Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 30 May 2010.
June 2010 Good Housekeeping selection.
Utterly gripping, this is a deliciously haunting and chilling tale of dark magic and treachery which reaches out across time threatening all who cross its path.
A move to a house by the sea is designed to give Max and his sisters a safe home away from the dangers of the city in wartime. Although their new home comes with a tragic story of a young boy’s death, the family assume all sadness will have died with him. But, gradually, Max begins to uncover the secrets behind that death and in doing so, to find himself confronting the devilry of it head on. The superficial delights of the new seaside home and the friendships it brings are soon engulfed in a desperate and thrilling struggle for survival.
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The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Max Carver's father - a watchmaker and inventor - decides to move his family to a small town on the coast, to an old house that once belonged to a prestigious surgeon, Dr Richard Fleischmann. But the house holds many secrets and stories of its own. Behind it is an overgrown garden full of statues surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. When he goes to investigate, Max finds that the statues seem to consist of a kind of circus troop with the large statue of a clown at its centre. Max has the curious sensation that the statue is beckoning to him. As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: they discover a box of old films belonging to the Fleischmanns; his sister has disturbing dreams and his other sister hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe. They also discover the wreck of a boat that sank many years ago in a terrible storm. Everyone on board perished except for one man - an engineer who built the lighthouse at the end of the beach. During the dive, Max sees something that leaves him cold - on the old mast floats a tattered flag with the symbol of the six-pointed star. As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of the Prince of the Mists begins to emerge.
A plot which sees a family move house and then discover that
their new abode harbours secrets which have to be gradually unravelled
has long been a popular one in children’s fiction. Carlos Ruiz Zafón
employs it once again in The Prince of Mist, in which ‘an eccentric
watchmaker and inventor of dazzling if completely impractical devices’
of a father, Maximilian Carver, decides to take his wife and three
children away from their city home and move to the coast. (The precise
locations are never made totally clear, though it is perhaps fair to
assume that the country concerned is Spain.) It is 1943 and much of the
action of the novel takes place ‘under the shadows of a war being
fought so close and yet so far from that beach, a faceless war…’ The
occasional reminders of these far-off battles provide an interesting
backcloth for the sequence of events, observed principally through the
eyes of 13-year-old Max Carver. They are set in action as soon as the
boy discovers that behind their new house is a decaying garden filled
with stone statuary and protected by a metal fence topped with ‘a
six-pointed star within a circle’. The significance of this eerie
domain will become clear once young Max is befriended by a local boy,
Roland, who introduces him to the past history of the Carvers’ new home
and, in the process, involves both of them in a narrative which draws
on various traditional myths and legends, including the Faust story and
The Flying Dutchman. Published originally to great acclaim in Spain in
1993 and here given an atmospheric and, where appropriate, lyrical
translation by Lucia Graves, The Prince of Mist injects some quite
chilling and supernatural elements – and some more than chilling
sinister characters – into a gripping and attractively paced adventure
story, even if at times the details of the plotting are not totally
About the Author
Carlos Ruiz Zafón was born in Barcelona and grew up under the shadow of Gaudi's Sagrada Familia cathedral, just a block away from the family home. For a few years he lived in Los Angeles, working as a screenwriter, and has published four novels for young-adults before escaping everything to write THE SHADOW OF THE WIND, a novel that has become an international literary phenomenon in over 20 countries. His work has been translated into 17 languages. Now back in Barcelona, he is presently at work on a new novel.
Robert Ludlum born 1927. American author who wrote the Bourne novels (later turned into blockbuster movies) - The Bourne Identity (1980) The Bourne Supremacy (1986) The Bourne Ultimatum (1990). Find out more about Robert Ludlum's books