The Prince of Mist is scary, atmospheric ghost story

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon; translated by Lucia Graves; published by Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2010; 200 pages.

NOTE: This review is based on an ARC (advance reading copy) provided for free by the publisher.  The publication information is subject to change.  The book was released in May 2010.

World War II has driven the Carver family from the city to a beautiful seaside village.  But from the moment he gets off the train, 13 year old Max knows that there is something unusual when the clock in the town square is running backward.  When he visits the creepy statue garden in the back of his new house, he’s convinced something evil lurks close by.  His sister Alicia, along with the lighthouse keeper’s grandson, Roland, help him find the truth behind the legend of the Prince of Mist.  What they discover will alter their lives forever.

I’ve had this book since late winter or early spring but forgot about it.  Why? It’s been hidden under my daughter’s bed.  It was too scary for her to read all at once since she’s a bedtime-only reader.   So she’d read a chapter or two then put it away when the story got too intense.  After I got into the story, I can fully understand why.  This book is fully loaded with  supernatural atmosphere and chilling suspense.  Some of the imagery, especially in the descriptions of the clown, will haunt long after the final page is turned.  The publisher did a wonderful job capturing the essence of the story in their video trailer.  Before reading the book, the essential elements of the story included in the trailer are merely intriguing.  After finishing, all the pieces serve to remind the reader of the depth of  the story telling.

Zafon attacks all of the reader’s senses in his descriptive passages.  I could almost feel the cold, evil mist on my neck.  The warm cinnamon rolls that Max picked up for Alicia still tickle my nose.  Even the tang of salt water left a taste on my tongue during the diving sequences.  Truly, Zafon (and Graves in her translation) is a master at setting the atmosphere of the story.  But don’t be fooled.  This isn’t only an atmosphere piece.  There is a very real plot that will keep reader’s guessing to the last page.  Additionally, the use of a creepy mist image throughout the book adds to the atmosphere befitting the best ghost stories.

The book has its own website ( with links to resources like author information, book information and even an audio excerpt.  You can read an excerpt from the LB-Teens website (

Reluctant readers should run to pick up this book–or rather, someone who cares about a reluctant reader should put this book into his or her hands.  It’s a short read (around 200 pages).  It’s full of descriptions that draw the reader into the story.  And it’s an amazing ghost story.  Sounds like the perfect blend for engaging reluctant readers.

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 8-10

Cover Art: The ghostly mist superimposed over a view of the lighthouse surely lets us know it’s a ghost story.  That should be enough to get fans of gothic or ghost stories to pick up the book.

From Reading List: On the Edge of Your Seat (Mystery, Suspense, Thriller), ARC (advance reading copy)


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Pragmatic Mom
    Jan 04, 2011 @ 15:37:00

    Great review and thanks for flagging for reluctant readers. I will tweet about it.

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