In 2004, the Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon earned international success and acclaim with his breakthrough novel The Shadow Of The Wind. His books have since sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
But before he wrote this bestselling debut novel for adults, he had already published four books in Spanish for younger readers. The first of these, The Prince Of Mist, has just been translated into English for the first time.
The Prince Of Mist is set in Spain during the Second World War and is the story of 13-year-old Max Carver and his family, who move from the city to the countryside to get away from the war.
But from the moment Max steps off the train, he has a creepy feeling about the seaside town. The clock in the old train station appears to be moving backwards and the house Max and his family move into has been boarded up for years because of its sad history. The overgrown garden is populated by stone statues that appear more lifelike than they should, and a secret stash of homemade films reveal even darker secrets. Then there is the malevolent cat who seems to be stalking the family.
When Max and his older sister Alicia meet a local boy, Roland, whose grandfather Victor Kray has run the lighthouse for 25 years, they discover the wreck of an old ship beneath the sea and the story of the prince of mist slowly begins to unravel. Soon Max discovers that the prince, a magician known only as Cain, is still in their midst and just waiting for his opportunity to settle an old score.
This first book by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a chilling adventure and skips along at a fantastic pace. It's probably a little too scary for very young readers but older fans of Zafon's other work will certainly enjoy this novel.
All the familiar themes of his later books are here.
He writes fondly of father-and-son relationships, as well as of the importance of older male mentors to young men, along with the themes of coming of age, burgeoning romance, loss of innocence, and the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
Any young reader will enjoy The Prince Of Mist, but it is particularly enjoyable for fans of Zafon, as it gives an insight into the early ideas and preoccupations that eventually led to his most successful novel, The Shadow Of The Wind.