Title: The Prince of Mist
Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Series: Mist Trilogy #1
Format I read/Publisher: Paperback, Mondadori
In 1943, as the war sweeps across Europe, the Carver family decides to leave the city and move to an old house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things start to happen, and memories of an old tragedy are brought back to life. With the help of a new friend, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the secrets hiding in their new home, 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 – embarking on an adventure that will change their lives forever.
Having read and enjoyed other of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s books, The Shadow of the Wind above all, I had very high expectations for The Prince of Mist. This was Ruiz Zafón’s first novel, and it clearly shows in his writing style, which I found to be not quite as refined as in his later works, although this may be due to the fact that I read this book in translation rather than in the original language. Nevertheless, most of the writing was just gorgeous and poetic, so much that I took down a bunch of quotes like this:
Whenever it poured like this, Max felt as if time was pausing. It was like a cease-fire during which you could stop whatever you were doing and just stand by a window for hours, watching the performance, an endless curtain of tears falling from heaven.
The story itself was very promising and filled with mysteries, engaging to the point that I actually had trouble putting the book away at night. Oh, and sometimes it was outright creepy. The atmosphere was constructed so well that I could really buy into the whole “evil presence” idea and the supernatural elements that permeated this book. I also liked the main character, Max, a lot. He’s a very smart boy (although sometimes he seems just a bit too smart), very relatable and charismatic, who will do all it takes to protect his friends and family and to discover the truth. For me, he also gets extra points for dealing incredibly well with situations which would ordinarily be absolutely terrifying (I won’t go into any more detail than this to avoid spoilers). I cannot, however, say the same for the other characters. I found them rather underdeveloped and, while I really wanted to, I just could not care for them very much.
Speaking of underdeveloped, this might be my key word in describing this novel. While it started off really well, it left me feeling disappointed in its evolution, with too many questions left unanswered and some pretty big plot holes. I completely understand that not everything can be explained in a novel, especially one featuring as many supernatural elements as this one, but I found the extent of these omissions too big for my taste. There were just too many events that occurred with little or no explanation.
All in all, I rather enjoyed reading this book, despite its problems, mainly thanks to the author’s ability to recreate the surreal gothic atmosphere which permeates most of his books, and to draw me into the story through his very detailed and elegant descriptions. I was, however, expecting a lot more from a book that started out as well as this one, and which had the potential to be so much more than it actually is.