|The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse
is Fredrik Brouneuss third novel, but his first in English (his previous publishings
being in his native Swedish).
The Prince of Soul is firmly in
the young adult market, but at the upper end of that demographic. The book tells the story
of George Larson, a teenager in his final year of college deeply in lust with a Finnish
exchange student, Kaisa, and plagued by late night visitations of his dead grandfather.
George wants a really good nights sleep and a better opening line for his
conversations with Kaisa than "Um". He also wants to be a famous soul musician,
hence the title.
Georges plans, such as they are, set adrift by the nightly visitations of his
recently deceased grandfather and a Tibetan monk, Tenzin. Tenzin informs George that in a
past life George created an unfortunate lighthouse and now he needs to put out the light
in said house. Shortly after this Georges life gets very interesting and
I found The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse to be a fun romp
that roamed over the southern end of the South Island [of New Zealand] and was also a
tongue in check primer to Buddhism and to some strands of 17th century European
metaphysical thought. Also I found myself enjoying reading a New Zealand novel for young
adults that wasnt all bleak futures and desperate hand wringing. Regrettably, Mr
Brouneuss earlier works have yet to be translated to English, but until there at
least there is The Prince of Soul and the Lighthouse.
Its fantasy, and its set in the modern day, but its not
urban fantasy. For one thing, there are no vampires, no werewolves, no wizards
a teenager, his girlfriend, his sort-of zombie grandfather, a Tibetan monk, and assorted
Men in Black. For another, its set in Dunedin and rural Otago not a whole lot
of urban there. The principle fantasy element is an unusual one - reincarnation is real,
and someone has built a lighthouse to show the direction souls must go reincarnated as
humans. Only its working too well, there are now too many humans, and somebody has
to turn it off. That someone being our eighteen-year-old hero, George Larson, student and
wannabe Prince of Soul (music, that is).
At times his plotting and characterisation stretched my credibility, but
Brounéus has learned his craft well enough, and it hangs together. I also have my
reservations about Brounéus take on Isaac Newton who may have had some
unorthodox religious beliefs, but as far as I can ascertain, reincarnation was not one of
them. The sense of humour that pervades the novel certainly helps, a whole lot more than
the preachy tone sometimes associated with religious themes like reincarnation. The
illustrations are helpful, both in setting the mood, and aiding the reader with maps and
diagrams (I like a good map, and lets face it, for many of Brounéus potential
readers, Otago might as well be an alien planet).
The intended audience for this novel is quite plainly young adults, but
theres plenty here to entertain the adult reader who is looking for something a bit
different to brighten their day. Another one for the Sir Julius Vogel awards next year.