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The Face in the Frost

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  987 Ratings  ·  122 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
ebook, 136 pages
Published 2002 by eReads.com (first published 1969)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,100)
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Bill  Kerwin
Nov 23, 2015 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Algernon
Jun 15, 2014 Algernon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014

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
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Self-Proclaimed Book Ninja)
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
TK421
Jan 10, 2012 TK421 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi
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.

Jubilation Lee
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
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
Stephanie
Dec 26, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Feb 21, 2012 Stuart rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Derek
Mar 25, 2011 Derek rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: appendix-n
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
Carmen
Aug 07, 2015 Carmen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book pulls off a really unique combination: it manages to be a lighthearted, sweet story about friendship that also can be super spooky with fantastic evocative imagery. I really liked it.
Em
May 22, 2016 Em rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: too-spooky, fantasy
An oddly refreshing piece of fantasy considering the year in which it was published and its formative place in the history of the genre. Bellairs captures easily the sense of wonder and otherness that gravitates readers to fantasy in the first place. He marries a charming whimsy (ex. the entire character of Prospero) to visceral horror (ex. a section in which he describes a man waking repeatedly in the night to stare at the smiling statue of a monk haloed by shadows; "He never told anyone what w ...more
Eohall
May 24, 2012 Eohall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Alisa Kester
Jul 31, 2008 Alisa Kester rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Philipp
Jan 20, 2016 Philipp rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy

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. 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.


Did you read The Once and Future King and thought "screw all this Arthur LiveJournal drama, I want more Merli
...more
Wart Hill
May 05, 2015 Wart Hill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
review to come.

<3 Bellairs
Jason Mills
Aug 24, 2012 Jason Mills rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy buffs checking out the classics!
Recommended to Jason by: James Stoddard
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
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
Wolf
Oct 17, 2011 Wolf rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 08, 2012 Lora rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Linda Crook
Jan 09, 2015 Linda Crook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
Such a beautifully odd little book! At turns whimsical and nightmarish, with silly wizards and wonderfully creepy settings. Includes some contemporary references that will whoosh over the heads of many modern readers - how many will get the reference to Piffles? I know I missed many of these, and agree that an encyclopedia may be handy as you read.
Johanna
Dec 30, 2015 Johanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a page-turning, funny, smart magical fantasy for children about the friendship of two elderly men. i'm not sure how this ever got published--expect no one was paying much attention--and the date due slip in the front of my copy shows it has checked out 10 times since i learned how to read. three of those times were inter-library loans. i'm guessing at least some of us ten are or were children who didn't much like other children and read to get away from them. john bellairs (and daniel j. pinkwat ...more
Joseph
Aug 11, 2014 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another entry on the "Why the hell didn't I read this years ago?!?" list (along with The Last Unicorn, amongst others).

Two wizards, Prospero (no, not that one) and his old friend Roger Bacon, find themselves in conflict with a truly ghastly opponent. In broad strokes the story isn't all that different from others we've seen before; the delight is in the details -- Bellairs' use of language, the occasional touches of whimsy (at one point, they try to make a carriage out of a tomato; those in the
...more
Kirsten
Jul 08, 2008 Kirsten rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-library, fiction
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
Jun 03, 2012 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: appendix-n


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
furious
Dec 01, 2015 furious rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a charming & quirky tale that is an excellent treatment of sorcery. both of the wizards are very likeable, and appropriately Tolkien-ish, and their journey is fraught with the palpable creepiness of darkest magics. it was a lot of fun, overall, for something that was so often eerie. great blending of tones. highly recommended.
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
Ian Chinich
I read this book on recommendation from a good friend in Providence. While I liked the slow build up of existential dread and the geographic/political background that the author was able to fit into a short story, I had a few issues with the book that prevented me from giving it a higher rating.

First of all, I thought that the magic system, was pretty silly. I understand that there is a long standing history of this sytem where words and items create magical effects. Thats not my concern,

Spoiler
...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 f ...more
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“Unexplained noises are best left unexplained.” 21 likes
“He selected one of these incantations and began to chant in a loud, wailing voice. All the clocks in the house suddenly went off at once, though it was only three-twenty; the copper pots hanging in the kitchen clanged and whanged against each other; and a couple of the wizard’s books fell off their shelves with a clump. But nothing else happened. Prospero slammed the magic book shut and slumped into an overstuffed chair. He fumbled in his smoking stand for his pipe and tobacco. “I learned that spell fifty years ago,” he mumbled as he lit his pipe. “And I still don’t know what it’s for.” 0 likes
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