The Prisoner of Heaven

Thursday, July 12, 2012

***My review assumes you’ve already read The Shadow of the Wind and there will be some spoilers for that book, but no spoilers for this book***

The Prisoner of Heaven
by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

This is the third installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, a series which I adore. All three books are set in Barcelona in the 20th Century and this book picks up just shortly after the end of The Shadow of the Wind (TSTW). Bea and Daniel are married and living with their son Julian. Fermín is about to be married when a stranger stops into the Sempere & Sons bookshop where they both work. His presence stirs up old memories and Daniel finds himself in the midst of a strange mystery once again.

I just ate this one up, 24 hours and the book was done. I loved reading it. As a standalone novel it didn’t take my breath away like Shadow or get inside my brain like The Angel’s Game (TAG), but it is an extension of those books and because of that I love it. It returned me to the city and people I’ve grown attached to and learning more about their world was wonderful. Zafón adds layers and fleshes out the back stories of some of the characters and that’s exactly what I was hoping this novel would do.

This book mainly focuses on Fermín’s history, which was unknown throughout The Shadow of the Wind. It deviates from the style of the first two in a few ways. It’s a shorter and in many ways simpler book. The plot isn’t quote as complicated and it assumes you’ve already been introduced to the characters through the other books. I think that some people are going to dismiss this one because the writing doesn’t have the same eloquence, but I was more than happy with it. It connected some important dots and set up the final book beautifully.

Prisoner is the string that ties everything in the first two novels together. TSTW and TAG can both stand on their own as independent novels. The characters and places occasionally make appearances in the other book, but they do not take over the story. In Prisoner we are reintroduced to the main characters from both books and we learn how their lives are connected and intertwined.

We learn more about David Martín, the main character in The Angel’s Game, and what become of him. We meet Daniel’s mother Isabella, who also appears in TAG. There’s also a slew of new characters introduced in this book: Maurcio Valls, the governor of a prison, Professor Alburquerque, who may one day write secret history of Barcelona and the sinister Sebastian Salgado. Prisoner is also an ode to The Count of Monte Cristo, paying homage to that classic with continuous references.

Unlike the other two novels in the series, this one ends with a bit of a cliffhanger. Nothing awful, it’s just obviously setting up the final book in the series. I didn’t feel like it left me hanging, it just made me excited to read the final book when it is released.

BOTTOM LINE: A great addition to the series. I would highly recommend starting with The Shadow of the Wind; follow it with The Angel’s Game and then The Prisoner of Heaven. All three are wonderful gothic mysteries, and while Shadow remains my favorite, Prisoner fills in many of the missing gaps in the story.

"'I think today will be the day. Today our luck will change,' I proclaimed on the wings of the first coffee of the day, pure optimism in a liquid state."

p.s. If you’ve already read the first two books I would recommend re-reading Shadow before diving into this one. I just re-read it and I’m not sure I would have caught all of the references and remembered all the characters if I hadn’t. I’m also now dying to re-read The Angel’s Game now.

I received my copy from the Publisher.

**Zafon also wrote a short story about the origin of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It’s called The Rose of Fire and you can download it free from Amazon. It features a maker of labyrinths named Edmond de Luna and a printer named Raimundo de Sempere. It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s a treat for die-hard fans of his work.


Sandy Nawrot said...

I just got on the waiting list for this one on audio at the library. I fear I won't remember everything I need to though, and I don't really have the time to re-listen. I know when I listened to TAG I KNEW there were things in there I should remember but I can't even remember what I ate for breakfast! Still it didn't stop me from loving it. You know, I would love to go to Barcelona after it all and get a Zafon tour.

Nikki Steele said...

This sounds like such an interesting series. I love your comment about returning to a world you loved in the previous books. I tend to shy away from series simply because of the time commitment, but when you get a good one it just lets you stay as long as you like in the author's world -- a wonderful thing.

Alyce said...

I'm excited because I just got an email from a publicist offering me a review copy of this book. I look forward to reading it. I did think I would probably need to refresh my memory about Shadow of the Wind because it's been a few years since I've read it. I'm excited to see what happens in this book!

She said...

AHHH, I can't wait to read this! Glad to see it lives up to the standard. I feel as though I need to go back and get a refresher on the previous books, though. It has been a while.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity said...

I read SotW a few years ago and felt kind of "meh" about it. I think it was just bad timing and it definitely didn't stop me from picking up TAG. I love the idea of learning more about Fermin, though, and reading made me SO want to visit Barcelona. Interesting that this one made you want to re-read Angel's Game as well. Have you listened to any of them?

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Sandy - These books make me want to visit Barcelona so bad! Wouldn't that be amazing!

Nikki - This one is a bit unique because the first two books weren't presented as a series. They work as standalone novels. I would definitely recommend TSTW as a single book if you aren't up for a whole series.

Alyce - I definitely needed the refresher. At least skim a copy of TSTW before starting Prisoner!

She - I just re-read TSTW in April and I'm so glad I did. I don't think I would have enjoyed Prisoner as much if those characters weren't so fresh in my mind.

Trish - I haven't listened to any of them. Maybe that would be a good way to re-read TAG.

Aarti said...

I don't take many advance readers' copies any more, but this is one I REALLY wanted. So jealous! I guess it gives me time to re-read Shadow of the Wind.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Aarti - This is the first ARC I've accepted in a long time. My policy tends to be that I won't accept them unless it's a book I would read anyway. I don't like to let ARCs dictate what I read.

Anonymous said...

Yay! After loving SotW I'm really looking forward to TAG and then this one last. :) I'm so glad to hear the wonderfulness of these books continues!

Anonymous said...

I have to pick up SotW. This book sounds incredible. Thank you for your review and recommendation.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Heather - I loved them. I think the whole series is wonderful.

FABR Steph - Do it! It's so good.