The Prince of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
At last, Carlos Ruiz Zaphon, the author of the wonderful Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game is having his ‘back catalogue’ translated from the original Spanish into English. The first of these is his first children’s book, The Prince of Mist. Typically gothic in flavour, but milder than his later creations with a mind for its audience, The Prince of Mist is a deliciously scary tale of a dark conjurer and the three children who pit themselves against him.
It starts as a standard ‘moving to a new area’ story, describing the fears, and the hopes, of a child taken from familiar surroundings and plunged into a new town on the whim of their parents. The Carvers move to escape the war in 1943 but soon the mysterious beach house they exchange for their city flat is filled with shadows. Then Alicia and Max are left alone by their parents when their sister is rushed to hospital in a coma. They meet Roland and his mysterious step-grandfather who reveals the story of Cain, the Prince of Mist to them. Roland’s grandfather has been guarding the town against Cain for 25 year in the lighthouse that he built for the purpose. Cain is a nightmare of devilish deals and consequences beyond the grave. But which pact is he chasing payment on now? As the story picks up speed, danger is piled upon them. Diving for a wrecked ship and exploring a garden of subtly moving statues are just a small part of the twists and turns that lead Alicia and Max, and their friend Roland, to an unavoidable and deadly confrontation with the Prince of Mist.
The plot writhes beneath the reader and gives a clear and exciting rendition of the gothic tradition for ‘young adults’. And this older adult rather enjoyed it too. Zaphon, while writing for children, is still flexing his literary muscle. Why shouldn’t he? The book sparkles with the pictures he paints, the characters he makes us love and hate, and there is sunshine speckling the dark tale in the shape of deep friendship, loyalty and love. This fast paced adventure will leave you with a heart beating for more.