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The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Prince of Mist

by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Trilogy of Fog (1), Niebla (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,212726,585 (3.45)72
  1. 60
    The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (souloftherose)
    souloftherose: The Shadow of the Wind has the same sense of mystery and suspense as The Prince of Mist and I think it's a better example of Zafon's writing
  2. 20
    My Swordhand is Singing by Marcus Sedgwick (avatiakh)
  3. 10
    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (bookwyrmm)

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» See also 72 mentions

English (63)  Spanish (3)  German (2)  Dutch (2)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  All languages (72)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
I read this book because I have really liked the adult books he has written (Shadow of the Wind being my favorite). I checked to see if the translator was the same because I thought the language was not of the same quality as the other books he has written. It was the same translator. This one is listed as teen fiction, so perhaps that explains the simpler language. For being a teen book, it has a rather frightening theme and story line. I am not sure that I would recommend it for many young people. The mystery and Gothic elements are still there, but the improbable actions of many of the characters made me groan. I think I will stick with his adult books. ( )
  TheresaCIncinnati | Aug 17, 2015 |
The fiction of Ruiz Zafón reminds me of dreams bordering on nightmare. Everything is vague: geography (even when set in a well-known city like Barcelona), supporting characters (especially when they appear able to anticipate the protagonist’s mood and thoughts) and time (even when we’re given a specific year and month in which the story takes place). Disjointed places and sequences cause confusion and disquiet in dreams; in novels they can also be frustrating and irritating. Ultimately I found The Prince of Mist — the author’s first novel, in this instance for a young adult readership — as unsatisfying as the dream-like adult novels he is more famous for; unsatisfying because they are full of manufactured mysteries as insubstantial to the grasp as shadows, winds and mists. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

It is June, 1943, and it is Max Carver’s 13th birthday. His father Maximilian, a watchmaker, gives his family some unwelcome news: they all — Maximilian and wife Andrea, along with Alicia, Max and Irina — have to leave the city and relocate to a small village on what appears to be the Atlantic coast. At journey’s end, after three hours on the train, they arrive at a seaside station — only to be joined by a mysterious stray cat, who seems to have adopted them.

Further mysteries await: the early 20th-century house was built by the Fleischmans, a couple whose long-awaited son drowned; they left behind an old film projector with several reels of really odd home movies; and up the hill from the house is a curious enclosure which, to Max at least, is too eerie for words, swathed in mist and apparently full of statues of circus performers. To add to the family’s woes, young Irina has a strange episode which leads to a coma and hospitalisation. Will Max and his older sister Alicia’s growing friendships with Roland (a young man about to be called up to the forces) and with his adoptive grandfather — who is also the lighthouse keeper — help to return some normality to their lives?

I found it quite hard to locate this book’s setting. You’d expect, what with Ruiz Zafón being Catalan, that the action takes place on the Mediterranean coast. Or, to keep the Spanish aspect, that it could conceivably be set in Galicia, on the northeast tip of the peninsula. But I could equally imagine it in a Cornish setting (there’s little to suggest that it couldn’t) and I’m not the only reviewer to sense a Famous Five vibe here (albeit much darker than anything that Blyton would have envisioned). The pan-European names also add to the deliberately disorienting narrative: for example, many of the names are German (Maximilian, Kray, Fleischman), Irina is Russian, Carver is an English surname, Eva Fleischman née Gray has a German forename and an English last name, Roland is French. In fact, the most notable absence is any obviously Spanish name. Maybe this is deliberate, an attempt to give a European flavour to the novel so as to appeal to a wider readership. What it also does is to add to the disorientation the story has already conjured up.

Here’s what really pulls the ground from under our feet: the introduction of so many spooky elements in a novella of only some two hundred pages of largish type. We have a sinister looking cat; a six-pointed star in a circle; a watch (a “Time Machine”) that Max is given by his father but which never seems to tally with normal time; that mist-shrouded enclosure and their shifting figures; the weird home movies; Irina’s sudden illness; the wrecked ship in the bay; the lighthouse keeper with a secret; the mystery of what happened to the Fleischman boy; approaching thunderstorms; and the repeated mention of a fortune-teller called Dr Cain. They must all be related, but how? Many of those links suggested though less rarely explicitly stated, resulting certainly in a tale of terror even if logical connections fly out the window — all, as we’re now familiar with, typical Ruiz Zafón fare.

And here’s one possible way through what appears to be a dark landscape of figures occasionally made vivid by bright lightning flashes: Ruiz Zafón is currently a scriptwriter in the States, where he has been since the nineties. His stories are characterised by strong images, crucially important in the writing of screenplays, and my guess is that his stories would work better as films — in which “Show, don’t tell” is ever the byword. Lucia Graves appears to have done a good job conveying those images in her translation.

I don’t want to give the impression that I found this as unsatisfying as I’ve so far suggested. The way in which the author deals with burgeoning young love is sensitively done, as is the sadness visited on a couple who couldn’t — or wouldn’t — have a child. Some characters have enough about them that one longs for them to re-appear in a sequel, but though The Prince of Mist is the first in a trilogy (The Midnight Palace and The Watcher in the Shadows follow) I’m not sure that that they ever did. The key question for me, as always, is ‘Would I read this again?’ I think you may already know the answer to that.

https://calmgrove.wordpress.com/2015/07/11/mists/ ( )
  ed.pendragon | Jul 28, 2015 |
Just not good. This thing had more holes than Julius Caesar's toga.

Too soon? ( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
It wasn't really ok. It was trite and predictable and adolescent. Never mind. It doesn't stop Shadow of the Wind being one of the best books ever. ( )
1 vote Ma_Washigeri | Jun 17, 2014 |
Gads, I'm a wimp. This might be a very good book, but I couldn't finish it. I was excited, at the start, because I've enjoyed Zafon's other works, but this one has taken a turn from, by my estimation, gothic into straight up horror.

Or, maybe it's just me.

Clowns. With sharp teeth. That's all I'm gonna say. ( )
  duende | Feb 6, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
Once The Prince of Mist gets moving, though, Zafón's real strength shines through: chills. There are some genuinely, deliciously scary sequences that will thrill young readers, particularly if they, like me, have a thing about clowns. And by "thing about", I mean "terrified hatred of". The unevenness here is probably that of a first-time novelist finding his feet, but there are treats enough for an enjoyable read.

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carlos Ruiz Zafónprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Graves, LuciaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maspero, FrançoisTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Original title
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2010 (UKUS)
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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Para mi padre, Justo Ruiz Vigo, que me enseñó a ser amigo de los libros.
First words
Max would never forget that faraway summer when, almost by chance, he discovered magic.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Also published as El principe de la Niebla in Spanish
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
1943: de vader van Max Carver – horlogemaker, uitvinder en eeuwig optimistische dromer – besluit met zijn gezin naar een dorp aan de kust te verhuizen, naar een oud huis aan het strand dat ooit toebehoorde aan een beroemde chirurg, dokter Fleischmann. Maar het huis bevat vele eigen geheimen en verhalen en erachter ligt een naargeestige, ommuurde tuin met een poort waarboven een zespuntige ster troont. Als Max een kijkje gaat nemen in die tuin, krijgt hij de schrik van zijn leven.
Terwijl het gezin Carver zich installeert en probeert te wennen, sluiten Max en zijn zus Alicia al snel vriendschap met Roland. Door hem ontmoeten ze zijn grootvader, de vuurtorenwachter. Hij was 25 jaar geleden de enige overlevende van een schipbreuk met de Orpheus, een wrak dat daar voor de kust ligt. Bij een duik naar het schip ziet Max iets dat hem onaangenaam treft: aan de mast golft een halfvergane vlag met een afbeelding van dezelfde zespuntige ster die hij aantrof op de tuinpoort. Wanneer de drie vrienden Rolands grootvader onder druk zetten om meer te weten te komen, begint het huiveringwekkende verhaal van de Nevelprins zich in al zijn gruwelijkheid te openbaren …

1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver's father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316044776, Hardcover)

It's war time, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they've recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners' son, who died by drowning.

With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the strange circumstances of that death and discover the existence of a mysterious being called the Prince of Mist--a diabolical character who has returned from the shadows to collect on a debt from the past. Soon the three friends find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden--an adventure that will change their lives forever.

Amazon Exclusive: Interview with Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Author of The Prince of Mist

How did you come to write The Prince of Mist as your debut novel, which was first published in Spanish in 1993?

When I wrote The Prince of Mist I was in my mid twenties. I had written a couple of unpublished novels and a number of short stories before, published some pieces in magazines and newspapers, etc. I had been writing since I was a child, but I realized that I had never really written anything that I was completely happy with. Something was missing. I already felt that I was late in the game and that I had been wasting my time doing other things while I should have been focusing more seriously in my writing. I guess that, like many writers, I was just trying to find my own voice. Around that time I was working as a musician, although I knew that my "true" path, at least professionally, was in the writing. At some point I decided to drop everything and start working on this little novel, telling myself that this had to be "the one." Although I had never thought I would write for younger readers, the story seemed to me perfectly suited for that genre and, I suppose, I still hoped to be able to write something that would appeal to readers of all ages. I decided to try to write the book I would have liked to read when I was 12 or 13 years old. I worked quite hard on it, harder than I had worked on anything before. I remember writing at night over the summer of 1992 in Barcelona, from midnight till dawn. It was the summer of the Barcelona Olympics and it was hot and humid as hell. You can say I really sweated this one. I ended up having to buy this portable AC machine that I would point at my face while I was writing. I was fortunate in that the novel won an important literary award and became quite successful. It was the book that allowed me to become a professional writer and to start my career as a novelist, and I’ve always been fond of it.

What do you think are the most important differences when writing for adult readers and young adult readers?

I don't think there're that many differences, really. You just have to write the best possible story in the most efficient way you are capable of. It is all about the language, the style, the atmosphere, the characters, the plot, the images and textures… If anything, I believe that younger readers are even more demanding and sincere about their feelings about what they're reading, and you have to be honest, never condescending. I don't think younger readers are an ounce less smart than adult ones. I think they are able to understand anything intellectually but perhaps there're emotional elements that they have not experienced in their lives yet, although they will eventually. Because of this, I think it is important to include a perspective in the work that allows them to find an emotional core that they can relate to not just intellectually. Other than that, I think you should work as hard as you can for your audience, respect them and try to bring the best of your craft to the table. My own personal view is that there’s just good writing and bad writing. All other labels are, at least to me, irrelevant.

In the novel, there are many references to watches, clocks and the passage of time. For instance, Max Carver, the central character, receives a pocket watch as a birthday gift from his watchmaker father. Its case is engraved with the words "Max's Time Machine." When the Carver family moves to a coastal town and arrives at the train station, Max observes that the train station clock is turning backwards. Why is the theme of time so important in the novel?

Time is the thread of our lives, and in this story we see how events in the past, actions in our lives, have consequences later on. In some ways, we are the sum of our actions, our choices, our deeds. Life hands us a number of cards at the beginning of the game. We cannot choose them, but we can choose how we play them. That is an aspect that interests me very much and I try to explore it through the stories I write. I also believe that we are, to a certain extent, what we remember and the novel tries to reflect on these ideas as it jumps back and forth in time exploring the mystery at the heart of the novel.

Without revealing too many secrets of your craft, what do you feel are the key ingredients of a spellbinding mystery?

I think a good mystery story is just a good story, period. The key ingredients are the same as for any kind of good story: language, style, atmosphere, characterization, structure, imagery, subtext, etc. Good mysteries tend to be based on character rather than just on plot, but at the end of the day it is all in the writing actually.

Max, Alicia and Roland are all teenagers, who are confronted with extraordinary and bewildering situations, and yet they don't immediately turn to adults for answers. Why not?

Because I think that teenagers want their own answers. They need them. They need to understand the world around, and inside, themselves and they can only do that by finding out themselves the truth. Children rely on adults to tell them what the world is, and they usually get taken for a ride. A teenager knows, feels, the world is something she or he has to figure out.

The novel's setting--a coastal town in a time of war—is not very specific. Why not?

I guess if you read between the lines you could guess the town is on the south coast of England during World War II. In the original version that was the case, but while I was revising the translation I decided to rewrite and redone certain parts and details and opted for a more generic location. I feel that what is important is that this is a story that happens in a place that we all can remember in our lives, and I wanted to emphasize that.

The Prince of Mist was an award winner and a bestseller in Spain, and has only recently reached an English-reading audience. What is the translation process and how were you involved in it?

I am very involved in the translation process. I've been very lucky in that I've been working with the extremely talented Lucia Graves on the English translations of my novels. Lucia, who's a very accomplished novelist on her own, grew up in Spain and is completely bilingual. Our goal is to bring the reader a text that is exactly the same as the original in terms of flow, of texture, of pacing, of the music the prose makes. To that end we work very hard with Lucia and I often I'll rewrite sections or retouch things here and there to ensure that what you read in English is almost 100% what you would read in Spanish, without losing anything of the rhythm or the nuances in the flow of the language. I've noticed that sometimes readers, especially readers in English who are not very used to reading translations, tend to mystify the process and think that a translation is a rewrite or a reinvention of the original. It is not. A good translation is invisible and bring you exactly what was in the original, nothing more, nothing less.

You divide your time between Barcelona and LA. Are the two cities reflected in your work?

I think so. Barcelona is my hometown, the place I was born and grew up in. It is in my blood and I am very much a product of it. On the other hand, I've spent quite some time in California and I believe that a lot of my experiences here find their ways into the books. Writers use what they have at hand to write, what they have inside of them and what they see outside. We write about life, trying to figure it out and, hopefully, come up with something of value and beauty that we can share with the reader along the way.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:49 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In 1943, in a seaside town where their family has gone to be safe from war, thirteen-year-old Max Carver and sister, fifteen-year-old Alicia, with new friend Roland, face off against an evil magician who is striving to complete a bargain made before he died.… (more)

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