Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
—The Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil”
Many of us make deals with the universe, promising to give something back when our wish has been fulfilled: “I will start praying for three hours a day if you let my mom’s cancer go into remission” or “If I can get out of this speeding ticket I swear I won’t speed anymore.”
We arrive at the crossroads with fevered dreams, shaking like leaves in the wind in anticipation of giving away pieces of our souls to get what we think will make us complete.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s novel The Prince of Mist is filled with ordinary people asking for extraordinary things. Unfortunately, the being who grants these wishes wants something extraordinary in return.
In 1943 Max Carver and his family leave the city for a beachside community. They move into a haunted house. It’s not just haunted by a ghost but by an entity that nearly kills Max’s little sister. Max meets Roland, a boy a few years older than him who lives in a small house that he built himself. Roland’s grandfather lives in a lighthouse that he hasn’t left in over 20 years.
Since day one of living in the house, Max has felt that there was something wrong with the place. There’s a lawn full of human-sized statues, and one is a clown that moves when Max isn’t looking. The house whispers to all of the children. There are rumors of what happened years ago to the previous owners of the house. The only one who knows the story is the lighthouse keeper, who tells Max, his older sister and Roland the story of the house and why the ghost can never leave the lighthouse.
I won’t tell you the story he tells. It would ruin the entire book. But trust me, there’s a spine-tingling mystery at the heart of this YA novel.
I will tell you that a creature who calls himself the Prince of Mist grants wishes but always asks for something in return. Everybody whose wishes are granted knows that they’ll have to pay the price in a few months, years or even decades later when the Prince of Mist comes calling to collect the debt. Call him the Devil. Call him Mephistopheles. Call him Jack the next door neighbor. Whatever you call him, he will come calling, especially when you’ve forgotten that your debt is still unpaid.
If you’re like me, you check under your bed and in the closet for monsters before you go to bed. Many of us enjoy being scared. Fortunately, The Prince of Mist will deliver both terror and fear. Just make sure you check under your bed after you read it. And make sure your debts are paid up.