The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Apologies for my lack of posting! I’ve been on vacation to -get this-  a place with NO television.  For a week! (And my son said he loved it and would have liked to stay longer, go figure!)  I did manage to get quite a bit of reading done while I was gone, but I read a few grownup books in between getting to my stack of kid stuff.  I read a teenage book, too, but I didn’t feel it was appropriate for blogging here.  There are a ton of great older teen books out there, but I try to be particularly focused on middle school reads.  They may still address difficult topics about growing up, but are maybe more age-appropriate in language choice and some of the more graphic details might be more toned-down.  So when I post about a book, I try to choose carefully with the focus being on the story and the message, and if there is some questionable content, I’ll always warn you up front so you can choose what is best for you.

On that note, the book I have for you today was written by one of my favorite adult authors. Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a writer from Spain and all of his books are first published in Spanish and then translated into English.  It turns out that his first  four books were actually young adult books.  I had no idea!  These books were stuck in some legal dispute, probably with the original publisher, but recently became available for us to read here (and in English, which is a bonus.  Interestingly, he said that while his translator is amazing, if something doesn’t quite come across the same in the translation, he will completely rewrite that section in English so he can get the tone absolutely perfect for our version of the book. Cool! Be sure to read the interview at the end of the story because he has some fantastic ideas about reading and writing.)

The Prince of Mist is a spooky tale that takes place in a non-specific setting, but it seems to be England during World War II.  A family leaves the city as the war is becoming more intense, and they move to the seashore.  There are three children in the family: Alicia, Max, and Irina.  Irina finds a cat immediately when they arrive at the train station, and brings him to their new house on the beach.  The house has been unoccupied for a while, so it is dusty and full of large spiders.  Out behind the house is a curious garden.  In this locked and gated area, Max discovers a bunch of statues, all representing a variety of circus characters.  Max could swear he sees the clown move and runs back to the house, understandably scared out of his wits.  As the family is busy moving in, the father finds an old movie projector and reels of films.   The youngest sister, Irina, has a shocking accident…could the cat be involved?

Max and Alicia quickly make friends with Roland, the lighthouse keeper’s grandson.  Roland takes them around town, to the lighthouse, and out diving to see a shipwreck.  When Irina is sent to the hospital, and the parents are gone for a few days, Roland hangs out with the kids and they begin to share stories.  It quickly becomes evident that these new friends are now connected in a history involving the previous residents of the beach house, the lighthouse keeper, and Roland himself, though he does not know it.  While Max and Roland have a best friend relationship, Alicia and Roland become much closer and settle into the beginnings of a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. (Yep, there’s some kissing, but you can handle it.)  The lighthouse keeper’s tale is chilling, there are clues to be found in the old movie reels, the kids are tested by a dark force, and the climax of this book is intense!

Zafon is an expert at creating a dark, dusty, creepy mood in his writing and he truly succeeded here, even though the book is much smaller than his adult novels.   I read this one while on vacation at a house on Tomales Bay in northern California, where you can sit and watch a thick blanket of fog roll in every afternoon and where water lapped at the shore right underneath our house.  I was very much on edge as I read this book because it matched my situation perfectly.  I definitely recommend this book if you like a scary story where the author doesn’t solve all of the problems for you at once.  This one gets inside your head and haunts you for a few days.  The Prince of Mist has an AR level of 6.5 and is worth 7 points.


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