My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve come to expect great things from Carlos Ruiz Zafon since I first read The Shadow of the Wind what seems like ages ago. This was apparently one of his first books, a YA novel which wasn’t translated into English until after the success of The Shadow of the Wind. It shows that this is one of his earlier works, but that doesn’t prevent it from being enjoyable or fantastic. It’s the type of novel those who read Lemony Snicket or gobble up Gothic horror will gladly add to their favourites, and even has traces of Margaret Atwood and Mikhail Bulgakov in it.
The plot is set during WWII in possibly England, though we do not find out until the end what year it is and the country’s name is never mentioned, and the war is never called by anything other than “the war”, and serves simply as a background to the more sinister goings-on in the lives of the characters. Max, Alicia, and Roland are an entertaining and curious trio of youngsters who seek to discover the mysteries of the town and house which Max and Alicia have moved into to avoid the dangers of wartime in the city.
There’s much to be had here, in typical Zafon fashion, it’s complex, multifaceted, and there are mystic elements woven into it throughout. Though unlike Shadow of the Wind, which hinted at mysticism but never fully indulged in it, The Prince of Mist goes all the way, and we are treated to a sinister circus, a timeless, evil entity with a Faustian villain’s flair, and blood-chilling battles for life on both land and sea.
It never gets weighed down though, in fact, in a very unusual turn for Zafon, it seemed to end rather abruptly. I was craving more of an ending, but how much of that was due to me enjoying it and not wanting the experience to come to an end is unclear for now. I’ll find out as the time between myself and the moment I finished the book expands.
I get the feeling though, that The Prince of Mist will age well. It is a YA novel, and those tend to possess the uncanny ability to grow on you and never leave you, no matter how time ravages you in other ways.