Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse by Fredrik Brounéus

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse by Fredrik Brounéus is the first novel published in English by the Swedish author who now lives in New Zealand. I didn't realise until I started reading, but it's actually a YA book. Obviously I missed the main character's age in the blurb... that or I forgot the blurb to a greater extent than I usually do.
What happens when we die?

This has been the third question on mankind’s FAQ list since the dawn of time (numbers one and two being: Is this edible? and Excuse me, would you care to breed?).
I know what happens. Believe me, I’d rather not. But I do.

There is a lighthouse, and it guides our souls along the narrow path to being reborn as humans. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, as my undead granddad and the Tibetan special mission monk in my kitchen have kindly told me, there’s a problem with the lighthouse. And if the world is to be saved, someone needs to fix it.

Which is where I come in: George Larson, eighteen years old. Who could possibly be better suited to save the world?

Well, almost anyone. Especially as being a teenage guy is nothing at all about question three but all about questions one and two.

And really, that's complicated enough as it is.
This was an engaging read. George is an ordinary teenager who wants to be a famous musician and get the girl. Then a spider communicates with him and he starts to have weird dreams in which his recently deceased grandfather visits him to drink coffee and smoke. When his mother finds a cigarette butt and some ants spell out SOS, he starts to really freak out. Things don't get less weird from there.

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse might have a long title, but it was a pretty short novel. Most of the story is taken up by George and associates gallivanting around New Zealand on a quest given to him by a monk (and also, like, the universe). The writing style is well paced and quirky, with several conversations occurring between various body parts of George's. The style also felt quick to read (which may just be me) so that it felt like I was turning pages quite quickly. It also made me giggle at times.

In terms of weird happenings, the plot is the sort where it's not easy to guess what's going on until someone explains it to the main character — and the monk spends a lot of time not explaining anything. But this does add to the tension and excitement. And confusion, both for the George and the reader, but not in a bad way. It kept me turning the pages despite some of the odder plot twists.

I want to mention the ending because it was sort of unusual. It definitely fit with the story and it wasn't a surprise per se, but looking back, it was pretty, well, un-Hollywood. I want to say un-USian, but given that there are yanks in the story in opposition to George, that's less specific. What I'm trying to say is that the Swedish/New Zealish author wrote a story that probably would not have been framed the same way if it had been written by a yank. (The portrayal of the bad guys notwithstanding.) I would be interested to hear if anyone else who's read The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse feels similarly.

I have to say there were a few plot-y revelations that I felt sceptical of, but overall it was a fun read. I would recommend The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse to readers looking for a slightly unconventional and humorous YA novel. It's a quick read and I think fans of adult quirky books will also enjoy it. Oh, also, there are a few illustrations scattered throughout, if that's your kind of thing.

4 / 5 stars

First published: 2012, Steam Press
Series: Nope.
Format read: ePub
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

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