I picked up this novel (in English) at my local library recently. I only knew Carlos Ruiz Zafón as author of the novels Shadow of the Wind (2001) and The Angel’s Game (2008). I’m not even 100% sure if I actually read/finished the latter. Anyway I did not know that Zafón started his career already back in 1992 as a writer of young adult fiction. 'The Prince of Mist' turned out to be not a new novel but the first he ever published. I think it is best categorized as a sort of ghost story, even if the blurb prefers to call it “a mesmerising tale of romance and adventure”. (Well - it is that too.)
In 1943, Max Carver's father - a watchmaker and inventor - decides to move his family to a small town on the coast, to an abandoned house that holds many secrets and stories of its own. Behind the house Max discovers an overgrown garden surrounded by a metal fence topped with a six-pointed star. In the centre is a large statue of a clown set in another six-pointed star.
As the family settles in they grow increasingly uneasy: Max’s sister Alicia has disturbing dreams while his other sister, Irina, hears voices whispering to her from an old wardrobe. With his new friend Roland, Max also discovers 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.
As they learn more about the wreck, the chilling story of a legendary figure called the Prince of Mist begins to emerge...
Certain elements in the book remind me of the Harry Potter story but in other respects it’s more like classic adult gothic novels like Wuthering Heights. It has a very limited set of characters, it lacks the humour of Harry Potter, and it leaves more things open. I was caught up in the story while reading; but it left too many “loose ends” for my taste. It’s the kind of book I find hard to rate just after reading it. Sometimes only time can tell whether a book will stay in one’s memory or not!