The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse: Quirky unusual YA

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse by Fredrik BrouneusThe Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse by Fredrik Brouneus

This is Turning Into the Magic Mushroom Version of the Da Vinci Code…

The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse (2013) is a quirky, funny, thought-provoking story by New Zealand/Swedish author Fredrik Brouneus, told in very colloquial first-person narration by George Larson, an eighteen year old high school student whose life is about to get very strange. Content with his dreams of becoming a soul singer and hooking up with the beautiful exchange student Kaisa, George is a fairly typical teenager who grows increasingly baffled by a series of strange signs. Spiders and ants spell out messages. Sheep and geese formations point out directions. He’s having reoccurring dreams of his deceased grandfather turning up at his house and trying to send him out on an important mission, that he must “put out his lighthouse.” George has no idea what any of it means and is even more befuddled when he comes downstairs one morning to find a Tibetan monk sitting at the table, insisting that they go in search of this mysterious “Lighthouse” together.

Along with Tenzin the monk and Kaisa his would-be girlfriend, George sets off on a field trip across New Zealand, following a series of natural signs in the hope that eventually he’ll get some answers. To say much more would be to give away most of the twists and turns that are prevalent throughout the story; suffice it to say that reincarnation is a factor, and George is a particularly significant individual with an important task to complete. Along the way he’s helped and hindered by friends and enemies, most of which are difficult to tell apart, and forced to confront several truths about life, the universe and the philosophies that govern both.

Throughout the course of the novel, Brouneus explores several themes concerning the nature of the mind, body and spirit and their relationship to each other. Rather than present these concepts through a series of info-dumps, Brouneus gradually introduces each to George over the course of the story in an attempt to (in Tenzin’s words) “stretch his mind” along with the reader’s. As George gradually comes to terms with each new idea, Brouneus’s unique writing techniques, such as script-like dialogue between the soul and the brain, become less like jokes and take on a deeper meaning when they’re united with the philosophy he’s attempting to share. It’s through George’s hectic narrative that the ideas of the story are presented to the reader, and it’s his very down-to-earth voice that allows them to be clearly understood.

Not all the questions are answered and not all the characters’ motivations are fully fleshed out. As one of them says: “Did you expect some sort of explanation? Were you waiting for the extensive and oh-so-boring bad guy monologue at the end of the movie so that everything falls into place? Forget it; this is reality, things don’t get explained.” Plenty of holes are left in the story, but then, Brouneus doesn’t pretend that this isn’t so. George’s experiences are confusing and patchy, but the central theme of his past lives and his important mission keeps the story coherent, as does the rapid pacing.

Along with irreverent footnotes and quirky sense of humor, The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse is a blend of spiritualism, thrills, zombies, metaphysics, secret agents, revelations and albatrosses. It’s an unusual book, and not one that’s easily forgettable.

Published in 2013. 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.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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