The Story’s the Thing: The Face in the Frost
We all know and love the power of story, and there’s nothing better than finding new ones to lose yourself in. Check back on the blog every Wednesday for an eclectic smattering of the bloggers’ favorite stories of all kinds. We hope you’ll discover new worlds, friends, and adventures–and maybe get re-acquainted with some old ones! Tell us what you think, and leave your own story suggestions in the comments.
“Several centuries (or so) ago, in a country whose name doesn’t matter, there was a tall, skinny, straggly-bearded old wizard named Prospero–and not the one you’re thinking of, either. He lived in a huge, ridiculous,doodad-covered, trash-filled two-story horror of a house that stumbled, staggered, and dribbled right up to the edge of a great shadowy forest of elms and oaks and maples.”
So begins what is, in my humble opinion, one of the most delicious and sadly under-appreciated books ever written. The Face in the Frost, by John Bellairs, was published before The Lord of the Rings made adult fantasy popular, and as such, has been consistently ignored pretty much from the day it was published. Be that as it may, anybody looking for a story that is the perfect balance of shivery-spookiness, wild fantasy, and positively ticklish humor need look no farther than this story.
Prospero and Roger Bacon are a pair of elderly, not-overly-talented wizards who accidentally find themselves pitched against a sorcerer whose power makes both of them together look like petty conjurers. Together, they set off on a bizarre journey to defeat the sorcerer–and along the way encounter some very odd pieces of furniture, an truly impressive troll, a king with an obsession for model-universes, a monk with an equal obsession for strange plants, and many other magnificent and bizarre characters.Bellair’s quirky humor, unparalleled diction, and brilliant character development set this book on a level by itself. Lovers of weird and unusual words are bound to delight in Bellairs’s prose, which is as bizarre and charming as his characters; and fantasy lovers will love his strange twists on very old ideas.
Despite being relatively unknown today, Bellairs was, in fact, a very gifted writer. Not only is his prose style absolutely unique, his ability to seamlessly blend chilling horror with kooky humor, random historical facts and cutting social commentary is utterly unparalleled. If you’re a writer, you should definitely check him out, and if you’re a reader–well, trust me, you don’t want to miss this one.
So tomorrow, when the post-Halloween despression starts to set in, and you’re longing for a little spookiness and some high adventure, check out The Face in the Frost. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Also, if you love this book as much as I think you will, you should check out Bellair’s children’s stories as well (which despite being intended for a younger audience, are spectacularly good). I particularly recommend The House with a Clock in it’s Walls, The Ghost in the Mirror, and anything else in the Lewis Barnavelt series.