I don’t know about you but I loved ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. In fact if you haven’t read it please go to a bookstore/library and get your hands on a copy if you do nothing else today. I know it became one of those books that got incredibly hyped and you saw every Tom, Dick or Harry reading but sometimes (here ‘The Book Thief’ springs to mind) the rave reviews are just and all those people reading the book before you are spot on. So when I was offered an advance copy of his cross over book ‘The Prince of Mist’ I had to say yes (I know, I know I did the same with The Angels Game and haven’t read it yet – that book is much bigger, ha) though naturally, as you may know my thoughts on cross over books, I was worried this might not really work for me. The fact that in Spain this was a best seller for two years, yes two whole years, made me think I just had to try it.
In thinking of how to write about this book I was drawn to two of the tag lines that I have seen for ‘The Prince of Mist’ one is ‘for the young, and the young at heart’ and the other is ‘nothing is more powerful than a promise’. These do actually really some up the book here and I could say ‘well the job is done then’ and stop here as if you want a book review in two lines I would borrow those. However I think I will flesh it out a little more than that for you.
In the summer of 1943 thirteen year old Max Carver and the rest of the family are rather surprised when Maximillian Carver (Max’s father) decides to relocate his family. Leaving the city is not something the family want to do, however as the war gets nearer a life by the sea seems to be the ideal solution. As the family arrive at the town instantly Zafon starts to let a slight unease build in the story in the forms of the train station clock, which goes backwards, and a rather over friendly large cat (never trust a cat that’s too friendly) who seems intent on befriending them.
Things get steadily creepier as the family are told of the history of the house previously owned by a couple whose child drowned at sea with no explanation. The house itself seems to hold secrets, you never feel alone, and there is that strange cemetery at the bottom of the garden which houses a rather evil looking mausoleum to a clown. As something awful happens to one of Max’s sisters Irina in the house, Max, his sister Alicia and their new friend Roland are drawn into the legend of ‘The Prince of Mist’ and are soon to discover that if you make a promise you have to keep it, no matter what the consequences are.
It’s hard to not get over excited and share too much with a book like this. It does indeed appeal to the young adult in you as you read along. From pretty much the very first page until the last sentence Zafon takes you on a fairly non stop adventure involving secrets, legends, mausoleums, ship wrecks, murder and magic. Whilst all this is going on there is a good dash of emotional drama going on, the upheaval of a family, those dreaded teenage hormones, young love and occasionally the sense of dread of the war in the background, such as when Roland mentions he may have to enrol soon. In fact this was the only teeny tiny thing that stopped this book being a bigger hit for me, I did from time to time think there was almost too much going on, but then isn’t that just what makes for great escapism and a great page turner?
Now I know its meant to be a ghost/horror story for younger people but I have to say it is actually properly scary too, I even jumped reading one bit, something I think books rarely make you do physically. I am very glad that we have another three in this series to look forward to over the next three years. I am almost tempted to go and learn Spanish just so I can read them all in their original form ASAP as I am not sure I can wait a year between each one. 8/10
Have you read any Zafon? Have you read ‘The Shadow of the Wind’ and did you think it was superb or not? Which other cross over books would you recommend (no mentioning The Hunger Games, I tried and… well I didn’t get on with it) as after Neil Gaiman and now this I am beginning to get fonder of books that appeal to my twelve year old self? Do you like cross over fiction or do you avoid it like the plague?
Savidge suggests some perfect prose partners:
The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (this is much scarier though but just as much fun)
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (because its excellent and has the tension this one does)
The Woman in Black – Susan Hill (a fantastic adult ghost story)