Beaches, Lighthouses, and Shipwrecks REVIEWING The Prince of Mist

Welcome to The Real World According To Sam! Today is another Halloween post, reviewing a YA fantasy horror novel I've been meaning to read. Let's get into it!

The Prince of Mist

Author: Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Translated by Lucia Graves)
Genre: YA Horror Mystery
Year: 1993 (translated 2010)

The Prince of Mist


A mysterious house harbors an unimaginable secret...

It's wartime, and the Carver family decides to leave the capital where they live and move to a small coastal village where they've recently bought a home. But from the minute they cross the threshold, strange things begin to happen. In that mysterious house there still lurks the spirit of Jacob, the previous owners' son, who died by drowning.

With the help of their new friend Roland, Max and Alicia Carver begin to explore the suspicious circumstances of that death 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. Soon the three friends find themselves caught up in an adventure of sunken ships and an enchanted stone garden, which will change their lives forever.


This is a book I stumbled across at a Friends of the Library store a very long time ago. It's labeled as an Advanced Reader Copy, so I won't quote from it at all. That being said, it took me a long time to actually get around to reading this. This book was originally written and published in Spanish, back in 1993. Eventually it received an English translation and the copy I have is from 2010. 

Carlos Ruiz Zafón was a novelist from Barcelona, Spain. His works are known for having a Gothic vibe to them in their settings and I was very excited to read a book from a Spanish author. I read a lot of British writers and I've read a bit of French or Irish, but not Spanish. The writer of the Geronimo Stilton children's book series lives in Italy, and I have read several Canadian authors. I have read a book by a Chilean author, a book of African poetry compiled by a German professor, and several manga volumes from Japan. However, until now, I had never read a book by a writer from Spain. I think this was a really good one to start with too. It definitely gives off a completely different vibe from every other book I have read before. 

The Prince of Mist is a book that follows a family moving into a new house, in a new place. They move into a small town, that is always referred to as, "the town." The town has a lighthouse and a beach, and lots of history to it that is slowly unveiled as the mystery thickens. The main character is Max Carver. He has two sisters, Alicia and Irina. The book begins with them arriving to the town by train. Max's father is a watchmaker and he plans to do his craft in this new town. The family isn't too excited about moving, and eventually, mysterious things begin to happen. Max must figure out what is happening and why, before his family winds up getting hurt. He must unravel the secrets that his house, and some parts of the town, are hiding. 

At no point, even after reading the blurb, was I able to fully pin down where this story was heading. When I first started, I had one idea of where things were going, but partway through, this shifted entirely and by the end, the story was an entirely different one than I thought. I actually really liked this aspect. I have driven my sister crazy with my ability to predict movies and books, to the point where she purposely tries to throw me off track if she has experienced it before me. This one continually had layers to peel back that changed what I thought was going to happen and how things would be resolved. I like when books take a different route in their story telling and refuse to give you all the pieces too quickly. This isn't a detective fiction book. It doesn't need to give me a chance to solve it. It is a fantasy horror with mysterious, paranormal elements. It needs to take me for a ride and throw twists at me. This book succeeds at doing exactly that.  

The thing that I liked best about this book was the setting and tone used to tell the story. It definitely gives off Gothic vibes, without going over the top. It wasn't a super scary book from my perspective, but there were definitely eerie and creepy elements. It takes place in 1943, while World War II is happening in Europe. A local boy that Max and his sister meet might be going off to war at the end of the summer. This boy, Roland, becomes friends with Max and Alicia and they spend the summer together. Roland likes to go diving at a nearby shipwreck and he is the grandson of the lighthouse keeper. The beach setting makes things feel very breezy, while the unraveling story and the house Max now lives in, create a grim shadow underneath it all. The contrast is very intriguing. This book is not about the war and the war doesn't play a lot into it, but it helps to set the time period in terms of a young male's potential future and the desire to have fun before everything changes. However, the mystery and creepiness seek to undermine all the fun that summers usually bring. 

This book kept throwing me off its plot trail and kept taking new turns. The tone and setting were very different from anything I have read before. It definitely fit into an overall Halloween themed read and I am glad to have read it. The characters were all interesting and I was invested in the story. I give The Prince of Mist a Lone Star rating of ✯✯. I would recommend this for anyone wanting to read something new and different from their usual Halloween/horror fare.  If whispering voices, a creepy statue garden, a shipwreck, and a backwards running clock in town sound interesting, take a dive into this book. I also recommend it if you want to expand your reading to experience new voices from other countries.

Thanks for reading another review here at The Real World According To Sam. I'll see you at the next review!