted edition as well, but with old-school spectral happenings as in here, I would be proud to be seen reading this in any shape or form.

The other book this author has in English is, of course, The Angel's Game.

Wartime time travel can be found for a much younger audience in Time Train to the Blitz by Sophie McKenzie. There are further spooky happenings to be enjoyed with Tomorrow's Guardian by Richard Denning.

Buy The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon at Amazon.com.


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