The Prince of Mist

A number of random things are coming together right now as I write this.  My library meeting room is full of children enjoying our theme, One World Many Stories, by watching an Irish dance troop.  The international theme had me thinking about different cultures and feeling like I should read something from a foreign land.  Also, with it being summer reading time, I thought perhaps it was time to read something from the youth area of the library.  And, did you know that the final Harry Potter movie has just been released?

That turned my thoughts to a book that has been on my TBR pile since it received its first American publication:  The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  Ruiz Zafon is the author of an adult book that rocked:  The Shadow of the Wind.  Prior to receiving all the attention he did for writing that fantasy adventure, he wrote a number of books for young adults, the first of which is The Prince of Mist.

The Prince of Mist focuses on three young people in an unnamed country (that most likely is Ruiz Zafon’s Spain) during 1943 as war approaches.  Maximilian Carver, patriarch and watchmaker of the family, has decided to move his family away from the big city to a coastal village and into a home with a reputation.  Shortly after arriving in the town, Max (13), Alicia (15) and Irina (8) begin to experience things that are not normal and this may tie into the fact that the former residents, the Fleischmanns, lost a son at age seven to the sea. 

As the mystery develops, and the level of horror begins to rise, Ruiz Zafon is deft enough as an author to maintain thematic balance while also telling a really good yarn.  When Alicia gets a boyfriend, Max meets a mysterious lighthouse keeper, and their garden is full of statutes that move, it becomes evident that we are in a magical yet threatening environment.

Always on the mind of the reader is the potential impact of the war, the dynamics of trying to raise a family in a time of stress, and the intimate wishes we all make to live the lives we would like.  The end of this novel pulls no punches for young readers and the story should have an affect on readers of all ages.

Although I would recommend this novel for a book discussion with any children twelve and above, I also think that it would work with fans of fantasy and horror which is why this book can also go on your Harry Potter read alike list.



About the Author:

Gary Niebuhr is the author of Make Mine a Mystery (2003), Caught up in Crime (2009), and other readers' guides to mystery and detective fiction. He was a Booklist contributor from 2008-2014.

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