The Book Gourmet

Book reviews à la bookworm...The good, the bad, and everything in between.



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El Príncipe by Salva Rubio

El Principe - Salva Rubio

CNI agent Javier Morey is transferred to Ceuta, the autonomous Spanish city on the north coast of Morocco, as a chief inspector in their police department. His task is to uncover the mole(s) in the department that work for the jihadists by supplying them with seized firearms and maybe even recruitment.

Once there, he’ll discover not everything is black and white, but there are many shades of grey (no pun intended), those who appear bad might not be, those who appear good might not be, and sometimes the good pretend to be the bad to prevent something bigger and deadlier from happening.

In his quest of finding and dismantling the terrorist cell responsible for suicide attacks and disappearance of young men from one of Europe’s most dangerous neighborhoods, la barriada del Príncipe Alfonso, better known as El Príncipe, he’ll get to know the people both in and outside of the neighborhood, forge lasting friendships, and fall in love for the first time...With terrible consequences.

I first heard of El Príncipe last month, when I decided to investigate what the commercial for the TV show on one of my country’s networks was all about. Once I started watching the series, I was hooked, both with the main storyline involving recruitment of young, disenfranchised Muslims to brainwash them into “soldiers of Allah”, which is a very contemporary, current topic, and the setting of it, in the city I never even knew existed as part of Spain on the north coast of Africa...And yes, the forbidden Romeo and Juliet type of love between a Christian man and a Muslim girl and all it brought with it thanks to the enormous gap between their religions and cultures.
The plot was tight, the acting was great, the actors very easy on the eye, it was full of twists and turns, intrigue, mystery, action, drama, humor...I loved it.

Once I finished both seasons of the series (in a grueling marathon), I discovered there were two books written, based on the screenplay, and, being such an insta-fan of the series, I decided to read them.

And I’m not disappointed. Far from it, actually.

Because both are based on the original screenplay, before the series was filmed, there are (some slight, some more pronounced) differences between the book and the finished TV product. Some side plots are completely omitted, some scenes changed in setting and timeline, some dialogues changed and/or expanded...But, knowing the story, those differences kept the thing fresh, and kept me guessing just what else might be different.

The plot was tight, the pacing spot-on, slowly increasing in speed until the big finale, the action sequences were well-written, the characterization great, although (my fault!), as in the series, I found the heroine, Fátima, annoying with all her insecurities and somewhat blind obedience toward her family and their wishes without thinking of herself and her wishes and wants. But that’s the cultural and “religious” difference talking.
The story was just as twisty and turn-y as on the small screen, just as exciting, its intensity slowly an inexorably rising with each page, the romance just as bittersweet, the drama just as sad. Maybe even more. Because I found the written story, reading it, instead of merely watching, more engrossing, more gripping. Maybe because the reader gets glimpses into the inner feelings, inner musings of the character narrating a certain scene, while watching it, that POV doesn’t exist...

For example, my favorite scene is the last one, the finale with the showdown by the bus in the port of Ceuta. That moment, after the fatal shot, is superbly acted by Álex González with the tears slowly appearing in his eyes, the look in those eyes perfectly conveying the feelings of his character, Javier Morey, as he realizes it’s all over.
In the book this particular scene is narrated by Fran, the old cop Morey has been sent to investigate, and has turned into an ally, friend, and almost a father figure for the young agent. And because it’s narrated from the POV of an “independent” observer, this scene pack quite an emotional punch, because the author, through Fran, chooses an “outsider” to the relationship between Morey and Fátima to tell how it ended, how this “outsider” felt when all came down in flames, how this “outsider” thought it would be different, how he hoped and wanted for it to be different. It’s the author’s point of view, it’s Fran’s point of view, and it turns into the reader’s point of view, because we’ve been living their story from so very close, watching it unfold, watching them fall in love, struggle with all the obstacles, thought they’ve vanquished it all, and in the end it all turns to dust, into a mirage, as that invisible wall, the invisible border rises (back) up between two cultures, two countries, two people from different worlds that never should’ve fallen in love.

This story is fantastic (I can’t wait to dig into the second part). Kudos to señor Rubio for turning great screenplay into a wonderful story, kudos to Aitor Gabilondo and César Benítez for actually creating it in the first place. EL PRINCIPE - SALVA RUBIO