Citizen Reviews: The Prince of Mist

“Citizen Reviews,” our occasional series of customer book reviews, continues with the Leslie Warner Tonyan’s write-up of a young adult novel from Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author of The Shadow of the Wind. It’s available now.

The Prince of Mist
Non-stop mysteries and adventures await readers of Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s latest, The Price of Mist (Little, Brown and Co.). Suggested for readers ages 12 and older, the tale entangles 13 year old Max and his sisters, 15 year old Alicia and 8 year old Irina, with unexplainable events, ever increasing in menace.

Set against the backdrop of WWII, the family moves some distance from their endangered city to the assumed safety and tranquility of a seaside village. But the hoped for peace is soon disrupted by the discovery of a neglected garden filled with statues of circus performers, a malevolent, spider eating cat, and threatening whispers from a bedroom wardrobe. Rumors of the fate of the previous residents hint at tragedy and the discovery of old reel-to-reel films add to the intrigue. But this is more than a typical haunted house story.

Zafon also plays with the idea and significance of Time; past and present are not separable. Max’s father is a watchmaker, Max is given a magic watch (which is stolen), the village clock hands move backwards, and a story of danger long past is thrust into current happenings.

A new friend, Roland, introduces Max and Alicia to his grandfather, the lighthouse keeper, with secrets of his own. Investigating an underwater shipwreck provides more adventure and mystery. Could the shipwreck, the lighthouse keeper, and the garden statues be somehow connected? And who or what is the source ever growing awareness of danger? Is evil really present in changing shapes and how can it be understood and combated?

More subtly, the family is presented realistically, with typical sibling attitude and conflicts balanced with affection and understanding for each other’s foibles. Dynamic growth in response to life’s changes is conveyed through the stress of relocation, Max’s realization of the responsibility of friendship, and Alicia’s budding romance with Roland. Ultimately, the bond between brother and sister and between friends creates depth and elevates this story beyond a mere series of adventures.