The Face in the Frost
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The Face in the Frost

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3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  636 ratings  ·  74 reviews
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 imp...more
Hardcover, First edition, 174 pages
Published 1969 by The MacMillan Company
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Algernon

Most intransigent Reader, two wanderers, whose years hang about them like millstones, though their wisdom rattles beads in the nursery of the mind, seek humble access to your cloud-bedizened person.

Prospero and Roger Bacon are two elderly wizards in a fantasy realm of small principalities and feuding warlords. When a series of ominous supernatural manifestations begin to haunt the mansion of Prospero, the two friends set out on a quest to discover the source of the evil occurences. Their trave...more
mark monday
read during my Social Work Years

I Remember: a tale of wizards fighting wizards... featuring Prospero & Roger Bacon, but not that Prospero or Roger Bacon... brief, not a word out of place... humorous, but with some anachronistic funny business involved that didn't really enthuse me (which was also my only complaint about The Once and Future King)... i love that one wizard's crazy house... some beautifully written little bits... some very atmospheric little bits as well, some quite eerie, even...more
Bill  Kerwin

This short fantasy--scarcely longer than a novella--is modest in scope, unremarkable in plot; it boasts no epic battles, no wizard wars that topple mountains or cleave continents. Still, in its own delicate way, it displays wizardry at its most uncanny, disarming the reader with humor while it goes about creating an atmosphere of menace. Magic, in the world of Bellairs, is something that is first seen--particularly by the adept who knows what to look for--in a slight alteration of the landscape...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Angels Weep For Goodreads)
What an unusual book. Although this book is only 174 pages, it took me a long time to read it. So much going on. There is no real way to say what time period this book is set in. It seems to be that generic medieval-esque period of historical fantasy, yet the narrative is overflowing with anachronisms. This is a story that it is helpful to read while a web browser is open to Wikipedia.org.

At times a little dry and in other times really unsettling, and quite humorous in parts, this fantasy is abo...more
Monica!
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 are thinking of, either.

Aaaah, guys, I love this book with the fire of a thousand suns. It’s got miniature sailing ships making their way through underground rivers! Kings with clockwork galaxies in their castle towers! Grumpy and tune-deaf magic mirrors that use even more out-of-tune bagpipes as accompaniment! ("O-over-head the moon is...more
TK421
Mark Monday's review brought this book to my attention. His review is perfect!

All I can add: WTF? Did I miss something? Was this an allegory? Was this a deeper novel than I was able to understand? Evil wizard. Good wizard. Battle(s). Scary house...or estate...or...? All I can say is that I finished the book and eagerly looked to my shelves for another read.

Stephanie
Have you ever woken up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and found that, for just a moment, your nightmares have bled into real life? For a fleeting moment, things are just not right. Maybe it's just a feeling, or maybe hues and colors seem just a bit off, or maybe the shadows seem to be a little livelier than usual. Have you ever felt that?

I think that's the reason I love this book so much. John Bellairs has managed to capture perfectly the ominous disorientation that I sometimes exp...more
Margaret
The Face in the Frost is the only adult novel by John Bellairs, best known for his wonderful children's books (the best known of those being probably The House with the Clock in Its Walls), and it's good enough to make me wish very much that he'd written more. This is no epic fantasy, but a deeply atmospheric and magical tale of the wizard Prospero and his friend Roger, who are attacked by a mysterious evil power. It's charmingly written, the dialogue particularly full of witty allusions; yet mu...more
Libby
I just reread this old and faithful friend. Oh! the magic mirror! Oh, the tomato coach! I LOVE the way this guy's mind works. In his books, no fairy tale plot device is sacred. He spoofs them all and makes the reader love it. Seriously, this author knows how to twist a tale so engagingly that only a surly sobersides wouldn't grin and giggle. I can't begin to describe his plots, which is good because that way the joy of discovery is yours. This is the premier fairy tale for grown-ups, especially...more
Stuart
So, I guess this book is often considered a classic, but I honestly don't get it.

The principle characters are Prospero and Roger, two elderly wizards who are likable enough, but never really developed. Some strange happenings occur in Prospero's house and the two, through no followable logic, assume that it is the doing of another nasty wizard named Melichus.

The story meanders it's way through the rest of the book, never truly making its goal or direction clear to the reader. While there are som...more
Alisa
Jul 31, 2008 Alisa rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bonnie & Emily
Shelves: fantasy
Not much of a plot in this book. Really, it's just two wizards bumbling along together and witnessing various magical and creepy events, but the language...ah, the language! It's lovely sort of cross between Tolkien and Rowling, hilarious and breathtakingly lovely by turns. I was going to trade this one in to my book-swapping club when I finished reading it, but I was so captured by the descriptions of the wizard's house and his interactions with his magic mirror (first chapter) that now I'm kee...more
Wolf
Suprising, Inventive and Very Short


Bellairs appears to have written mainly children's fiction. This was his one outing with adult fantasy. It features the adventures of two wizards - Prospero (who shares only his name with Shakespeare's) and Roger Bacon. They embark on a quest to discover who is sending sorcerous warnings to and attacks at Prospero and to find a warping evil book. They travel accross a cod-medieval world, similar to a jumbled up historic Britain.

So far, so conventional. Where i...more
Lora
This book is probably for older kids, and adults would enjoy it as well. It was an interesting combination of fantasy and spookiness. The wizards were fun and I enjoyed their old friendship. The storyline was interesting and fresh. For being inspired by Lord of the Rings, it wasn't just a copy of that like many authors who rediscovered LOTR in the 1970s. I have so much trouble with those folks, I can't get past the first chapter of the first book! But Bellairs was fresh, like I said. His charact...more
Tasha Robinson
What an odd, dissatisfying book. It's recognizably by the author of The House With A Clock In Its Walls in prose style and overall character oddness, but it's more colorful and abstract, with less of a sense of narrative focus. There's a plot here, about an evil wizard who wants to kill the protagonist for a rather vaguely expressed reason, and a great deal of journeying to face that wizard, with a lot of odd and interesting adventures along the way. But the protagonist never comes into focus as...more
Stephen Kerr
After hearing how this book was a "classic" of the fantasy genre, I eagerly grabbed it from my local used book store. After reading it, however, I was left cold and confused. John Bellairs can definitely create unique and haunting imagery, and his "House With a Clock in its Walls" is a fun and spooky children's novel. While that applies to a handful of individual scenes in this book, the overall story never comes together in an interesting or cohesive way. We are introduced to the two primary wi...more
Derek
Bellairs's writing defies simple analysis. There's a dose of fairy-tale wit in the language and some of the styling (at times the narrator speaks directly to the reader, as though you are being read to). This would be pleasant in itself, to read of the entertainingly quirky house of a middling-powerful wizard, but then the story takes off with powerful and effective use of a sort of nightmare dream logic where reality becomes malleable. Bellairs avoids gore, vulgarity, and violence and with thes...more
Eohall
This book is amazing. I was totally enthralled and spooked by the Bellairs YA fiction I read as a kid. The combination of his incredible style and the perfectly matched E. Gorey illustrations in the Dial editions was so evocative, and communicated a pitch-perfect blend of melancholy and dread.
I found out about this book much later and had to track down a copy. Geared towards the more general reader, it is almost more satisfying in some ways than Bellairs' classic works. He creates a world you w...more
Kirsten
I've long been a fan of Bellairs' wonderfully creepy novels for children, so when I discovered that early in his career he'd written a fantasy novel (ostensibly for adults), I was eager to check it out.

This feels like a first novel, or an early one, and all of the great elements don't always come together into a solid whole. On the other hand, it's marvelously funny, and the wizards herein might remind some readers of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. It also has some genuinely creepy moments, a...more
Sean


To tell the truth, I'm not sure what happened here. This brief book is the story of a journey taken by people you never get to know to accomplish something that never makes sense.

In a way, it's amusing. One of the wizards takes a trip to a town that ends up melting. How, why, or what actually happened to that town is apparently not important enough to share with the reader.

From the cluttered beginning to the abrupt end, the reader is left feeling as though he saw something he did not truly un...more
Neale
John Bellair’s ‘The Face in the Frost’ is a strange and rather wonderful little book. It was written, apparently, under the influence of Tolkien, and it has been compared to Mervyn Peake, but it seems to me to owe more to T. H. White’s Arthurian books – particularly ‘The Sword in the Stone’ – with its curious scholarship and its often jokey and anachronistic tone. It also puts me in mind of Jack Vance’s colourful wordplay. It exists in an odd in-between world of its own, sometimes silly, sometim...more
Nick Senger
It's extremely gratifying when a book you love as a teen turns out to be just as good when you re-read it as an adult. That's how I feel after reading The Face in Frost again. Written in 1969, I first read it in the late 1980s and loved it. I am happy to say that it was just as enjoyable this second time around.

Light-footed yet dark-hearted, gothically detailed yet deliberately vague, delightfully complex yet deceptively simple, this is an example of what the fantasy genre can be in the hands of...more
Rob
A delightful tale of magic and mystery in a 'real' setting. Also a good rem,inder that in many ways alchemists were the wizards of their day, much more, for the most part, akin to concocters of spells than methodical researchers.

The most fun I've ever had reading about Francis Bacon (Or was it Roger? See Science Made Stupid). Not simply a youth book, but a delight for all ages.
Corwin
This is a pretty strange fantasy-horror tale. It certainly defies genre norms, and in that it's welcoming because I feel both fantasy and horror have gotten stuck in formulaic ruts for decades. It reads almost like watching a baby basilisk rolling around on the floor and pouncing on stuffed toys, but despite the humor there's also a genuinely frightening pall overhanging the story, that lowers much like storm clouds rolling down the side of a mountain range. The protagonists Prospero and Roger b...more
Derek Rivard
This remains one of the best, most unknown fantasy I've ever read. It was beautifully evocative and, at points, terrifying and enchanting. It's hard to believe Bellairs only wrote this one masterpiece.
Stephen
A fantastic fantasy. One of the few books I've read three times. Still creeps the hell out of me. Can't wait to read it to my kids.
BOBBI
A little odd and hard to follow at times. I still like it because I'm a Bellairs fan.
Jason Mills
Aug 24, 2012 Jason Mills rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy buffs checking out the classics!
Recommended to Jason by: James Stoddard
Shelves: fantasy, fiction
An odd confection. Two wizardly chums are subjected to magical attacks and journey off together to confront their mysterious enemy. Prospero (not that one) and Roger Bacon (yes, that one?) are wizards who hang around in the North and South Kingdoms, but also have access to the lands and history of Earth we are familiar with. Thus the book is peppered with indulgent anachronisms - Prospero tells his talking mirror to shut up and watch some late-night movies, for instance. This whimsical tone is l...more
Phillip
This is a must-read by those who love stories of magic that are original and that take wizardry seriously, in that the magic systems are well thought out. This not being a very long book, the system is not entirely complex, but I really believe this book to be a gem of a story, and one that I look forward to reading again.

I found this book as an adult after enough time had gone by for me to forget about John Bellairs. I was staying at a cabin that had its shelves amply supplied with many interes...more
Kat121
I was puzzled to see how favorably this book had been reviewed. The author goes to great pains to describe the politics of the land, then they are never mentioned again. Having described the wonderful things in Prospero's home, Prospero and Bacon leave on a journey. It isn't clear how the wizards get their power, or why it is unreliable. There is grumbling old-man dialog between the two wizards, true, but a lot of the secondary characters were limited to lines from plot convenience playhouse, e....more
Jacob
This isn't quite what I was expecting from John Bellairs, whose youth-focused work I strongly enjoy (Joshua read The Treasure of Alpheus Winterborn to me this year as part of his school-assigned reading, and it's one of my favorite Bellairs stories). I expected something as creepy as The House with a Clock in its Walls or The Letter, the Witch and the Ring. While it has its moments and several parts could be really creepy if you wanted them to be, more than anything it's full of tongue-in-cheek...more
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John Bellairs (1938–1991) was an American novelist working primarily in the Gothic genre. He is best-known for the children's classic The House with a Clock in its Walls 1973) and for the pathbreaking fantasy novel The Face in the Frost (1969). Bellairs held a bachelor's degree from Notre Dame University and a master's in English from the University of Chicago. He combined writing and teaching fr...more
More about John Bellairs...
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (Lewis Barnavelt, #1) The Curse of the Blue Figurine The Figure in the Shadows The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring (Lewis Barnavelt, #3) The Mummy, the Will, and the Crypt

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