The Face in the Frost: A short, charming, classic fantasy

The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Face in the Frost by John Bellairs science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviewsThe Face in the Frost by John Bellairs

Thanks to Tantor Media for giving us a wonderful audio edition of The Face in the Frost, John Bellairs’ short classic fantasy novel which was first published in 1969. It’s performed by Eric Michael Summerer and is 5 hours long.

Prospero is a small-time wizard who lives in a small kingdom. Lately he’s been noticing some odd occurrences around his house and starts to suspect that something sinister is going on.

When his studious and adventurous friend Roger Bacon (also a wizard) arrives for a visit, the two friends decide to investigate. They suspect that an evil wizard may be stalking them. To get off Prospero’s property without being seen by the evil wizard’s minions, they shrink themselves and escape down the stream on a toy boat.

The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs science fiction and fantasy book and audiobook reviews

After a few misadventures and some disoriented meandering, they finally manage to confront their enemy.

Prospero and Bacon are smart, curious, and eccentric. I especially loved Bacon, a man who is constantly observing, measuring, and investigating the things around him. The two friends are amusing, as are some of the plot elements such as the singing mirror.

The novel’s humor nicely balances out its horror elements which mostly involve frightening illusions cast by the evil magician, and the sinister feel of an encroaching magical winter.

The style of The Face in the Frost is notably reminiscent of Tolkien’s high fantasy. The story is simple and short, but it’s also lovely and charming.

If you’d like to read The Face in the Frost, give Tantor Audio’s new edition a try. It’s excellent.

Published in 1969. Audio produced in 2019. The Face in the Frost is a fantasy classic, defying categorization with its richly imaginative story of two separate kingdoms of wizards, stymied by a power that is beyond their control. A tall, skinny misfit of a wizard named Prospero lives in the Southern Kingdom a patchwork of feuding duchies and small manors, all loosely loyal to one figurehead king. Both he and an improbable adventurer named Roger Bacon look in mirrors to see different times and places, which greatly affects their personalities and mannerisms and leads them into a myriad of situations that are sometimes frightening and often hilarious. Hailed by critics as an extraordinary work, combining the thrills of a horror novel with the inventiveness of fantasy, The Face in the Frost is the debut novel that launched John Bellairs’ reputation as one of the most individual voices in young adult fiction.

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KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.

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2 comments

  1. This sounds neat, and I love reading classic fantasy stories that don’t turn out to be awful/backward in some way. I’ll check this one out! Thanks, Kat!

  2. Marion /

    This sounds charming, and the play on names is a delight.

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