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Category: prince of mist

The Prince of Mist – Part 9

Hi guys, back again. Sorry I took so long to get back to this, but essays and revising for university exams got in the way. Hell, I only finished my first exam a few hours ago. But anyway, sorry about that, I guess I should have given a bit more warning beforehand. In any case, having reminded myself where I left off last time with Victor about to explain to the kids what’s actually happening, I should have some time to actually finish this book. Considering this is the chapter after the halfway point, I’m not doing too badly. But I’m blabbering now, so let’s move on.
So we start of the chapter with Max cycling his sister to the lighthouse to meet with Roland, regretting his decision to stop her taking the other bike. That’s effectively the entire first paragraph, with a bit of joking at Max’s expense and his vow to buy a motorbike when he’s old enough to 1) ride a motorbike and 2) pay for it. That is if they all live that long. But seriously, that first paragraph just seems out of place; you’re cycling towards a revelation that will either save your family or get you killed doing something horrifically stupid, and what do you do? Have a lark with each other. See what I mean?
So they meet Victor and, at this point, seem to get along swimmingly. Although I am a tad bit confused by Alicia’s decision that Victor is “charming”. Please tell me if there’s something in this that I’m missing:

“You must be Alicia. And you’re Max. You don’t need much of a brain to work that out.” 

Well done Victor. You can tell the difference between boys and girls. Granted, I suppose this might be really informal for the 1940s, but charming? Really? So anyway, he gives this mini-speech about how he didn’t think he’d ever need to explain this, but since he does have to, he wants the kids to tell him everything that they’ve seen no matter how insignificant. He also uses a lot of rhetorical questions, which is a bit weird considering the circumstances. Oh well, next paragraph.
So Max tells the old guy what happened and then Victor leans back to explain. That’s literally all that happens in this paragraph. Why separate it from the last one? It wasn’t switching to a new idea or location, so why separate it out? All it does is highlight how little they’ve actually done. All I can think of now is that clown statue standing out in the garden, occasionally looking at its watch, thinking to itself, “What’s keeping them?” I suppose I shouldn’t be so harsh on the author, seeing as this is technically the first book he ever published, but it just seems a bit pointless to have kept this paragraph and the one that started the chapter; if this were The Shadow of the Wind or The Angel’s Game, they would have been cut or at the very least edited to death, but here they frolic across the page and just feel wrong. Wow, I’ve ranted far too long for a paragraph that’s only 13 lines….
So Victor starts speaking, but instead of telling them what the hell is wrong with the statues etc he tells them what he considers to be the three stages in a man’s life: stage one when we’re blissfully ignorant, stage two when we realise our mortality and stage three when we accept our mortality and start waiting. Okay, interesting, but not what we were promised. Tease. He tells them that you have to figure out how to live your life by yourself, which is fair enough, but then brings up the prospect of someone who didn’t like those rules of life (and death as a package deal presumably) and decided to cheat them. Carlos Ruiz Zafon, I was just trying to rip you to shreds just then, but you have me hooked again. Curse you. So apparently, when Victor was about the same age as our protagonists, he met one of these cheats, a man known as Cain or occasionally the Prince of Mist, because he apparently only appeared in hazy conditions. Now it makes sense why this was set in Britain; if this had been set in the moors, it might well have been perfect. One other thing before I continue: Cain as in the Bible Cain? Does that mean Abel will come along sometime soon as well? But anyway, Cain is a charismatic man who gathers the local kids together at night in alleyways. Why does the image of a paedophile spring to mind? Anyway, at these meetings he makes pacts with these kids, one where he will grant them a wish in return for their undying loyalty…yeah, that image has just gotten a whole lot worse. I’d like to believe that the 40s were a more innocent age, but that’s just creepy. One night, a young Victor is taken along to one of these meetings by his friend Angus, who asks Cain to get his father’s job at the steel plant back. And the image has gotten a whole lot creepier. Seriously, how more obvious could the bad guy be when he gathers young kids and teens in alleyways and preys on their weaknesses and hopes as exchanges? Seriously, even if there were no supernatural element to this guy, that would still be scary as hell. In any case, Cain disappears into the mist and the next day Angus’ dad is offered his old job back. Nothing happens until two weeks later, when Cain approaches Angus to honour his side of the deal. Cain’s request? To burn down someone’s shop as a way of settling scores. Who gets a kid to do that?! I mean, okay he’s scary enough that preying on vulnerable kids is an easy enough job, but why not frighten grown up goons into doing it instead? It just makes more sense. Oh well, in any case Angus agrees to do as Cain says, seeing as he’s scary and will probably eat him if he refuses. So Victor starts getting worried for Angus, as he’s not sure what will happen if Angus gets caught burning the shop down. Angus’ deadline to burn the shop arrives and it still stands, so Victor assumes that Angus just didn’t have the heart to go through with it. He goes to see his friend the next day only to find that Angus never came home the night of the deadline. To cut the story short, Victor finds his friend in the same place they met Cain the other night, where he’s been turned into a statue that slowly melts. Around his neck is a pendant with the six-pointed star that they all keep seeing. At the same time Victor finds his friend (or what’s left of him anyway) the shop that Angus was told to destroy is burning to the ground. And that’s pretty much where the chapter ends, in the middle of Victor’s story.

I’ll admit, the start really had me doubting whether I should have put so much faith in the idea that this would be a good story. But Victor’s story saved this chapter for me. So yes, a very happy Nisa. Although I’m still a bit annoyed that there are so many scenes that don’t really add to the plot in any way. It is his first novel, but my patience regarding the non-mystery/supernatural stuff is fraying pretty quickly.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 8

Hey guys, welcome to the review of chapter 8. So last time, we saw that Irina’s in a coma due to her tumble down the stairs and Roland has seen the clown in his dreams as well. Otherwise not much happened. Hopefully, this time, something new will happen. 

The chapter starts with Roland going on a bike ride just before dawn, in order to take his mind off things, which is understandable. He arrives at the lighthouse, where he knows his grandfather will be, seemingly preparing himself to ask for the whole truth about the sinking of the Orpheus. But instead of actually confronting his grandfather, he goes to bed. A bit odd considering the build-up, but fair enough. Just before he falls asleep he finds himself glad that he’s made friends in Max and Alicia so quickly and to an unusual degree of closeness, considering that he’s only known them a day or two. It has to be said, this section irritates me somewhat, as it kind of flouts one of the most important rules of writing, which is “show, don’t tell”. I’m sure there are better ways of expressing the same sentiment than this: 

“…he felt deep loyalty and gratitude for the invisible pact that seemed to have bound them together….” 

It might just be me nitpicking, but surely there are ways of demonstrating that through his actions, meaning you wouldn’t really need to spell it out like that. In any case, he falls asleep, and we’ll presumably rejoin him in the morning.
Day breaks and we’re introduced to a new character, Victor Kray, who is presumably Roland’s grandfather as he’s in the lighthouse. From what I can gather from his inner monologue, he’s been running the lighthouse for 25 years as a guardian of some evil that he hasn’t yet stated or defined. It also explains his frosty relationship with Roland, as neither of them get to spend much time in each other’s company, which is a shame really. He also has huge reservations about Roland’s exploration of the Orpheus, so there’s obviously something very wrong about the ship, we just don’t know what yet. He goes down to check if Roland’s gotten back, only to find his grandson waiting for him. Kind of like those melodramas where the suspicious wife waits up for her husband in order to catch him out. In this case it just seems that Roland didn’t get much sleep after we left him last paragraph. So they start cooking together, presumably for lack of better things to do. At breakfast, Roland confronts his grandfather with the weird stuff that’s been happening, causing Victor to tell them all just what is happening. While this is still fairly gripping, I’m only about halfway through the book, so surely there’s something that we’ve missed. I can’t figure out what though.
Back at the Carver house, a phone call arrives to tell them that Irina’s making progress but still isn’t out of danger yet. 5 minutes later, Roland calls to meet them later. Alicia, having taken the calls, goes outside to tell Max. He then starts to ask her about her relationship with Roland; perhaps a little personal, but let’s see how it goes. Sounds like he’s worried that she’ll get hurt, seeing as Roland may well be conscripted after the summer’s finished, which is sweet I guess. The chapter ends with them going inside to shelter from the cold.

Again, another chapter where not a whole lot happens, although there have been a few hints here and there. Hopefully next chapter will be more “action-packed”, so to speak. At least it looks as though there will be some answers as to what it is they’re actually dealing with here.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 7

Hey guys, I’m back and raring to go with the next chapter of The Prince of Mist. Now that I’ve finally been handed a mystery to sink my teeth into, I’m really looking forward to see how things unfold. So last time Max and Alicia went diving with Roland and found out the strange story of the Orpheus, and Irina has been attacked (in a sense) by an unknown creature whom her cat has allied itself to.
The chapter starts with Max, Alicia and Roland arriving back home, with the immediate knowledge that something is wrong. We then find out from Mr Carver that Irina’s tumble down the stairs has induced a coma, so they’re just waiting for the ambulance to arrive for them to take her to hospital. She must have really landed badly to give her head that serious a knock. Although I suppose we won’t know how serious until we find out how long the coma lasts for. Because of Irina’s condition, the parents decide to spend the night with her in the hospital. I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like for Mr and Mrs Carver, to be in danger of losing their daughter. Considering the house’s previous death, it makes you wonder if the house itself is cursed or whether Max has actually brought something in from the statue garden.
And thus begins the wait for news, with Roland electing to stay with Max and Alicia for the night. Eventually the phone rings and we find out that Irina’s still in a coma but that the doctors are hopeful that she’ll recover. With that news, they attend to perhaps the most basic of human needs: food. Fair dues, they probably haven’t eaten yet. Not quite so sure about the suggestion to go swimming. True, they agree that none of them will be getting any sleep that night, but swimming? Really? In any case, Roland and Alicia go swimming, while Max stays in the house moping about the chemistry that the other two share. Seems a bit quick really, but I suppose young love is like that sometimes. From there he goes on to consider the war that’s currently ongoing. Quite how he makes that jump, I’m not sure.
Later, they gather on the beach, where Max reveals the suspicions that he has regarding the star symbol and the weird events that they’ve experienced in under a week. He reveals that he re-watched Jacob’s film and that the statues definitely have moved between when they were filmed and when he saw them, just like I predicted; excuse me while I sit and feel smug. As the chapter ends, Roland reveals that he too has had dreams involving the clown statue, ever since he was 5 years old, so at this point they decide to talk to his grandfather about the circus he was following. I’m looking forward to this now.

So a fairly slow chapter, just bringing together what we already know and sorting out a plan of action for later. Overall, a chance for readers to catch their breath.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 6

Hey guys, back again after another mini-break. To be fair, I was away this time, but sorry for the wait anyway. As a recap, we’ve just seen one of the home videos, which shows a walk up to the statue garden, and Alicia has revealed that she’s seen the clown in her dreams before. Presumably this will be the chapter where they go diving.
The chapter starts with Alicia waking up to find the cat staring at her, causing her to reflect on the cat’s general creepiness. A bit of a surprise start for the reader too (or at least me anyway), as Max has thus far been the only point-of-view character used; maybe this signals that Alicia’s going to see things that Max can’t and will therefore be more important to the plot. Anyway, the cat’s now gone (possibly to plot with the freaky clown statue?). Alicia can’t get back to sleep and so ponders one of the important questions that plagues a teenage girl: what to wear? (Although contrary to the narrative, I would think that 2 hours is more than enough time to pick an outfit in). But anyway, she meets Roland and they both seem to like each other, which is very cute and awkward on Roland’s part anyway. Although part of me is wondering where Irina is; maybe I just got confused over the dialogue.
So they get to the beach, and decide to stop off at the fisherman’s hut that Roland has fixed up for himself. From the description, it’s rather charming: quite nautical, with a nice sense of cosiness and a comfortable amount of clutter. They then move on to the actual diving, which sounds scary to be perfectly honest (although my fear of the sea may have something to do with it); quite why you would want to dive down to a place where the current can sweep you out to sea is beyond me, and considering the case of drowning the place has already seen, it seems a bit too close for comfort. While Max gets ready to go diving, he notices Roland checking out Alicia as she changes into her swimsuit (although considering she was probably wearing it under her dress anyway, it can’t have been a long look), which prompts an unexpected protective streak in Max. But anyway, it passes quickly enough and Max is just asking a few things before they begin, just basic things really.
So Max gets his first glance of the sunken ship, which is named the Orpheus. Not a terribly auspicious name really, considering the namesake’s unsuccessful trip to the Greek underworld. Oh well, that’s life. The Orpheus as it is now is coated with algae but utterly devoid of other living creatures, which is apparently quite unusual; does that mean that those weird castles that people buy for their fish tanks are based on shipwrecks? In any case, Roland swims down to the wreck, causing Max a fair bit of anxiety, resurfacing with an old sextant. As Max watches Roland dive again, he notices that the flag attached to the ship’s stern has the same six-pointed star as the statue garden. Bad omen, maybe?
Back on the safety of land, Max explains to Roland what he’s seen and tries to persuade him that this is all real. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what he’s getting so worked up about yet though; true it’s rather creepy, but nothing’s really happened yet apart from the statue moving. Anyway, talking about the wreck prompts Alicia to ask about Roland’s grandfather, who was the only survivor of the wreck. Roland then reveals that his grandfather has talked to him about the symbol before as well. So this story about the shipwreck could finally get us on the way to finding out what the statue garden is all about.
Except that we now switch to Irina’s point of view, back at the new family house. Odd, and a little annoying, but after House of Leaves it’s nothing I can’t handle. In any case, Irina’s story seems more interesting at the moment, as she can hear a voice somewhere in the house. She ends up locating the source as the wardrobe, which she decides to lock because the voices are scaring her. I wonder what House of Leaves would have been like if someone like Irina was the main character; certainly there wouldn’t have been so many investigations without a way of getting back. Anyway, her mother calls her to help with one of the chores, but before Irina can leave, the door slams shut and the wardrobe door unlocks behind her. Excuse me while I find a blanket to hide under.
We now cut back to Max, Alicia and Roland. Because of course we really needed the peril of a little girl in the backs of our minds, didn’t we? So Roland tells them a little about how he started living with his grandfather in the first place, as a sort of segue or introduction to his grandfather’s story about the shipwreck. So it turns out that the ship was run by a Dutchman lacking somewhat in financial sense, who took on some shady business in order to pay off gambling debts. One night he ends up losing his shirt to a Mr Cain, who agrees to pay off his debt on the condition that he transport Mr Cain’s circus across the Channel (so presumably this is England after all). Roland’s grandfather seems to have had some unfinished business with the aforementioned Mr Cain, so he stows away on the ship in order to keep on their trail. The ship crashes (surprise surprise) and everyone drowns, apart from Roland’s grandfather, who was stowing away in one of the lifeboats. The authorities discover him and go to collect the dead the next morning, but find that there are no bodies to be found. So we’re now upping the creepy factor somewhat and faced with yet more questions and loose ends. Now this is the sort of writing that I was looking for: the supernatural elements in his other books were supported by a very strong mystery that’s solved by good, old-fashioned detective-work/snooping, which I thought was missing somewhat from this story. And now I have it, so I’m a very happy girl. At this point, it looks as though the statue garden could be a memorial of some sort, but knowing the supernatural elements so far, that seems far too mundane.
We go back to Irina, who has failed to force the door open and thus stares helplessly as the wardrobe door opens to reveal . . . the cat. Except that she can see something else in the back of the wardrobe that smiles at her and calls to her. She screams and hurls the door open, hurtling down the stairs to get away.
We now switch to Andrea Carver’s point of view, who only sees her daughter jump from the top of the stairs with a look of terror on her face. Every parent’s nightmare is then acted out as she lands badly and tumbles down the rest of the stairs. With her child unconscious and bleeding in her arms, she sees the cat at the top of the stairs, staring down at them both. And that is where the story ends (apart from the mum calling the doctor, but that’s the more logical conclusion as opposed to the dramatic conclusion).

Finally, I feel like I’m reading the Zafon tale that I know and love. I really can’t think of much that I can really fault it with, so I’m really happy about that.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 5

Hi guys, sorry for the delay. I don’t really have much of an excuse for not updating this time, so sorry. Just as a quick recap, last chapter we met Roland who invited Max snorkelling the next morning, which I presume will be covered in this chapter.
Or not? The chapter starts in the evening of the same day in which we meet Roland, with Max’s dad waking him up by calling him for dinner. The projector is also mentioned, so maybe we’ll get to see what some of the tapes contain. They sit down for dinner, where Max tells them about his new friend and Irina somehow manages to persuade their mum to let her go diving with them. Why you would take an 8 year old diving, I’m not entirely sure. Max also offers to take Alicia along, which is sweet of him, something she seems to acknowledge as well; maybe the bratty behaviour is more to do with coping, seeing as she has in a sense more to lose by moving. They start up the projector, with some doubt as to whether it will actually work; if it does work, I get the feeling it will be family videos as opposed to actual films.
So the film starts up and it’s obviously an amateur at the helm. It depicts a walk through a forest and the majority of the family get fairly bored. Until the statue garden appears in the frame. Despite the poor quality of the film, the Carver family are fairly disturbed by what they see, and to Max’s eyes, there’s something not quite right about the clown statue in the middle. It hasn’t said what yet, but I have a feeling it might be something to do with the direction it’s facing. Just a random guess there. Max gets the feeling that Jacob, the boy who drowned, filmed it, but he’s not allowed to watch some more to find out. So after being rather creeped out, everyone but Max and Alicia go to bed. Which is when Alicia tells him that she’s seen the clown before, without having been to the statue garden. Instead of actually seeing it, she’s seen it in dreams, starting from the day before they arrived. So the garden is definitely linked to the house in some way, or maybe specifically to the children in the house. Max assures her that it was just a dream and nothing to worry about (which will probably come back to bite him later) and she leaves to get to bed, accepting his offer to go diving in the morning just before she goes. Max himself goes up after clearing away the projector and films, feeling more connected with his older sister, which is nice.

So overall, a pretty good chapter. Finally, things are starting to happen! We’ve had another look at the statue garden, really bringing up more questions than it answers. And we’ve also seen Alicia being more vulnerable and less like your stereotypical bratty teenager, which is a nice surprise. I think I might be beginning to like her.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 4

Hey guys, back after a weekend with family. Was itching to get back to reviews though, so I’m quite looking forward to this chapter. Just to recap, last time Max had opened the gate to the creepy statue garden and the clown statue inside it had moved. There was also the practically required family gathering bit, where we found that Mr Carver had discovered a projector and box of films.
The chapter starts by re-visiting the other discovery that Mr Carver made, that of two old bikes. Presumably an exploration of their new town then I suppose? As he’s helping his dad clean and oil them, it occurs to Max that these would have belonged to the previous owners and that they might have been for a bit of father-son bonding. A bit obvious, so I’m wondering how it only occurred to him while he was cleaning the bikes up, as opposed to when he first hears of them. Oh well, no matter. In any case, the bikes seem to have been left behind in order to avoid some of the more painful memories associated with the house. Max feels a bit guilty about using the bikes, but, as his dad reasons, the previous owners and their fate shouldn’t impact on what Max and his family do with them. A reasonable point of view, certainly. So Max intends to explore his new home town, but Mr Carver can’t come with him on this occasion. Before he leaves, Max asks his dad if he’s seen the statue garden behind the house before, to which he’s given an oddly vague answer which basically translates as no; maybe the dad will become important to solving whatever’s happening in the statue garden? In any case, Max sets off to explore. Much of what he finds is very much your typical seaside town: fish market, docks etc. He stops to have a rest at the quay, where he meets one of the town’s residents, a 16/17 year old boy who introduces himself as Roland. They talk a little about the house, with one rather awkward moment regarding Roland being called up to serve in the army, followed by Max being offered a guided tour. Seems awfully open with a newcomer, but I’ll ignore that for the moment.
They get to the town centre, with Max struggling to keep up. Overall, the town doesn’t sound especially exciting, seeing as it contains: a library that probably doesn’t have more than 60 books, a court house that isn’t used, a weekly market and screenings of old films in the summer. Granted, this is probably not all that unusual for the time it’s set in, but it does sound like somewhere you could quite easily go mad with boredom in.
As the tour goes on, Roland shows Max the cliffs to the south of the town where he lives with his adoptive grandfather who runs the lighthouse. There seems to be a bit of tension between Roland and his grandfather, which seems a bit odd, although it may just be teenage rebellion against authority now that I think about it. Oh well, we’ll presumably find out soon enough. As the tour comes to an end, Roland invites Max to come snorkelling with him around an old wreck at the bottom of the cliffs the following morning, which is quickly agreed to.
As he’s cycling back home, Max ends up caught in a storm, leaving him drenched to the bone and possibly providing us at home with a bit of pathetic fallacy. Max falls asleep and that is where our chapter ends.

Again, a good chapter, this time mainly for introducing the reader to the larger setting. Hopefully after this, the plot will ramp up a bit more, as there surely can’t be much more basic intro stuff left.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 3

Recap of chapter 2: Max and his family (I’ll just call them the Carvers from now on, seeing as it’s less of a mouthful) have started moving in to their new home, with a bit of making the house habitable on the side, and Max spots a statue garden behind the house that is going to be important later.
The chapter starts with Max waking up from a dream where a hazy figure is whispering in his ear. He wakes up to find no-one there (if there were, Max would probably already have serious problems). So, finding that he’s woken up just before dawn, with mist obscuring most of the view from his window, what does Max decide to do? Go and explore the statue garden. I would say that that’s the height of stupidity, but I have just finished reading House of Leaves, so it wouldn’t hold up. But seriously, why?
He gets to the garden’s fence and finds that the gate is fastened by an old padlock. Most people at this point turn around because they don’t want to be caught trespassing, but is Max like most people? No, he goes and breaks the padlock. What are the odds that someone still technically owns that garden? When he gets into the garden, he sees that the statues are all in the form of circus performers, surrounding the raised statue of a clown with its fist raised. He initially thinks that the statues are arranged in concentric circles, but soon realises that they actually make the six-pointed star that he saw on the gate; after realising this, he looks up to see the clown’s fist has opened. Getting understandably freaked out by this, he runs back home before anything else weird can happen. Now this is just a wild guess on my part, but I think that by opening the gate, Max might well have unleashed something that had been trapped in the garden: it also says the statues are all facing west, which is where the sun sets, so maybe it’s something to do with night-time. But again, that’s just me guessing, so please don’t give me any hints as to whether I’m right or wrong with this.
We rejoin Max when he’s eating breakfast with the rest of the Carver family. Mr Carver has apparently been rooting around in the garden shed for reasons that just seem to be along the lines of “because he could” and found some things of interest. The first is a couple of bikes which are old, but still in working order. So far, so ordinary. The other item is a projector along with a box of films. Now why do I get the feeling that this is going to be important further down the line? Maybe they’ll be like the films in the Navidson Record, full of documented horrors (except toned down a bit seeing as this is technically a “Young Adult” book). So after this revelation, Mr Carver goes to fix the boiler, leaving the sisters to leap at each other’s throats behind his back. It seems to have been set off by Alicia refusing to have breakfast while the cat is there, potentially shedding fur on every available surface like he shares a mentality with Garfield. Which leaves the elder sister to whine about the fact that her little sister gets away with more than she did at the same age. Granted, I can sympathise with that last bit a little, but it seems far too petty a thing to get so worked up about. All the while Max is still distracted by the freaky clown that he may or may not have unleashed upon the world. And so I end the chapter with an image of Tim Curry as It bounding round my brain. Because my brain automatically leaps to a pop-culture reference of some kind.

Again, a good chapter, but the switch from eerie to mundane was a bit too sudden for me. I generally prefer a bit more of a segue from freaky moving clown statue to mundane if a little dysfunctional family breakfast than a simple paragraph break. Maybe a mention of Max trying to get back to sleep or something?

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 2

Hey guys, back again for part 2. We left off last time just after Max and his family had arrived in their new town, without much in the way of weirdness yet, apart from an unnaturally smart cat and a clock that goes backwards.
So the chapter starts with a description of the new town and house. And to be quite honest, I’m a little confused. Having read a couple of Zafon’s novels, I automatically assumed that it would be set in Barcelona (or at least it would initially); the description of this place seems to be more quintessentially English, like Blackpool or Torquay maybe. So far though, we haven’t been told where this is set, so I’ll just have to alternate between the two I suppose. In any case, the town seems pleasant enough, although it is, of course, met with several different reactions: there’s the dad who’s wildly enthusiastic, little sister who regards it with “calm curiosity” (an oddly mature response for an 8 year old, but I suppose I’ll let it slide for now), big sister is sulking and mum is still strangely reticent. Why do I get the feeling that the mum will be psychic in some way? Or will this be yet another example of how adults are useless in the literary world?
The house is introduced and it sounds pretty enough, apart from the minor signs of wear and tear, which I suppose is inevitable when it’s right on the beach. We also find out about the house’s former owners, a surgeon from the city, his wife and, after a little while, their young son Jacob. After Jacob’s birth, the couple integrate themselves into the community and are well-liked. Until Jacob dies. Because we couldn’t see that coming. After the surgeon dies (presumably due to grief), his widow put the house up for sale, with Max’s family being the first actual people to buy it.
The family now arrive at the house, with Max’s dad knocking down a considerable length of their fence almost immediately. Hooray for auspicious starts. So their first view of their new home is…a room covered in dust that obviously hasn’t been cleared away in the 10 years that the house has stood empty. It’s not exactly the kind of welcome they’d been looking for, I’d imagine. That makes their first job cleaning the house out so that it’s actually habitable; I’m sure Alicia will love this, judging from the numerous irritating and unhelpful comments she’s made so far. At the end of the day, Max is given the extra duty of clearing the bedrooms of spiders, because Alicia’s making a fuss.
The spider hunt goes fairly well, as he’s helped initially by the cat, who eats a particularly big specimen then gives him evils. In checking the other rooms in his spider hunt, Max sees a garden of statues in the field behind the new house’s back garden. It’s quite badly overgrown and surrounded by a fence topped with six-pointed stars. Wait, isn’t the Star of David a six-pointed star? The garden’s Jewish? Or am I just being stupid? The chapter ends with his parents going out to get food, leaving him to take care of Irina. Why they couldn’t leave both of them in the care of Alicia, I don’t know. Unless she’s really rather useless, which I can fully believe. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m picking on her, but thus far she’s embodying all that I hate in teenagers.

Anyway, overall another good chapter. Nothing special, but quite pleasant.

Signing off,
Nisa.

The Prince of Mist – Part 1

So, first chapter of The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for months, especially in those last pointless chapters of House of Leaves. Having read Shadow of the Wind and The Angel Game, my expectations are pretty high, so you may well see me being either A) being a total and utter fan-girl or B) criticising this quite a lot.
But anyway, on to the actual story. The first chapter introduces the reader to Max, a 13 year old boy who is told on his birthday (along with his mother and two sisters) that they’re moving the next day. A bit of an abrupt way to break the news isn’t it? And it’s certainly not taken well by our main character, who can’t comprehend having what is effectively his entire world being taken away. Having gone through a similar move when I was 6, I can totally sympathise with what is a huge task to a young child: hell, it’s still a difficult thing when you’re my age. Considering this, I thought the characterisation was spot on, although I’d have preferred to have seen what Max is being uprooted from before he has to prepare for the move, as opposed to confronting the reader with it on the first page. So it turns out that Max’s father is moving them to a small town on the coast in order to avoid the effects of World War 2, which is fair enough (although hindsight makes it seem a little pointless, if this is set in Spain like Zafon’s other novels). So Max gets his birthday present, a pocket watch, after his dad has talked through the bad news he’s gotten: presumably Max’s dad is of the school of thought that dictates that regardless of how bad the news is, kids will be distracted afterwards by shiny things/presents/both. Although the description of this pocket watch is pretty damn cool:

“The hours on the face were marked out by moons that waxed and waned to the rhythm of time, and the hands were the rays of a sun radiating out from the centre of the dial. On the case, engraved in fine script, were the words Max’s time machine.” 

If I didn’t already own a pocket watch, that would be an absolute must-have. Or something close to it would be anyway.
So Max ends up spending a sleepless night before he has to move, a condition mirrored by his dad, who gives Max a book on Copernicus that he spent the night reading. Quite why a 13 year old would want a book about Copernicus, I’m not sure. His dad leaves to give everyone their wake-up call, while Max sits there and reads. Seems an odd thing to do while your family’s getting ready to leave, but I’ll let it slide. He has a rather awkward conversation with his mum, then they leave. All very to-the point at the moment. Plus, there’s one sentence that just doesn’t seem to fit with the action; after she’s had a bit of a nostalgic moment in which she reveals that Max and his sisters were all born in the house, and he reassures her that everything’s alright, there’s this line, which doesn’t make much sense:

“His mother had a way of reading his thoughts.” 

What does that have to do with it? That line just seems to come out of nowhere, unless there’s something I totally missed just then.
There’s a paragraph dedicated to Max’s first glimpse of the sea now. This bit bugs me a little: granted, the passage is well-written and I’ll admit that the sea is a beautiful sight in the right conditions, but Max seems to get over the fact that he’s moving away from the only place he’s ever known far too easily; just because Max had a little bit of a mope earlier doesn’t mean that he can just accept the move like this. They haven’t even been away for more than a few hours!
When they get to the town, Max’s first impression of the town is that it looks like one of those towns you can buy as part of a toy train set. Which just brings a kind of Sims sort of situation to mind really, although I doubt Max and his family will go through events as cruel as some players create with Sims. Although Max’s mum has been the victim of sloppy editing already: “veredict”? Really? But in any case, the dad seems wildly optimistic about the place, while the mum is supportive but much less sure about the move. Max’s younger sister Irina makes a friend almost instantly, in the form of a stray cat. His elder sister, Alicia, on the other hand, seems to be acting in the spoiled brat/unappreciated centre of the universe way that is unfortunately prevalent in most teenagers; I dislike her already. The little sister wins out in any case and is allowed to keep the cat so long as she looks after it. The chapter ends with a little moment of weirdness that will hopefully be explained later: when they arrive at the train station the clock says that it’s half twelve (which is an hour and a half slow by Max’s watch) but when they leave, the clock reads ten to twelve. Why have a clock that goes backwards?

So, other than a few moments that seemed a bit out, I thought that this was a really nice way to start a story. Ideally I would have preferred a bit more focus on what they left behind and actually have Max miss it a little more even after he is charmed by his first sight of the sea, but so far I’m enjoying it. Hopefully this won’t begin to drag like House of Leaves did, considering that this has an undeniably shorter word count. Granted, this isn’t as good as Zafon’s other books thus far, but I still have several chapters with which to be wowed yet.

Signing off,
Nisa.

From House of Leaves to The Prince of Mist

Well, this is it, my final blog entry concerning House of Leaves. My final overall review.

Firstly, the plot and set-up of the book. I’ll admit, Danielewski hit on a really interesting idea for a story set-up: a house that is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside, something that is incomprehensible to most people. Unfortunately, the way the story was actually told put me off a bit. Firstly, there was the use of an academic text to tell the story with: while this puts an interesting intellectual perspective to it, it is very emotionally distancing and I found it very hard to identify with the characters that were supposed to be the main focus of the novel; I personally found Johnny Truant to be the only really engaging character, if only because he isn’t presented through a filter as such. Secondly, due to the academic nature of the format, there were quite a few chapters that I felt the book could have benefited without, simply because they were boring or because what they were trying to get across could have been communicated in a much more concise way.
Secondly, the characters. I felt that the characters were for the most part well-constructed, with a variety of personalities that worked well in combination. I did feel however, that the main character Navidson was made stupider than perhaps was believable: I appreciate that he’s used to danger through experience of war zones, but even so there is no real reason why anyone would be stupid to explore something that has eaten his twin right before his very eyes.
Overall, an interesting story idea that was let down slightly by the odd format and some of the overly stupid behaviour of the central characters.  3/5.

So, that’s House of Leaves finished, now on to the next book that I’ll be reviewing. From now, I’ll be reading and reviewing The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Having read the previous two books of his that have been translated into English and loved them both, I’m seriously looking forward to this. Here’s the blurb as a basic preview of what I’ll be reading:

“1943. As war sweeps across Europe, Max Carver’s father moves his family away from the city, to an old wooden house on the coast. But as soon as they arrive, strange things begin to happen: Max discovers a garden filled with eerie statues; his sisters are plagued by unsettling dreams and voices; a box of old films opens a window to the past. Most unsettling of all are rumours about the previous owners and the mysterious disappearance of their son. As Max delves into the past, he encounters the terrifying story of the Prince of Mist, a sinister shadow who emerges from the night to settle old scores, then disappears with the first mists of dawn . . . . “

Overall sounds pretty good, and not on the mind-screw level of House of Leaves. Again, thank you for following my progress through House of Leaves, I hope you enjoyed my reviews and I hope you will join me in perusing The Prince of Mist as well.

Signing off,
Nisa.

 

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