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The Face in the Frost

(Prospero and Roger Bacon #1)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,900 ratings  ·  233 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, 176 pages
Published September 1st 2000 by Olmstead Press (first published 1969)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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 ·  1,900 ratings  ·  233 reviews


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Bill Kerwin
Apr 28, 2012 rated it really liked it

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 its business, subtly 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 alterat
...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jun 02, 2014 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
Nov 20, 2009 rated it liked it
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 chi
...more
Sue
Aug 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book has lived up to my expectations so well. The language is a wonderful mix of what one might expect from wizards well educated in the ways of many worlds. The humor sneaks by the fright to balance the nearly constant sense of dread. Bellairs was expert at creating the unknown “reality”, the half-described terror that is more awful than anything fully seen. He uses the natural world so well to signal good or evil.

In one of my favorite sections from the book, everyday life becomes siniste
...more
Joseph
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Derek
Dec 27, 2008 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
Stephanie
Jan 04, 2011 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
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
TK421
Oct 27, 2009 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.

...more
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
Jul 23, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of magical fantasy
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
Libby
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Gary Sundell
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantasy tale centering on two wizard's, Prospero (not that Prospero) and Roger Bacon. Weird and creepy things start happening and they set off to discover what is going on and ultimately how to stop it. This was John Bellairs only adult novel, most of his work was aimed at a younger audience.

There is some nicely creepy horror in this book and some fun humor. One of the more unique tales I have read in a while.
...more
Lis Carey
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: f-sf, audiobooks
Bellairs is best known for his children's books, with an added boost recently from The House With a Clock in Its Walls being released as a movie.

This isn't a kids' book. Not that it contains any inappropriate content, and there are undoubtedly kids who would enjoy it.

This book, though, is aimed at adults who will enjoy the wordplay, the humor that rests on familiarity with things kids the age of Bellairs' usual readers haven't read yet, being aware of who the "other" Prospero is and recognizing
...more
HBalikov
Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Bellairs' riff on wizardry isn't full of flash and bang. It is more a tone poem invoking a mood of (as Yoda might say) "a disturbance in the Force." Prospero and Roger Bacon are two friends in wizardry. One from the North Kingdom and one from the South Kingdom. They get together from time to time to share companionship and knowledge.

However, when they meet near the beginning of this story, they find that someone or something is changing the world around them. The story (a novella) concerns their
...more
Colin
A classic of Appendix N fantasy!

I picked up this book because it was listed in Gary Gygax's famous "Appendix N" (fantasy works that had inspired the creation of Dungeons & Dragons). The book concerns wizards living in a fantasy realm that is supposed to be closely linked to our world in a late medieval/early Renaissance setting (mention is made of England and other countries of our world, yet the action takes place around two fantasy realms, the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom). There
...more
Love of Hopeless Causes
Yes, YES! This is what I hope for while reading of wizards, anything can happen and often does. Compares to, "The Dying Earth," where magic is considered in most areas of world building.

My mind was blown twice by this book, I could only mutter, "Wow," and probably not in the spots you might guess. This book uses my favorite mythic trope (view spoiler) so what the characters do really matters.
...more
Stuart
Mar 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Richard
Found this little gem hiding on a dark book shelf in Dede's Bookrack in Trussville. I've known about this book for awhile, but not from the same sources as most. Up until a couple of years ago I had no idea what Appendix N even was. Sacrilege, I know. Sure I knew who Gary Gygax was, but I have never played D&D and had never encountered Appendix N. How many people read this because it was included in Gygax's Appendix N?

This is a quick read. Most of the book is a sort of waking nightmare for Prosp
...more
Kirsten
Jul 05, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Alisa Kester
May 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Carmen
Jul 30, 2015 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.
J. Boo
Jan 16, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: in-library
Atmospheric and elegant, but the ending is confusing, and comes out of left field. I very much enjoyed the journey, but not the destination.
Daniel Polansky
An adult fantasy by (one of) my favorite YA author. Bellairs has a delightful aesthetic but this was kinda slapdash.
Sandra Howard
Aug 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One the most entertaining books I've read. It is a favorite that I return to frequently, like visiting an old friend. Silly, scary, and satisfying, all at once. ...more
Eric Orchard
May 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, appendix-n
I really enjoyed this slim fantasy by gothic kids book writer Bellairs. Interesting take on magic which permeates the novel like bubbling anxiety.
Wol
Apr 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Fantasy buffs interested in the classics
A very odd offering. For myself, I'd actually give it two stars. But given that I can see its influence in D&D, Discworld, Harry Potter and many other things, I'll give it an extra star for historical significance. Ultimately I know it's an important bit of fantasy history and it's not that it's bad, it's just very much not my cup of tea.

I both liked and disliked it. It's very inventive, and some of the imagery is lovely. Some of the scenes designed to build a sense of creeping dread are very n
...more
High On Books
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Review
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The Face In The Frost
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By John Bellairs
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Rating 🌟🌟 8/10 🌟🌟
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If you are fantasy and high fantasy reader you are going to enjoy ' The face in frost '. This book kept me glued to itself until i was done with the last page. Prospero's crazy house is a place where i definitely want to be.
Plot: The story is about two wizard friends Prospero and Roger Bacon who found themselves in a grim situation when odd and horrifying things started to happen all over their world. Frost formed on everyone's wind
...more
Wolf
Oct 17, 2011 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
Elora
May 19, 2016 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
Bettie
Sep 09, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Bettie by: Dog-sitters, novice knitters, new adults
5 hours, 26 minutes
Read by George Guidall
Recorded from cassette


blurb - 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 t
...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 ...more

Other books in the series

Prospero and Roger Bacon (2 books)
  • Magic Mirrors: The High Fantasy and Low Parody of John Bellairs

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