Tuesday, September 21, 2010
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