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The Face in the Frost  By  cover art

The Face in the Frost

By: John Bellairs
Narrated by: Eric Michael Summerer
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Publisher's Summary

A fantasy classic by the author of The House with a Clock in Its Walls - basis for the Jack Black movie - and "a writer who knows what wizardry is all about" (Ursula K. Le Guin).  

A richly imaginative story of wizards stymied by a power beyond their control, A Face in the Frost combines the thrills of a horror novel with the inventiveness of fairy-tale-inspired fantasy.   

Prospero, a tall, skinny misfit of a wizard, lives in the South Kingdom - a patchwork of feuding duchies and small manors, all loosely loyal to one figurehead king. Along with his necromancer friend Roger Bacon, who has been on a quest to find a mysterious book, Prospero must flee his home to escape ominous pursuers. Thus begins an adventure that will lead him to a grove where his old rival, Melichus, is falsely rumored to be buried and to a less-than-hospitable inn in the town of Five Dials - and ultimately into a dangerous battle with origins in a magical glass paperweight.   

With a unique blend of humor and darkness, it remains one of the most beloved tales by the Edgar Award-nominated author also known for the long-running Lewis Barnavelt series.

©1969 John Bellairs (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about The Face in the Frost

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Funny, delightful, fantasy for adults

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 the name of Roger Bacon, and...but no. Wait. Kids would enjoy the transition from the comic beginnings to the terrifying opponent.

The basic story isn't remarkable. Two good wizards discover evidence of an evil wizard at work with dark intentions, and set out to stop him. What is remarkable is graceful, elegant, and extremely funny use of language and familiar literary imagery to create a delightfully original and absorbing story for adult readers.

I have a deep and abiding love for this story, and its author, and, weirdly, for the discovery that the women's Catholic college he taught English at for a year, and was deeply unhappy at, was in fact my own alma mater--and that he was fondly remembered there as a good, likable, interesting guy--not by the English department, but by the history department. And specifically, the chair of the history department, who was my adviser.

It's the sort of whimsy that's entirely appropriate for John Bellairs. Who, yes, really was a good, likable, interesting guy.

This story is highly recommended and a lot of fun.

I bought this audiobook.

6 people found this helpful

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One of my favorite stories.

I love this story. Classic pipe smoking, beer drinking wizards in a fun little story.

1 person found this helpful

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Subtleness abounds

I had to listen to this twice to get the fuller appreciation of this work. By the end, I realized that what I needed was the assurance that the story would eventually go somewhere beyond, presumably in a sequel. Hopefully some day I can look at The Dolphin Cross. While reading, I imagined Gandolf in his off moments, Diana Wynn Jones whispering authorial advice from off-stage. As with Bellairs YA works, the story is mellow and enjoyable. The story's brevity makes it a risk-free investment for the listener/reader.

1 person found this helpful

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second time listening

the first time I listened to this book I didn't love it, I loved parts of it but it has some strange parts and I wasn't sure how I felt about the end. As the years went by I could not get out of my head.

the world and magic is so interesting. I don't think of this as a scary book more of a fantasy adventure but it has some wonderfully creepy parts that i have thought about so much.

I think this is a hidden gem, sure there are some slow parts and a few parts that stated the obvious while others left it so vague I wasn't sure what to think. overall it's so worth a listen.

it's short too so it's not like you have to dedicate much of your life to it.

highlights for me: world, magic, creepiness, faster paced and the author's ability to create tension.

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Images of fantastical scenes that will always stick with me

A fantastical whimsical story mixed with moments of horror and humor. Two wizards who, despite their supernatural abilities, are all too relatable with real fears and foibles, go on a journey to free themselves from a magical enemy who haunts them.
The story includes delightful anachronisms that make it difficult to pin down the exact time the story takes place in. This creates a sense of timelessness that adds to the fairy tale like nature of the book.
This book makes it onto my favorites list and I look forward to both reading it again and reading other works by the author.
It felt like lighthearted fun with lovable characters and the descriptions created mental images of fantastical scenes that will always stick with me. When the story veered into horror the mood was perfectly handled like a well done scary story told at a campfire. The mixture of humor and horror blends well creating a story that is never too slapstick or too heavy.

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A favorite book becomes s favorite audiobook

This has been one of my favorite books (in any genre) since middle school. Now it's one of my favorite audiobooks, one of the few I've listened to multiple times. The only thing that the audiobook loses is the delightful line art in my original hardcover, and a line of text that actually references one of the drawings.

If I could only have one fantasy book in my life, this book would narrowly edge out The Lord of the Rings -- and I've read The Lord of the Rings over 20 times! That's how much I love The Face in the Frost. It's not just shorter, it's funnier AND scarier. It lacks the epic battles of Tolkien and the deep world building; but in place of those it has more magic, from practical jokes to world-ending spells. And many more magicians. As the introduction says (paraphrased), this is a book full of wizards, including the main characters, Prospero and Roger Bacon. Because this is a story of a month-long wizard duel, one in which Prospero and Roger first must discover who they're dueling, and what the enemy really wants.

Scenes from this book have never left me since my first reading. They echo in scenes in my own work. In a seemingly light, humorous fantasy, there are harrowing, frightening moments. Prospero and Roger's humor becomes a way for them to keep their spirits up in the face of horrific danger.

The narration nicely supports the story, without calling attention to itself and without any glitches. The narrator varies the voices well for each character.

Highly recommended. As always.

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An Old Favorite, Revisited

One of my favorite books from my childhood. A lovely mix of whimsy and chills. The performance is very good. I would strongly recommend this for an audience of all ages.

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I'm so happy that Audible released this!

This classic short fantasy work is celebrating the 50th anniversary of it's publication this year and I couldn't be happier that it has been re-released as an Audible Audiobook. The narrator does a great job at bringing the story to life, and the words feel as fresh as the day that Bellairs first wrote them down. Highly recommended!