Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Prince of Mist - Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Audio)


Recently, I loaned my review of "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Ruiz Zafon to Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric as a filler while she was on vacation. I giggled when she titled the post "Carlos and Sandy Sitting in a Tree". Well, yeah, who wouldn't want to sit in a tree and kiss the man who birthed the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, the evil Fumero, creates tangible atmosphere at the wave of his pen, and who writes and performs the music on his audio books?

So in keeping with my love affair with Zafon, my heart went pitter-pat when I saw that he was launching a new YA book called The Prince of Mist early this summer. I got it on audio, squeaked a little bit more when I saw the narrator was the dreamy Jonathan Davis (narrator for Shadow of the Wind) and decided it would be a good story to listen to with the kids.

The premise has Zafon written all over it. A boy on the edge of adulthood, Max, moves to the seaside with his family to escape the effects of WWII. He and his older sister Alicia befriend a local boy, and the three of them dip their toe into adulthood while exploring decades-old secrets that surround the town. A clock that moves backwards. A cat with a bad attitude. An overgrown garden full of menacing statues that seem to move when you turn your head. A lighthouse. A sunken ship. And a legend of a sinister character by the name of Doctor Cain who appears in the form of a demented clown, and makes deals that you can't refuse but come at a high price.


Yeah, right? I can almost hear what you are thinking. I think Zafon had his checklist of all spooky things in life EVER, and with this story, crossed them all off in the process of writing it. This story should have worked, but to an adult listener, it just didn't. To me, it seemed like a caricature, like a scary story I would make up off-the-cuff around the campfire to creep out my kids. It seemed contrived.

The plot also seemed very underdeveloped. I know it is Young Adult, but that is no excuse in my mind. There were traces of the writer that created Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game, but I was left wishing there had been more substance. Only after we'd finished the audio did I find out that this was actually Zafon's FIRST novel, and has been re-released by a new publisher. Obviously Zafon's writing has come a long way.

A word about the audio production. I have mentioned before that Jonathan Davis is a fine narrator, and he was up to par with The Prince of Mist. He displayed none of his acumen at accents, but he was still very easy on the ears. The audio had an enormous amount of sound effects...the crashing sea, a film projector, eerie music. There were sounds accompanying the narration at least half the time, maybe more. I found this to be distracting. The kids LOVED it.

In fact, the kids loved everything about this book. They would probably be very upset if they read this review. The story does contain some kissing, and someone does die, but at 10 and 12, my kids didn't find anything disturbing. Just deliciously spooky. There seems to be a small opening for a sequel at the end. The kids and I agreed this story would be better left alone.

My rating: 3 out of 5
My kids' rating: 4.5 out of 5



18 comments:

farmlanebooks said...

I wasn't a fan of Shadow in the Wind so this book never appealed to me. Its good to know that children enjoyed it though - I'll remember it if I ever need a recommendation for younger listeners :-)

Word Lily said...

I, too, love The Shadow of the Wind (and even enjoyed Angel's Game, although to a lesser extent). But I agree, it's pretty clear that he improved from this one to the masterpiece that is tSotW.

Another thing: This felt like a ghost story for the sake of a story, kind of like you said, what you'd make up around a campfire, whereas Shadow feels so much bigger, like there's great weight riding on the book.

My review probably looks a bit different than yours, but I think we mostly agree.

Zibilee said...

Oh, I have been excited to read this one, and am sorry to hear that it felt forced. I think that The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game are probably two of my favorite books out there, and I think that Zafon has incredible talent. Unfortunately, it sounds as though he doesn't live up to his potential in this book, so I will probably be skipping it. Did you know that there is going to be a sequel to Shadow and Angel sometime soon? It is supposed to be a three book set, and I am incredibly excited about it!!

Julie P. said...

Hmmmm. Well that's not what I want to hear. We are reading this book for our on-line book club next month....

Beth F said...

Bummer. As Julie said, we have this up for our November book club meeting. Grrrr.

S. Krishna said...

This makes me sad - I was so looking forward to reading it!

Alyce said...

I have this one on my coffee table, but I know I'm not going to have time to read it before it's due. Your review made me feel better about that. :)

bermudaonion said...

I'm in the book club that's reading this, so I'm disappointed too. Of course, my mind's probably more like your kids than like yours, so I might like it more than you did.

The Bumbles said...

Maybe it is because you are a sophisticated horror/scary/creepy buff and have advanced your expectations well beyond the campfire level? When I was 10 or 12 I reveled in campfire tales. Now I delight in Stephen King productions (happy birthday to the master by the way). I'm glad that the target audience enjoyed it so much. Too bad we've outgrown the campfires :0(

Anna said...

Sorry you were disappointed by it. But at least the kids really enjoyed it.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's so helpful to have kids to listen also and get the perspective from that age group!

heidenkind said...

Kids tend to eat up cheesy-scary. I know I did.

Iliana said...

This does sound a bit over the top but at least your kids loved it :)

I would like to read it but will definitely keep those expectations in check!

irisonbooks said...

I have never read Shadow of the Wind *hides* but I want to, truly, I do!

As for this book, it appealed to me because of the cover, I know, such a silly reason.. Don't own it (yet) though and now I'm not sure if I should bother..

Amy said...

I have Shadow of the Wind no my tbr list but have'nt read it yet & I don't own it yet. I'll defniitely read it at some poitn, though. I thnik I'll probably skip The Prince of Mist. The story seems to have many elements of a good mystery/suspense tale but on second thought it is almost too filled with elements, some that sound cliched, too.
If you didn't like it, Sandy, the chances are pretty slim I will! It's disappointing when a different book by an author you really ejoyed isn't so good. But we all have bad days at work!

I'm glad your children liked this book!
Great review, Sandy! Thanks!
~ Amy

Melissa M said...

I STILL need to read Shadow of the Wind...Anyways, the mention of sound effects completely took this one off my list. They are way too distracting for me.

Jenners said...

Interesting that this was his first book and was rereleased. I got "caught" like that with Garth Stein when they rereleased "Raven Stole the Moon" and I thought it was his new book.

Sounds like it was good for the target audience ... but maybe instead of YA it should be tween.

Gaming Gabby said...

I'm in the process of reading this, and I agree with you Jenners -- this is definitely more of a tween book rather than young adult.

However, I am satisfied with it so far. It hasn't amazed me, but like you said, Sandy, there are hints of the man who created Shadow of the Wind (one of my favorite books), but it's definitely up to par. I also didn't know this book was published first. That makes MUCH more sense.

Great review! Thanks :)