Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Prince of Mist

The Prince of Mist
by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Translated from Spanish by Lucia Graves

There are books and there are books with magic sprinkled on them. These books with magic are not apparent at the first glance. To find out if the book has magic is to open the book and start reading. The magic around these books is dense, transparent, swirling around it, waiting for the nonchalant reader to open it and read it. The words transform themselves into moving images and world around the reader disappears only to be replaced by the characters from the book. Some times, the magic acts slowly, but other times it is like a jolt of lightning. The reader is thrown into the new world at the onset of the book. The reader might want to get out of the world inside the book, but, the magic would not allow them to - it will keep them ensnared in its tight grip, till the story is told and the reader is thrown back out to the real world.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon has a lot of magic swirling around it. The magic around the book was powerful and ensnared me easily. Usually the magic of the books make you just a voyeur in the drama unfolding page by page. This book's magic was a bit different; there were a few times when I felt that the characters in the book knew that I watching them. They tried to ask my help, but, magic would not allow me to help them out. They went screaming to their destiny, while I watched helplessly. 

Max Carver's father calls his family and informs them that they are moving to the country side due to the war. The three kids (Max and his two sisters) move in reluctantly to the new house near the beach. Strange things start happening as soon as the kids move in to the village; Max finds a old graveyard filled with characters that seems to shift shape in front of his eyes. His younger sister befriends a cat that every one except her finds sinister. They find a film roll and projector that seems to indicate something about the hoary past of that house. The story starts taking further sinister turns and ends with a bang. 

The book has a Gaiman-esque feel to it. The last time I felt a chill crawling up my spine slowly for a young adult novel was when I read Coraline. Initially, I thought the book was going to throw a surprise and show this as a boy-growing-into-adult kind of book. It is in a way that kind of book, but it has no pretensions about the horror that it would like to unleash on young readers. I've read the author's 'Shadow of the Wind'. This book is more simpler than his Shadow of the Wind and tells its point directly without any grandiose ideas. 

Just because the magic works strong for this book does not mean it does not have any low points. I was a bit put-off by the names of the characters. For a book that is translated into English from Spanish, I expected the names of the characters to be Spanish. They have very english like names - such as Irina, Max, Carver etc. Could they not have just used the original spanish names itself? There are a few loose ends, some of the stories do not seem to be add up fully either because I was too engrossed in the story that I did not tie them properly or the author purposely left them to keep the readers thinking about it. 

This a book for young adults and above. If you are determined to test the magic of the book after this review, be ready to be pulled in and spend an hour or two getting scared. And avoid listening to those tiny squeaky noises that seem to start as soon as you reach for the lights-off switch. 

And next time some one tells you there is no magic in the world - point them towards the books. 


sandhya said...

Satish, the review has your stamp on it.

You have described so wonderfully the magic that happens when a great book pulls you into its vortex, obliterating the world around you.

Will look out for this book, scary as it sounds.

sathish said...

Thank you Sandhya.

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