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Review: The Prince of Mist, Carlos Ruiz Zafon

On the eve of World War II, Max and his family moved from their city house out to the shore, where it should be safer.  Unbeknownst to them, it’s anything but, as strange things start to happen as soon as they move in.  Max’s sister Irina’s cat appears possessed, various members of the family start having strange dreams, and Max encounters a sculpture garden where he swears the sculptures move.  What’s going on, and what does it have to do with the previous family, whose son drowned in the ocean?

I had high hopes for this book.  I was pretty sure I’d seen it reviewed enthusiastically around the internet, and my online book club chose it as a spooky read for the end of October.  Plus, I liked Zafon’s other books, especially The Shadow of the Wind.  I knew he could do atmosphere, so I was excited to find out what he could do with a spooky one.

Unfortunately, I was really disappointed in it.  I knew it was a YA book going in, so that wasn’t really the problem, but it just seemed so simplistic, so irritatingly dumbed down in many different ways.  I’ve read plenty of YA and I know it doesn’t have to be like this, which is part of the reason it struck such a wrong note with me.  I felt almost like this was a children’s book, not a YA book, which would probably explain my feelings.

To start, for a horror book the story began almost painfully slowly.  I really just was not interested in what happened to Max or his family.  As the suspense crept up on him, I did get slightly more interested in the story, but I felt ready to put it down at any point.  The suspense was also often ruined by the fact that the story contained vast amounts of info dumping.  Every time Max talked to someone, it seemed they had a pages-long story to tell him about the past, which of course impacted the present day hugely.  I kind of wished we’d actually flipped back and forth in time, rather than having large story-telling sessions which simply lost the flow of the narrative.

Then there were the characters.  I found it hard to relate to any of them, but Max was difficult in particular.  His reactions didn’t seem typical of a nine-year-old boy, at least no little boy I’ve ever known.  He seems much too wise for his age, and the book is very reflective in terms of his emotions and reactions to things.  For example, he immediately invites his sister to hang out with his new friend, and at one point smiles to himself because he catches said friend and his sister kissing – wondering if it’s been the first time it had ever happened for them, in a peculiar adult-like way that creeped me out.  I actually thought he was a teenager, and was surprised to look back at the end and see that he’s only nine.  I couldn’t believe in his character and that ruined it for me.

Sure, there are hints of atmosphere in places, and I was creeped out at points.  I can see where his future talent was emerging.  But overall, I was disappointed with this book.  I may have felt differently if I’d approached it as a kid’s book, not a YA book, but honestly, I doubt it.  It didn’t feel the way the reviews led me to believe it would, and in the end I found The Prince Of Mist disappointing.  I doubt I will read another of Zafon’s books aimed at children; I’ll still happily read his adult books though!

I am an Amazon Associate. I purchased this book.

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Mini Reviews

Trying to catch up again before the start of October!

Bombay Time, Thrity Umrigar

In this moving novel, a group of families in Bombay come together for the wedding of one of their children.  While there, they are all thrown into reminiscing about their past together and just how they got this far in the future.

I wish I’d reviewed this one earlier so I could look more deeply into it, but unfortunately it got a little lost in the shuffle as I tried to get reviews for actual review books out.  I loved it, however, most particularly the depth of the relationships between the people and their all too human foibles.  I found it gave me striking insight into some aspects of Indian communities and India itself, how it was growing and changing and the people either grew or didn’t grow with it.  The relationships – both romantic and platonic – between all of these people are gorgeously drawn, and what I really appreciated was the fact that they weren’t over.  This is a snapshot of lives, not an ending to them.  Beautiful book and has me determined to read more by Thrity Umrigar.

Splendour, Anna Godbersen

I actually haven’t reviewed any of the last three of this series, so this will stand as my summation of all of them.  As a result I won’t bother with a summary here; let’s just say that the ladies of New York City are out and about yet again, as things are shifting and their lives are going slightly crazy as always.  I have enjoyed this series; I still stand by my original assessment that it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure read as these girls’ lives are so scandalous and probably not quite accurate to history.  Unfortunately I wasn’t quite satisfied by the ending, but I am glad I managed to read to the end, and would recommend the whole series to anyone who is interested in a very romantic YA series based around the lives of a few girls in early twentieth century New York City.

Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne

I’d never read the actual Winnie the Pooh before, so when I found it was free for my Kindle, I decided to give it a read.  I was thoroughly charmed, let me tell you; these stories are so enchanting and so quick to read.  Even with the black and white screen, the illustrations are just gorgeous and bring the words to life.  This is really the perfect book for children and if/when I have some of my own, I fully intend to get them this book for their very own.  It was only missing Tigger; when does he show up??

The School of Essential Ingredients, Erica Bauermeister

As a girl, Lillian uses food to express herself and to bring her mother back to her.  As an adult, she runs a restaurant, and on Mondays holds a cooking class to bring other people together with food.  The motley mix of students this time each have their own problems and varying degrees of happiness, and Lillian doesn’t offer them a solution.  Instead she offers them a peaceful haven to rediscover themselves and to find connections with others that they’d feared lost forever.

This is one of those books I suspect I’d like more if I actually enjoyed fiction about people who have lives just like mine.  Unfortunately I didn’t think it dug quite deeply enough; each person got a single chapter, which was just enough to get a taste of their lives and not much else.  They were, for obvious reasons, all heavily tied in with food.  Eventually they do start to link together, but without the community feel and thoughtfulness of a book like Bombay Time.  This one just left me empty, although it did make me hungry as well with its luscious descriptions of food.  I’d hesitate to recommend this but I know others have enjoyed it more than me, so it might just be my dislike of women’s fiction popping back up again.

I am an Amazon Associate. None of these books were sent to me for review.

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