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Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Prince of Mist - Part 11

Quick recap: last chapter continued Victor's story about what he knew about Cain. Presumably this chapter will at least start to explain why everything Cain-related seems to be flaring up all of a sudden. Just one thing before I start: you remember in chapter 1's review I waxed lyrical about how cool the pocket watch sounds? My edition of the book has little illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, with chapter 11's being the watch. Frankly, I'm disappointed; perhaps the illustrator wasn't feeling particularly inventive that day, but here the watch looks really unimpressive. Although I suppose my vision of sections of exposed clockwork might have been a bit ambitious considering the size of the pictures. Oh well, having argued myself into a corner, let's go on.
So Victor has just finished his (in my opinion) gripping story. After which Max checks his watch. A bit of an odd thing to do, but okay. Maybe there's a time theme this chapter or something. Outside, a storm is brewing, so Max and Alicia decide that now would be a good time to head home. Now, it might just be me, but after hearing that story, I'd be more than a little reluctant to go back there in all honesty. When they're about to leave Max, Alicia and Roland have a group discussion as to whether they believe Victor or not. Considering the weird stuff that's been going on and the fact that all of them were eager to hear what could be happening, it seems a bit odd for doubt to creep in now. So as he cycles along, Max tries to add what Victor told them to his own experiences with the statue garden and the house in general, eventually coming to the conclusion that there's something that Victor is still hiding. So he decides to continue investigating by looking through Jacob Fleischmann's films, which makes sense.
Max gets back to the house to find that Alicia and Roland beat him there and that Roland is about to head back to the lighthouse to keep his grandfather company. Why do I see this going horribly wrong? Just as he's about to go, Roland also brings up the possibility of diving down to the Orpheus again the next morning. Why do I see that going even more horribly wrong? So Roland cycles off and Max is sent upstairs to change. On the way up, Max realises that he hasn't seen Irina's cat since the day she went into the coma, but shrugs it off as no great loss. Surely he must have made some sort of connection, considering that he and Alicia have been the ones consistently saying that the cat is really creepy.
So a bit later, Max and Alicia are downstairs waiting for a call from their parents at the hospital. A call that never comes. Hmm, eerie. After assuring Alicia that everything's probably okay, Max goes to raid the shed for Jacob's films.
So, first film that's put on is the camera focusing on a clock face. Weird, didn't realise you really got avant-garde 7 year olds. The hands begin to move anti-clockwise, gathering speed as it goes, and the camera back up to see that the clock is hanging from a chain suspended from the hand of a statue. Ah, oh dear. So Jacob moves amongst the statues, stopping and focusing on each of their faces as he goes past them. Still fairly eerie, but nothing really alarming yet. Eventually the camera gets to Cain's statue in the middle, where Max notices a detail about the statue that wasn't there before: a cat sitting at Cain's feet. At this moment, Max finally makes the connection between Irina's cat and Cain's cat. So the camera pans up and focuses on the statue's face like all the others. Max is just about to change the film when he notices something in the last few frames: the statue's face is moving, just a tiny bit. Excuse me while I retreat to my happy corner and cower a bit. My urge to cower has just increased considering the expression that Cain's statue has pulled. It smiled, showing sharp teeth. A bit overused, but it really works well here. So thoroughly creeped out, Max goes to bed instead of watching a few more films to try and figure out anything else, thus ending this chapter.

Another well-written chapter, with the saving grace being that film at the end. It's perhaps a bit clichéd, the whole inanimate object moving thing, but it's one of those clichés that, written well, never seems to get old.

Signing off,

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Prince of Mist - Part 10

Hey guys, back again. I would have been at this earlier today, but the Royal Wedding was on. I know it's weird to watch a wedding on TV, but I can't help liking the monarchy. But anyway, now we're back to the supernatural events of Victor's early life after that excellent beginning to his explanation.
So, a few months after Angus' death, Victor's father gets a promotion at work, so takes his family on an outing to an amusement park. I'm sure we can all guess what will happen there. So the evening starts out splendidly, considering the fact that this is apparently now a very good job. I'm not too good at social history of the time (I've only ever been taught political history and I rather like it that way) so I can't really say whether it's really such a huge step up. But in any case, Victor starts queuing up for the Big Wheel, when he sees a fortune-telling booth belonging to Dr Cain. Unsurprisingly, he is mysteriously drawn from the queue to the harmless ride to the tent that its almost certainly rife with danger. He goes in to find that in the past few months, Cain has picked up an eerie pale-skinned brunette as an assistant and a black cat with yellow eyes. And my immediate reaction is to scream "CAT!!" like the Nostalgia Critic; if you haven't seen that review (End of Days) you really should. But yeah, he ends up going right up to Cain who starts speaking. If I didn't know that Victor lives to a ripe old age, I would be tempted to have an inner commentary resembling this: "You are going to die. Well done for winning a Darwin award by the way."
So the next paragraph doesn't change scene or skip forward in time or anything like that, but instead the perspective changes from 1st person as old Victor speaks to 3rd person. A bit weird, but I'll run with it. So Cain starts to talk to Victor, rather pleasantly too which is a bit unsettling. That and he's making the clock on his table go backwards. Even more unsettling. But anyway, Cain asks Victor if he's decided what he wants to wish for. Because of course he's going to be stupid enough to make a pact with Cain after what happened to Angus. They have a bit of an argument regarding that until Victor asks a question that I'm sure many readers beside myself would like an answer to: what did Cain have to do in return for becoming the way he is now? (I'm betting on the Biblical Cain now. It just feels right.) But as soon as the question leaves his mouth, Cain loses his smile and looks as though he'll pounce. Because of course he wasn't creepy enough as it was. But he doesn't (thank Lord) and Victor is lead out without further ado. Apart from a final aside from Cain as he goes to leave, about extending his offer for a wish to members of Victor's family. A little stereotypical as threats go, but it works.
The next paragraph is another of those weird, short and overall pointless scenes, where back in the present Max wants to ask a question, but is told to wait until the end of the narrative. Why?
So back to young Victor again, where he decides to just let time go by and try to forget about Cain. A wise strategy in my books, but he's almost guaranteed to meet with Cain again, because otherwise we would have no story. Or at least a story where Max's family members are hunted down one by one by the cat until they decide to move away. Effectively House of Leaves then, if you replace cat with house and make it much less efficient and more mind-warping. So Victor's family move to a new house, presumably as part of his father getting a better job, where Victor meets a kindly priest named Darius, who teaches maths and physics at his school. A talent for science blossoms, as is usually the case with subjects where the teacher is very cool, and he is persuaded by Darius to go to college and become an engineer. So Victor goes to college to study engineering, but Darius dies before he can graduate. So after about a page, Darius has been killed off. Why devote so much time to him? Anyway, while he's at college, he meets Richard Fleischmann, who will grow up to become the doctor who builds the house on the beach. I sense plot. Richard seems to be an impetuous guy, throwing tantrums whenever something doesn't go his way. Personally, I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled at the thought of a grown up spoiled brat being a pivotal character, but maybe he'll surprise me. So Richard and Victor become friends because they both fall in love with a girl called Eva Gray, who turns out to be the daughter of the one tyrannical teacher that a school at any level is bound to have. So throughout college, Victor, Richard and Eva are pretty much inseparable, but the two guys know that one day one or both of them will be out of the running when it comes to getting the girl. On their graduation night, they decide to go drinking to get Victor to lighten up after Darius' death, but it turns out that Eva can't go. This doesn't sound like a good idea. They get steaming drunk and decide that a go on the merry-go-round of the amusement park that just mysteriously appeared out of the mist would be a really good idea. I'll give Zafon credit for having them be drunk before they do this monumentally stupid thing. So, guess who's there? And guess what Richard is stupid enough to do? If you said Cain and Richard decides to go in his tent, well done. If you didn't, shame on you. They wake up on a bench the next morning and part of them wonders whether the amusement park happened at all. But just in case, Victor asks Richard what he remembers, where it turns out that Richard wished for Eva to love him. A few months later, Richard and Eva marry and don't see Victor for another 20 years. I think I have an idea why little Jacob drowned now.
Many years later, Victor notices that Richard has followed him home from the office. Trying to be nice to his former friend, he invites Richard inside, where he's asked about their graduation night. Mood now soured, Victor straight out asks what he gave in exchange for Eva's love. The answer is Richard's first born son. Smooth. Didn't think anyone outside of fairy tales fell for that one.
So it turns out that for the entirety of their marriage, Richard has been slipping Eva a drug that will prevent her from conceiving, but her desire for a baby causes her to sink into a depression. In order to save his wife, Richard goes to Victor for help, who agrees for Eva's sake. After throwing Richard from the house, Victor follows him, where he conveniently finds Cain's lair again. Cain likes messing with this guy, huh? So it turns out that Cain has changed his persona from a fortune-teller to a clown. Big surprise there. But along the way, Cain and his followers have alerted the suspicions of the police with a series of disappearances and thefts that follow them wherever they go. This villain isn't particularly subtle, is he? Despite all his disappearing tricks, he still has all the subtlety of a brick in the face. Oh well. In any case, in order to get away, Cain tricks that Dutch captain from the earlier chapter, meaning that his crew and Victor, who has been spying on the troupe for two weeks, end up on the Orpheus. So the ship sinks, for reasons that even Victor is unsure of, but considering that the entire troupe was hiding in the bilge in case of surprise inspections, they almost certainly all drowned. So what about the statue garden? Where does that come into it?
So we're jolted back to the present, where Max interrupts that the bodies were never found. Victor implies that the bodies were either dragged out to sea, which would make sense, or that something strange happened to them, which he will presumably now explain.
So after the shipwreck, Victor wakes up but doesn't believe that Cain is actually gone for good. He built the lighthouse in order to wait for the time when Cain reappears. A few years after the wreck, he's tracked down by Richard who, after hearing the story, believes Cain to be long gone and decides to build a house in the area and finally start a family. But then their son Jacob died. Thus, Victor decides that Cain has just been waiting and that he needed something strong to come back. Something strong like a promise. And that's where the chapter ends.

Again, a very strong chapter, but now I'm left with some questions. Jacob Fleischmann's death seems all nicely explained now, but what about the statue garden or the incidents in the Carver family? I can't think of how the Carvers would be linked to Cain, yet they're still being haunted, for lack of a better word, by him. Hopefully that will be explained fairly soon then.

Signing off,

Thursday, 28 April 2011

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,

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

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,

Monday, 11 April 2011

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,

Sunday, 10 April 2011

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,

Thursday, 7 April 2011

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,

Monday, 4 April 2011

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,

Friday, 1 April 2011

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,