Friday, July 13, 2012

Keep your lights on


                "El Príncipe de la Niebla" ("The Prince of Mist") is the first novel by acclaimed Spanish writer Carlos Ruiz Zafón. Originally published in 1993, it was marked as a "young adult novel". The story which unfolds through its pages is one of friendship, growing up and first love, but also of magic, evil and fear. Running away from second world war, young Max and his family come to a seemingly idyllic small village on the Atlantic coast. But Max senses something's wrong right from the beginning when he realizes that the old clock at the train station goes backwards.

                I won't write any more details about the plot 'cause I think it functions best when you let it unravel before your eyes. While reading the book, I had a sense of fear and danger so present it sent shivers down my spine, and I'm afraid that sense would be lost if I knew what would happen. With every new thing I discovered I shuddered a little more and I can't remember when was the last time a book (or anything else for that matter) made me feel that way. It really is an atmospheric book, but it does have its flaws. There's an important character who appears in the beginning of the book and is put there to get our attention and make us wonder but disappears half through the book without any explanation. There are also some characters that get just a mention and seem to deserve more, as well as some character decisions which seem implausible and a few unanswered questions.  I think the key problem with the novel is that it's too short. It starts very interestingly and slowly reveals the story through its first half, creating the aforementioned atmosphere. But the second half seems to tell too much too fast (and yet somehow leaves some things hanging). And the ending could be a bit of a letdown for some. At least it was for me.

                It's a shame about the flaws for it could've been a really great book, but it still is a good one. And Ruiz Zafón would go on to write a great one too (The Shadow of the Wind). "El Príncipe de la Niebla" is a short and easy read recommended for anyone who likes his books with a dash of mystery and a pinch of fear, so take it and spice up your summer.

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